Don't Judge A Bull By His Bugle

By Adam Haarberg
Oregon, DIY, Public Land

Adam Haarberg - Don't Judge a Bull By His BugleMarch/April 2013 EBJ (Issue 76) - We broke through the thick wall of brush and slid down the steep northfacing slope to get on his level. Calling a bull uphill to you usually doesn’t pan out; besides, the wind was falling. Old logging practices had created decent visibility – a pleasant surprise. I always picture what a bull looks like based on his voice, and unfortunately, more times than not, I never get the chance to confirm or deny the accuracy of my imagination.

This time would be different. This bull’s bugle was loud and gravelly, a type of voice that commands respect and admiration. Bryan saw the bull first.

"I see him, he’s a shooter,” he whispered from behind his camera, as he had joined us for a few days of this hunt simply to film.

Further behind, Jason continued his calling, coaxing the bull from the thicket. I first noticed his antlers coming into view. It felt like it took hours as he made the 100 yards or so into bow range, his pace dictated by the openness of the terrain. He was looking, attempting to catch a glimpse of what was making those sounds.

When the bull finally stopped and stood broadside at 30 yards, I drew my bow. Settling my 30-yard pin behind his shoulder, I slowly exhaled, then proceeded to let down as quietly as possible. I was looking for something bigger than the 320- class 6x6 that was currently standing in front of me. On his bugle alone, I would have bet the farm he was bigger than that. We named this bull Dog Talker, because of his canine-like barks and whines.

This was no ordinary hunt, as 12 preference points were utilized to draw this coveted tag. Jason’s 14 points averaged with both Jeff ’s and my 11 points to make 12.

While waiting the eleven years for this controlled hunt, I have pursued elk every September with archery tackle throughout central Oregon and in two over-the-counter units in central Idaho, gaining knowledge and experience along the way. Bryan and I have had some tremendous interactions with large bulls together, learning their individual voices and patterns.

The dense vegetation and extremely rugged deep canyons of Idaho’s Salmon River became my elk-hunting classroom for six years. That is where I learned what it was like to hunt an area with numerous mature, vocal elk. Those elk appeared to have control of a "magic dial” that could turn the wind any direction they wanted. Because of this, and due to the extremely thick cover, often, our encounters ended with no visual contact.

There were times, however, when we were able to lay eyes on them and I was fortunate to harvest two very respectable elk during my time with Bryan in Idaho.

The first was a heavy horned 340- inch 6x6 who’s intense screams wafted up from the bottom of canyon with the mid day thermals.

The second bull I chased for two seasons. His bugle was powerfully unique. The cohesion of his simultaneous highpitched scream and a low growl could not be duplicated by a human. For over a year, I spent many sleepless nights contemplating his size. I was convinced Homer was 20 inches or so larger than what his 332 P&Y antlers ended up taping out. Both of these bulls I shot mere moments after seeing them for the first time. While trophy hunting in thick vegetation you must be able to size up a bull through the peep sight in a matter of seconds.

Naming individual elk is common practice with us. It usually happens after we see a bull for the first time, reflecting on some unique characteristic of his antlers. Sometimes though, it is his voice alone, even after visual contact. Upon arriving on this nine-day hunt, Jeff went to do some quick scouting. Along the way, he managed to call in and video two tremendous bulls, of course leaving his bow behind.

Adam Haarberg - Don't Judge a Bull By His Bugle

For a full account of Adam's adventure, go to page 26 in the March/April 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.