What Triggers Elk Rut?

Elk Season has finally begun! Perhaps not in the formal sense, but one of the most significant components of elk season is currently in full swing—or at least it should be! And that’s how the elk hunts this year are being planned. It’s time to consider when, where, and how you’ll hunt elk this fall as application season has arrived.

The Fall Equinox and the 2020 Moon Phase Calendar are the two main factors I usually consider before I start creating a plan for which week – or weeks – I want to hunt in order to pick the optimum week to hunt elk each fall.

We don’t always have the luxury of hunting during the “best” week every fall as elk hunters. On the days we are able to hunt, we frequently have little choice but to adjust to whatever moon phase and weather happen to be present. However, it’s crucial to comprehend how the moon might affect your success if you’re able to choose the “ideal” week to hunt elk.

Taking a little step back, I want to highlight one crucial point to remember, especially if you’re trying to time your plans to coincide with the period of the rut. The estrus cycle, also known as the “rut,” is actually brought on by the amount of light passing through a cow elk’s pupil. Naturally, not every cow goes into heat at the exact same moment. Usually, the elder cows begin first, and the younger cows enter estrus later. However, within 5–10 days of the Fall Equinox, cows are typically stimulated to enter estrus, which results in the peak rut phase. The Fall Equinox is the day when the lengths of daylight and nighttime are equal. The Fall Equinox for 2020 will place on September 22nd. Therefore, the 17th–27th of September should get you very close to the peak rutting “activity.”

Personally, I like to go hunting a little before the rut’s height. The bulls generally build harems and engage in more intense fighting in the days before the “peak rut” to establish their supremacy. Calling herd bulls away from their cows might become a little more challenging once the peak rut begins and the bulls start concentrating more on breeding. But I also have to take into account what the moon will be doing throughout this time in order to discover the ideal dates to seek.

Elvis Is Dead

Interesting. Where did you find that knowledge? I haven’t located a link to the study that came to this conclusion, but it sounds a lot like what this person (gselkhunter) mentioned.

Almost everything in an elk’s existence is controlled by photoperiodism—the amount of daylight reaching the retina—and not by the moon. All hormone releases, which in fact regulate the rut, are triggered by the duration of the day. Elk’s velvet is rubbed off by these hormone releases, which also start the cows’ cycles [which have three main phases but can have as many as five]. [Summer hair is shed in preparation for winter, with the first occurrences taking place around the 25th of August, the second around the 16th of September, and the final one around the 6th of October. So, mid-September to the beginning of October is when breeding cows are at their best. A cow can be hot for up to 12 hours (although it has been observed to extend up to 15 hours), after which she must wait 21 days for the next breeding opportunity. Not all cows go into heat at the same time, MAJOR STATEMENT. The younger animals usually enter their reproductive cycles after the older cows. A cow may start her first cycle [as a 2-year-old] up to 9 weeks later than a lead cow if she was born in her fourth or fifth cycle, but she will catch up as a 3-year-old. So disregard the lunar matters. The moon alone allows creatures to become nocturnal. Heat is another factor that gives the impression that the rut is sweltering and thick. The search for cows and the bugling during the day will be slowed by hot weather.

Stinky, Big, and Bad

During the rut, a male elk spends the majority of his time attempting to show off how huge and powerful he is. At 6 to 8 years old, the biggest bulls are at their peak. A bull’s rut display is an advertisement for both his toughness and suitability as a partner. The rutting activity of a bull conveys various messages. The bull’s primary objective is to draw cows. However, he also wants to deter weaker bulls from opposing him.

A bull’s antler size reveals his age, foraging prowess, and level of survival. His beautiful, perfectly matched antlers also demonstrate his good health. He might be ill, have parasites, or be hurt if his antlers are crooked or malformed. A bull may develop aberrant antlers due to genetics, aging, and inadequate nutrition.

Through his bugle, a bull announces his size and power to cows and other bulls. He can bugle more intensely and loudly for larger bulls. Consider a trumpet in contrast to a flute. Elk evolved in open spaces like prairies and savannahs, where their loud bugle can go a great distance. The “roar,” a lower frequency bugle used by red deer in Europe and Asia, is more effective in dense forest. An elk’s belly-deep grunt at the end of his bugle displays his bulk and appears to be an advertisement for adjacent cows.

A large, self-assured bull will spend a lot of time wallowing, rubbing trees, and spreading his fragrance across the region. Bulls urinate on themselves, wetting their mane, chest, and belly. Although such elk cologne may not appeal to our sense of smell, in the animal kingdom, scent serves as a form of advertisement similar to billboards and flashing neon signs. Spraying himself with pee seems to a bull like donning his sexiest attire. His aroma travels much further when he hones trees and moans in the mud.

Travel with Colorado National Parks

Early in the morning, Rocky Mountain National Park’s elk can be heard bugling.

The elk rut, which peaks between mid-September and mid-October, is when male elk, or bulls, compete for the affections of their female counterparts, known as cows. They want to establish their dominance and acquire the allegiance of a group of women, or a “harem.” Bulls between the ages of 8 and 9 have the best probability of mating.

During this time, the bulls become more violent, charging at one another and locking antlers as they contend for dominance and mate rights. Even though there is a lot of rivalry, actual fighting is uncommon because it harms people and drains their vitality. Instead, they exhibit their antlers, necks, and bodies when competing, as well as producing a potent, musky stench.

The Autumnal Sound of an Elk Bull

You are in for a fascinating and eerie experience if you have never heard a bull elk bugle during the fall rutting season. Many tourists are drawn to Yellowstone each fall by the sound of a bull elk bugling because it is a memorable experience on par with anything you are likely to enjoy in the park. The bugle often begins low and throaty, rises to a high whistle, and then descends to a grunt or succession of grunts. The human alphabet finds it challenging to replicate this guttural roar, piercing tone, and hollow groaning sound. A-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-eeeeeeeeeeeeee-oh. Ee-uh. Ee-uh. Ee-uh. Like the buzz of your first rattlesnake, it’s an unexpected combination that you’ll never forget.

The bugle is frequently taken to be a challenge from one bull elk to another. This frequently happens as a result of a dominating bull who may be diligently watching over a herd of cows. A bellowing challenge is bellowed as the challenger enters the meadow. With a voice of age and dominance, the herd bull responds with a voice that is frequently deeper and clearer than the challenger’s. In many instances, the herd bull will chase the challenger away while another bull, usually one or two years younger than the challenger, sneaks in and breeds a cow.

What other actions do bulls take to entice cows?

Bulls display their antlers during the rut; the larger and more symmetrical, the better. Additionally, these hormonally unstable bull elk bathe themselves in urine to signal that they are ready for mating (which, incidentally, is where humans got the idea for Axe Body Spray). Additionally, in their effort to create the ideal bachelor pad, they will destroy little trees and dig out chill spots to lounge in marsh grass.

Taking into account the equinox and the moon phase

The moon phase is now included in the calculation (take a look at the graphic above for a refresher). How does it relate to the hunt we’re planning? I don’t think the moon phase affects the actual dates of the elk rut, in contrast to some individuals. No matter what the moon is doing, it is game on when cows enter estrus, in my opinion. The estrus cycle is mostly determined by the equinox. If anything, the moon has no real bearing on the situation.

But you can’t disregard the moon phase. Although it might not alter the estrus cycle, it can have a significant impact on your hunting success and particularly your strategies.

INSIDER members can find moon phase calendars inside each Unit Profile. By utilizing Filtering 2.0, you may begin to access this data.

Elk hunting at a full moon can be very difficult. The important days leading up to the equinox should, in my opinion, be balanced with the appropriate moon phases. Your interactions and possibilities for a shot can significantly change with a small tweak over a short period of time.

Bulls are more likely to be active and rut at night than during the day depending on how full the moon is. This does not imply that they cannot or will not be active during the day. The date of the rut, the amount of cows in estrus, hunting pressure, and weather are all important factors, but you might need to change your timing and strategy.

I’ve discovered that the midday hours can be productive for hunting during a full moon and the days that immediately follow it. Since early that morning, the bulls have been sleeping, but about midday, they start to get restless. In the middle of the day, they frequently sound off or even react to a bugle. Too many hunters miss those opportunities because they failed to adapt to the elk’s habits and are therefore unable to participate in the activity.

During a full moon, very early mornings can also be beneficial. You can often get to bulls before they go to sleep if you can get up extremely early, find bulls that are bugling during the night, and then position yourself very closely to them at first dawn. However, as elk typically withdraw to their beds more rapidly on full moon mornings, you might not have much time. So, be prepared.

Elk seem to be more active during the day on the days before a full moon than on the days after a full moon, which is another moon trend I’ve noticed. They tend to take some time to break their habit of rushing at night with the full moon once they grow acclimated to it. They are still accustomed to moving during the day before the full moon.

Whatever you do, elk hunting is never certain. You simply never know and cannot forecast when success will occur. However, I am aware that there are ways to improve your chances.

Where do elk go when they are in rut?

Elk appear to be largely unaffected by light to moderate rain activity and go about their regular business. They will continue to rut if it is the rut; if it is pre- or post-rut, they will feed until the morning and find a place to sleep that has cover. Elk, on the other hand, typically head for cover early in heavy rain and stay in their beds through the worst of it. Elk usually rise from their beds after a rain to move around and shake off the moisture if you’re in the mountains at that time. Setting up a strategy for a nighttime stalk while glassing is a great idea at this time. In the highlands, rain can be advantageous since it creates a calm environment for stalking and hides some minor movements.