Reed and Tube

Calling Bull Elk

Story and Photos by Kris Millgate

Camping in Island Park in October is crispy and risky. Crispy because frost set in a few weeks earlier. Risky for the same reason. The cold, or even an early snowstorm, can ruin a late fall trip.

I leave the campground at five a.m. Frost feathers the ground, but no snow. I’m heading toward Harriman State Park.

Hunting season is as obvious as the orange everyone is wearing in the woods, but hunting isn’t allowed in Harriman. I think elk are smart enough to know that, or at least they realize they are not getting stalked inside the park, so they hang out in Harriman while hunters wait beyond the borders.

I’m not after a trophy for my walls. I just want to look and listen. I can do this in Harriman without impeding the hunt or pushing the elk. My feeble attempts to bugle are more for laughs, so I recruit Bert Mecham to join me. He’s the park’s assistant manager, and a hunter who knows how to call in elk. I want elk photos and Bert is willing to come along with reed and tube in hand. The reed mimics cow and calf sounds. The tube, when blown right, is supposed to sound like the bold bugle of a bull elk.

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Kris Millgate

About Kris Millgate

Kris Millgate is an outdoors journalist for whom the quiet cast of a fly line cures writer’s block. Many production ideas for her Tight Line Media company come from the time she spends in her Idaho Falls base camp. Her two decades of journalism experience and several cross-country moves prove she’ll go anywhere for a good story. See more of her work at:

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