“Hey Sanford. Come over here so Dustin can pee on your boots.”

Hunting can be a little weird at times. A little funny. I think covering yourself with an animal’s urine and painting another man’s face with charcoal is at least a little funny, but it is particularly entertaining to hear Greg Fullerton’s attempts at whispering in the woods. If you’ve met “The Beekeeper” then you know that his volume control is generally spotty at best. Elk hunting, at least with a bow, requires as-close-to-absolute-silence as possibly.  Silence that is hopefully interrupted a few moments before dawn, in the gray chill of a fall morning on a mountainside as the first notes of a bull elk’s bugle slice through the trees and the air and your ears and maybe your heart. If you’re lucky.

I think the term “bugle” is a bit misleading. When you’re armed with a compound bow and stalking a bull elk, trying to call it into your shooting lane and hoping for a swift kill…bugle just doesn’t do justice to the sounds that bull is making a few yards away. The elk may be ripping trees out of the ground with his antlers, smashing through the limbs of larger pines as it rakes and rambles. Or it may be quiet. At first. Maybe it is quite literally SCREAMING at you. Maybe you hear the thin lilt of a horn in the distance. Or maybe you get lucky. You hear a low, hoarse, powerful, violent WUGHHH, UGGHHH that sounds like it rises from the depths of the earth, like tectonic plates slowing colliding. Then the most beautiful coronet your grandfather never heard plays a long sizzling shifting note, piercing your reality and leaving you breathless, your heart racing, your consciousness struck true, thrilled and awed. The horn shifts tone to a high flute, almost a piccolo, and plays out the final trills with the gusto of a desperate lover. The sound hangs in the air for an eternity.

That’s how it seemed to me anyways, on my first hunt. I’ve heard elk calling in my sleep, and sometimes during waking hours, for the last couple of days. I hope they keep calling for me. Or bugling. Or screaming. Just keep them talking, and we can fill the freezer.