Before sunrise on a cool fall day, Jacob Job and Carlos Linares woke up, packed up their bags and headed into Rocky Mountain National Park. Job, a researcher at Colorado State University, and Linares, his student assistant, are hunters.
Their weapons: microphones. Their prey: the sounds of the elk during the fall mating season.
They hiked into Moraine Park, a meadow flanked by mountains where elk are known to gather. Upwind, Job tucked himself behind an old log for cover as Linares crouched by a tree a short distance away. It was still dark outside when they pressed record.
"What happened next was nothing short of magic," Job said.
The sounds of elk washed through the microphones, their calls echoing across the sweeping meadow. As the sun rose, the elk were closer than Job and Linares expected -- no farther than the distance of a football field. Over the course of the next hour, the elk would drift much nearer, almost close enough to be touched.
Job has gathered sounds in more than a half dozen National Park Service areas. Earlier this year, Rocky Mountain National Park released a library of more than 200 sounds he's collected in his work with the service's Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division. The sounds are useful for learning the songs of myriad birds and the calls of many animals, but also can provide a meditative immersion in a soundscape.
The recording at the meadow, made Sept. 23, 2017, is one of Job's most memorable experiences. The microphones captured the sounds of elk bugling and antlers clashing in mating ritual, their odd glugging noises and piercing defensive barks at a howling coyote.
"You've got all of this going on," Job said. "It was just like a perfect storm of natural sounds right there and all this without any sort of interruption from vehicles, from aircraft overflights, from people. I mean, it was ours and you just don't get that very often."