Elk Bugling - A Weekend Wildlife Getaway



Hear the Elks bugle in the Rocky Mountains

We have a lot of elk here in Colorado, and fall marks the peak of the elk rut, or mating season. Why would you want to witness this spectacle, though?   To hear the bull elks’ distinctive bugle, of course!   It’s a fascinating display, but it’s also the perfect time to visit the places that these elk call home in all of their autumnal glory. And, the Rocky Mountains are the place to be if you want to experience this event. Besides, the leaves will be at their peak color point, which is a spectacle worth seeing on it’s own.   Are you ready to find the elk? Here are the best spots to visit to hear elk bugling. Keep in mind that evenings generally present the best opportunities to hear bugling.  

What is elk bugling?

If you want to get the most out of witnessing elk in their natural habitat, it’s best to know a bit about what they’re doing and why.   In the summer months male and female elk remain in separate herds. When they come down from the higher elevations in fall, they meet in the meadows of Rocky Mountain National Park to mate, and that’s when the bugling begins. The noise attracts females while warning other males to steer clear.  

Elk bugling in Estes Park

It’s no surprise that the most popular gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park is a great spot to watch elk in their natural habitat. Every year, Estes Park hosts Elk Fest, a special celebration that encompasses far more than elk bugling. In 2016, Elk Fest will take place on October 1 and 2.   Naturally, you can hear the “haunting call of the bull elk” that starts with, “deep, resonant tones that rise rapidly to a high-pitched squeal before dropping to a series of grunts.”

If that’s not enough, Elk Fest also includes elk bugling contests, an archery range, elk seminars, elk-inspired arts and crafts, life music, and even a 5k race.   You don’t have to attend Elk Fest to hear the elk bugle, though. Any large meadow or open space is a contender for elk gatherings. The town’s golf courses, Stanley Park, and even the front lawn of the Stanley Hotel often have plenty of elk hanging around.   The YMCA of the Rockies is another great spot that doesn’t require entering Rocky Mountain National Park.  

Elk bugling in Rocky Mountain National Park

If you’re keen on heading into the national park, you’ll be able to see an equally impressive display. Meadows and other large open spaces are prime viewing spots for elk, but you can also check out these well-known spots:  

Elk watching safety tips

Remember, you don’t want to disturb the elk. When you’re viewing wildlife, stay on the road and out of the meadows. When you park, always turn your car off, including the lights — this will maximize your chances of seeing elk, and not scaring them away.   Don’t get too close, either. Bringing binoculars is a great idea, and ensures that you’ll be able to see what’s happening while keeping a safe distance.