|For those of you who have never experienced the majestic bugle of a Bull Elk, have a listen…
The shortening of daylight will trigger the elk’s biological clock and the rut will begin. As the light decreases in the fall, glands are stimulated (by the amount of daylight which comes in through the eyes) and these glands will release hormones. The bulls first shed their velvet, their antlers are white. During the rut the antlers will darken, or become stained from dirt, mud, bark, sap, and blood, turning them to various shades of browns to almost black. The bulls will be less and less social with their summer time companions.
These bulls will seek out the cows and if they are not already taken by a larger bull, he will claim possession of them. He will chase off any smaller bulls, usually without having to fight, but with just his massive size and aggressiveness. As the height of the rut passes, the herd bulls will wander off and once again form bachelor groups. At the end of the rut, a bull will have lost roughly 100 pounds and will need to feed heavily to replace the lost stores of fat needed for the upcoming winter months.
Bull elk signal the season of mating with a crescendo of deep, resonant tones that rise rapidly to a high-pitched squeal before dropping to a series of grunts. It is this call, or bugle, that gives rise to the term “rut” for the mating season. Rut is derived from the Latin word meaning roar.
During the rut, a bulls neck and hump may swell to twice it’s normal size. The hair on the mane will grow darker and longer, and the antlers will be dark with white tips. All these features will help the bulls to look more massive than they already are. He will be very aggressive with outstretched neck, raised hackles, deep bugle, and shake his antlers violently. This will show him as being an overwhelming opponent, and not to be messed with.
The eerie call, echoing through the autumn nights, serves to intimidate rival males and may act as a physical release for tensions of the season. Cows and younger bulls may also bugle, but they are unable to match the strength or range of the older bulls’ calls.