Bugle Days Celebrates Wisconsin’s Elk Herd
By Jennifer Nieland, Wisconsin State Co-chair
My iPod beeps and flashes 4:38 a.m. In the distance I hear a faint bugle, my heartbeat speeds up and suddenly my eyes are wide open. I look through the half open window on the tent wall and see a bright star and even brighter spotlight of a near-full moon. I swing my legs out of the sleeping bag, slide on socks, jeans and a camo t-shirt. Force my feet into my boots and lace them up tight. Unzip the tent and slide out.
This could be the first day of elk season, but actually I am camped near Clam Lake, Wisconsin, in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in the northern part of the state. This is the first morning of the Wisconsin RMEF Bugle Days Rendezvous and I’m on my way to meet more than 30 RMEF volunteers who will be going on a field trip with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) elk biologists Laine Stowell and Matt McKay. The goal: find elk, call to them, hear them bugle back and, hopefully, see them.
The Wisconsin RMEF Bugle Days Rendezvous is a steadily growing event, held the first weekend after Labor Day for RMEF volunteers, Clam Lake residents and others who share a passion for elk. This event encompasses everything for our volunteers – fellowship, fun, service, learning, food, just a little bit of fundraising and, of course, elk! Many volunteers traveled more than three hours to get here, so we were delighted to have our largest attendance ever at 67 men, women and children.
This year our headquarters for the weekend was the Day Lake Picnic Area, where we set up RMEF wall tents to complete the elk camp atmosphere. Friday night started with a campfire reception. Saturday morning we lit off on a field trip into the national forest with the DNR biologists. That afternoon we worked on a DNR project for elk, where 25 volunteers dug holes and erected more than 40 fence posts for a winter capture pen for elk.
Saturday night a record 55 people attended dinner at our elk camp catered by a local restaurant, The Elk Horn. Following dinner Laine Stowell provided an update on the Wisconsin elk herd and answered many questions on elk biology, reproductive success, wolf predation and other factors that impact the stability of the herd. Finally, RMEF board member and Wisconsin resident Lee Swanson briefed the crowd about who the RMEF is and what we are doing for wildlife and habitat in the state and elsewhere.
The highlight of Bugle Days is, of course, the potential to hear and see Wisconsin elk. This year many people were able to see a large 5x5 bull, several cows and a spike bull as they drove into elk camp. Elk were also hanging around near the Day Lake campground where many folks camped. Those rising early for field trips absolutely heard elk—sometimes several bulls bugling back and forth—and some groups were lucky enough to snap a few pictures. Considering that in Wisconsin we have fewer than 180 elk, seeing one is an exceptional treat. Some people drive more than eight hours just to see them.
The Wisconsin RMEF State Leadership Team hopes Bugle Days will draw even more participants in 2012. Keep up-to-date with the event through our website at: