The Locate Call

It’s the music of the Western mountains, and this is the only time we get to hear it. It has a hollow sound, as though a flute were a foot thick and 12-feet long, and it is the lonely call of the bull elk.

It starts in early September and by October becomes more of a war chant. When winter shuts down the breeding season, the bulls go quiet once again, and pal up with other bulls to face winter together.

But now, the call is there. Veteran elk hunters call it “the locate call.” It isn’t meant to be intimidating to other elk, either. The spirit ghost of the mountains dictates the bull sends this high, hollow note out to the world.

If I may be permitted to translate, the locate call is just a reminder, not a threat.

“Anybody oooooo-ut there?”

That was Pete, sitting on top of a ridge near the Continental Divide. From the bottom of the canyon to the west, maybe four miles away, we hear an answer.

“This is She-r-r-r-r-rm. Remember me from last winter? Goin’ girlin’-n-n-n-n soon, Pete?”

“Thought I mi-i-i-i-ight, Sherm. Luck to you.”

“And you-u-u-u-u-u too-o-o-o-!”

In a month, they’ll be gathering cows and Pete will threaten to dismember ol’ Sherm with a single antler, but that’s during the rut, and that has more grunting sounds in it.

If you should go out there and try to call one in close enough for a picture, or at least a conversation, they would like me to remind you they are both 12 feet tall, weight more than a ton each, and could whip a freight train. And they’re good-looking guys, too. Pass the word.

Brought to you by A Cowboy’s Guide to Hunting Elk by Slim Randles. Now on