Gimmme a good grunt
Wearing a dinner-plate-sized belt buckle, Carharts and a long-sleeve shirt, John Sarkisian looks more or less like any average Colorado elk hunter. A self-described “working stiff like everybody else,” Sarkisian certainly knows the language of the common man.But he knows a few other languages as well.The language of the elk, for example.And coyote.And crow.And turkey.And just about every other animal found in the wild.And he’s got a championship belt buckle to prove it.The four-time world champion elk bugler sounded like a one-man zoo in the minutes preceding his lecture at Pazzo’s in Avon Sept. 10. And, by the end of the night, 15 working stiffs had been transformed into fairly decent elk buglers themselves. If the valley work force seems a bit dimmed during the ongoing big-game bow season, go ahead and point the finger at Sarkisian.”Forget the $25,000 pickup truck,” he told the audience. “Forget the $500 rifle, or the expensive bow getting the shot’s the only thing.”And getting the shot is something Sarkisian can certainly do. He states it simply: “I’ve killed 26 bulls. Calling works.”After showing footage of his calling capabilities, it was clear that calling does work Sarkisian can stop a sprinting elk in its tracks, simply by letting out a subtle chirp. Garbed in vertical-stripe camouflage and washed in Mary K scentless soap for men (yes, really), Sarkisian has hundreds of successful hunts under his, uh, belt buckle. He’s not a hired gun, he’s a hired caller a virtuoso of the eerie music of the wild.”If you play a musical instrument, you don’t play just one song,” he says. “What you’re looking for is authenticity.”Each bull elk has a distinct bugle, and variations on that bugle are good indicators of mood, temperament and lustiness of the animal. With a reed, a plastic baseball bat, and some duct tape, Sarkisian can exactly imitate the bugles and gruntings of a particular bull elk, or the echoing cries of a mountain crow. The elk may know something’s there but they won’t know it’s a man with a bow.The underlying theme here is deception. The tiered pitches and hollow grunts of Sarkisian’s calls are silver-tounged lies, empty promises to the animals he hunts. Of course, the exact translations of a bugle are lost in the trans-species shuffle but generally speaking, Sarkisian is saying something like this: “I’m an elk; everything’s fine. Come on over and say hello.”Sarkisian’s closest kill shot, by the way, was taken about three feet from an elk that had no idea he was there.Surprisingly, Sarkisian doesn’t have a world-record bull notched into the books. He hunts public land like most everybody else, and he packs out himself, like most everybody else. In fact, hunting public land is why he’s become so good at calling elk.”Sure, if youre hunting on somebody’s private ranch, and you’ve dropped $10,000 to do it, then put away the bugle,” he says. “You don’t need it.” On public land, elk are spooky and well aware of the human presence. Except for Sarkisian, that is. To the elk (and to everything else up there), Sarkisian is just another wild animal trekking through the woods.
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Are we seeing more bears because there are more bears on the valley floor, or because we’re all spending more time at home? It could be a bit of both.