“Sunday Morning” leaves us this morning with elk bugling at Yellowstone National Park. Videographer: Doug Jensen.
Yellowstone’s autumn is defined in many ways-frost on morning grass, color creeping into shimmering aspen leaves, ice rimming mountain ponds. There are sights and smells to a Yellowstone autumn, elements that, if you’ve visited here many times, become as familiar as old friends. But nothing etches the lens through which we see fall as much as the rut of the elk, Cervus alaphus. The reason for this is almost entirely auditory.
The Sound of a Bull Elk in Autumn
If you’ve never heard the bugle of the bull elk during the fall rutting period, you are in for an experience that is at once thrilling and haunting. The sound of a bull elk bugling is something that draws many visitors to Yellowstone each autumn, for it is an experience as memorable as anything you are likely to have in the park. In most cases, the bugle starts low and throaty, rising to a high whistle, then dropping to a grunt or a series of grunts. It’s a sound that is difficult for the human alphabet to imitate, a guttural bellow, a shrill pitch, and a hollow grunting. A-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-eeeeeeeeeeeeee-oh. Ee-uh. Ee-uh. Ee-uh. It’s an odd combination that, like the buzz of your first rattlesnake, you’ll never forget.