The startling shriek of an elk bugle call is a sound impossible to forget, but rare to hear.
"It's a once in a lifetime thing," Dennis Fleischman told Newsline 9.
Fleischman is traveling with volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. They're covering a remote territory near the borders of Ashland and Sawyer Counties. It's an area of dense wilderness, and because of reintroduction efforts this group has championed, the only place in Wisconsin you can see these creatures roam wild.
"They're very, very, very big animals." That's how fellow tracker Roy Ewoldt describes elk. And after more than an hour of searching, a fact that becomes undeniable.
"There's one right there, straight ahead! That's a big one," one of the trackers exclaimed as the caravan of trackers pulled to the side of the gravel forest road.
They're on the move because mid-September marks the peak of elk bugling season. A time of year when the animals make high-pitched bugle noises in hopes of attracting a mate.
That activity put the trackers in the right place at the right time. Sitting at the side of the road they witnessed an adult female and calf dash across the road before a large bull elk promptly followed in hot pursuit.
"That particular bull probably weighs around 900 pounds," Laine Stowell said.
Stowell is an elk biologist with the Wisconsin DNR. He says bugling season is a crucial time of year in keeping the animal's return to our state successful.
Elk were once common in Wisconsin before being eradicated many years ago. In 1995 the species was re-introduced, with the current population estimated around 170 animals.
"They basically gauge each other by the masculinity of their bugle so to speak. It also plays a function in that it synchronizes the cows estrocycle and makes the breeding of the cows more efficient," Stowell said.
And as the elk herd grows, giving more people the opportunity to experience the species.
"You have no idea until you actually see them, they are unbelievable animals," Fleischman said.
For more information about the elk re-introduction efforts in Wisconsin, follow this link.
For more information about the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, follow this link.