This is from my Elk Addict's Manual.
Communication in most animals is developed for interaction between individual animals. There are often different communications between; 1. females and young, 2. males and females/young, 3. males and males. In horned and antlered animals communication is a combination of sounds (especially vocalizations), body posture or action, and scents. Sounds are used to communicate from both long and short range. Soft sounds and vocalizations are often used when the animals can see each other. Louder calls or sounds are used when the animals are out of sight of each other. Scents are used primarily for short range communication while other animals are present, often in the form of scent placed on the animal itself, or left on signposts when the animal is not there.
Elk use vocalizations for: 1. Alarm/Distress behavior, 2. Agonistic behavior (threat), 3. Submissive behavior, 4. Maternal/Neonatal behavior (cow/calf), 5. Social Contact (between individuals or groups), 6. Advertising (bulls), 7. Mating/Herding (bulls).
Elk use scents: 1. for individual recognition, 2. for tracking, 3. for alarm, 4. to advertise breeding readiness between sexes, 5. to attract and hold members of the opposite sex for breeding, 6. to serve as priming pheromones between the males and females, 7. to provide evidence of the health of the animal leaving the scent, 8. to mark dominance areas.
The act of placing scent on its body by an animal is called "self impregnation" and is used for close range communication; while other animals are present. Signpost scents (such as rubs, scrapes and wallows) are left behind in high use and dominance areas for communication when the animal is not present. Elk use scents on their bodies for close range communication, they also urinate on their bellies and neck during the rut. All elk leave scents behind at beds, trails, and at wallows and trees where they may rub their forehead, cheeks and neck.
Elk use a number of different body postures and activities to communicate. Like white-tailed deer they use a "head high threat" in which the head is held horizontally. This posture is often used when a dominant bull performs the Threat Rumble as it approaches another bull. Elk also use a "head low threat" in which the neck and head are stretched forward and held horizontally; this posture is often used when one elk chases another.
Long and Short Range Communication
Because of the large use areas of elk (sometimes up to thirty square miles) the strategy of bull elk in attracting females is different than species that use far smaller areas. Long range attracting by bulls is accomplished with a loud drawn out Roar, a high pitched Bugle, and a series of grunts often referred to as Chuckle. All of these sounds can be heard for hundreds of yards in open terrain. The Roar, Bugle and Chuckle may be combined into one drawn-out call I refer to as the "Full Bugle Sequence" that is used as a sign of dominance to other bulls, and to attract cows during the rut. Once the cows are nearby the bulls rely on scents, herding behavior and mating/herding calls to keep the cows close by and bring them into estrus.
I'll be talking about the sounds and scents elk us to communicate during the next few weeks, stay tuned.
If you have questions - fire away.
I hope it helped some of you.
May God bless you and yours,