Elk Rut – The Most Exciting Time of the Year For Hunting
The mating season or rut is from late August to October, peaking in September. During this time, bulls have a dramatic increase in testosterone causing their necks to swell, exhibit more aggressive behavior and advertise their fitness with dominance displays.
Bulls will display dominance by bugling, wallowing, urinating on themselves, rubbing/
thrashing vegetation, and displaying antlers. These behaviors are not necessarily confined to mating season, but are most prevalent during this time.
Mature bulls breed more often than younger bulls. Although spikes (16 months old) are physiologically capable, they generally are not fully capable until later in the rut, and have lower sperm counts. Elk are polygamous and promiscuous. Bulls will assemble “harems” or groups of females they will breed with.
Cows will cycle through 1-4 heats (estrus) 21 days in length. Cows can breed at 1.5 years, but older cows (2.5 years old) have the highest conception rates.
We’ll share more on the social aspects of elk next…