When Does Elk Rut End?

Along with the gorgeously changing leaves from the end of August until October, the elk are also in their mating season at this time. The Rut is the official name for this procedure. The Rut is really complex. It takes more than just one exhibition from a bull elk and an acceptance from a cow elk.

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

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.

Each Elk Cow Is Unique

A specific ratio between daylight and darkness that occurs each fall causes the most active elk rut peak, which lasts between 5 and 10 days. An estrus cycle in cow elk is brought on by the ratio of light to dark in the environment. However, each cow enters estrus at a different moment during the rut. Not all of them enter estrus at the peak. Because the majority of them do, it is known as the apeak of the ruta.

Younger cows may go into estrus much later than some cows. Some have a second estrus period during the first three weeks of October if they are not bred during their first estrus cycle. There is some proof that a third phase can occasionally take place at the tail end of October or the beginning of November. However, the peak of the rut for elk happens five to 10 days after or after the autumnal equinox on September 22 or 23.

Bulls become insanely attracted to females during estrus and may behave foolishly around hunters as a result of the release of an offensive pheromone into the atmosphere. Elk rut generally lasts from September through October, though some mating activity may last into November.

Elk breeding activity is at its highest during the rut. When other factors come together, it may be rather frantic, with lots of bugling, cow conversation, and elk movement. Weather, hunting pressure, the presence of wolves and other predators, and, of course, the location of food and bedding places all have an impact on the activity of the daytime rut. Knowing when the elk rut will peak is just the beginning if you are in great elk habitat and the elk are present.

Why it’s best to hunt elk outside of the “peak” week

Most experts concur that the majority of cows go into heat five to ten days after the fall equinox when it comes to 2021 and the peak elk season. In this case, the peak of the breeding season should fall between September 17 and September 27, give or take. If the breeding season and the rut are at their height then perhaps it is also the best time for you to go hunting. Despite the fact that, if your state’s elk season permits it, you might be better served going elk hunting the week before or after that, there are a few reasons why.

September is the peak month for elk ruts.

Elk enter their reproductive season, or rut, each fall, sometimes as early as August 15. The peak of the rut usually occurs around the middle of the month of September, and it lasts for approximately a month. Bull elk have been heard giving voice as late as mid-October when the rut occasionally lasts into October. Elk experience an enduring phenomenon in September that makes people’s hearts beat faster. People can observe the elk mating season in full swing in September, especially along the Madison River. Every year, some of the most talented photographers in the world congregate here to capture countless images of mature bull elk and their harems. In September, a lot of the pictures you see in magazines were taken along the Madison.

Halloween hunting

Mid-October marks the start of rifle seasons in many states, so it’s critical to understand how the moon may affect elk behavior during this time of year, particularly after the rut. From a moon phase perspective, October for 2021 looks a much like September. The third full week of the month will see the moon at its brightest, providing post-rut elk with extra protection while they feed at night when we are unable to hunt.

The elk haven’t been shot at or chased from one end of the unit to the other, therefore opening days will continue to be the most successful. Those days should be excellent in places where the rifle seasons begin on the 10th or 15th. However, as Randy Newberg points out, a rifle season actually consists of two distinct components: opening day and all other days.

From a moon phase perspective, the first half of the month, from the 1st to the 15th, will be favorable. Elk will be coming out to eat earlier in the evenings and staying out longer in the mornings when there is little to no moon. I would definitely take advantage of an opening day offer if it came along before the 15th. If I had an option, I probably wouldn’t choose to take my week of vacation during the third full week of October.

October’s first 10 days should be excellent. There should still be some healthy rut activity (especially if my full-moon-during-the-Fall-Equinox theory holds water and the rut is slightly delayed).

If your hunting season starts on the 10th, I would definitely go hunting on opening day, and the rest of that week (10th – 16th) should be quite productive. During that week, you ought to be able to detect some leftover rut activity, and the moon shouldn’t have a detrimental impact on your hunting.

The 15th is a Friday, so more hunters may be enjoying a 3-day weekend and perhaps congested the elk woods that weekend. If you’re hunting a 15th opener, hunting the 15th through the 17th may be nice. If I had to pick just one week to go hunting, I would probably wait until the last full week of October because the full moon will occur in the middle of the next week. The third week, from the 17th to the 23rd, could be challenging for hunting post-rut, recovering bulls due to the full moon that will be there.

Cooler weather, a waning moon, and an elk’s acute need for food should keep them out eating for extended lengths of time by the end of the month and into the first few weeks of November, enhancing your chances of success.

Targeting the principal feed sources that the elk will be concentrating on will be crucial, as with any post-rut and late-season elk hunting.

Additionally, make sure to check out the University of Elk Hunting Online Course for more information on elk hunting during the Post-Rut and Late Season. A whole Module is devoted to hunting elk in the post-rut and late season, and it includes thorough methods and strategies to boost your success.


According to my observations, elk will rut to some extent regardless of the moon phase. But in exceptional years like 2020, when the moon phase does coincide with the pre-Equinox rut activity, it can produce some all-day bugle-fests that we’ll probably be talking about for a while! But don’t despair if you have to search during a week when the moon isn’t quite cooperative. It’s still possible to have excellent hunting and calling action, and by combining your hard work with some movement, you might have the woods to yourself and have the best week of elk hunting you’ve ever had!

It’s crucial to comprehend how the moon phase affects the elk rut since doing so can help you plan not only when to hunt elk but also how to hunt them.

Once more, if you want more specific tactics, strategies, and details about reliably filling your elk tag, be sure to check out the

Rutting Season for Elk

The rutting period for elk lasts from late August to mid-October. The male elk, or bull elk, can become hostile at this period because it is breeding season for them.

Observe these Parks Canada safety recommendations and call Banff Dispatch at 403.762.1470 to report any elk sightings or encounters.

What you should know is:

  • Never approach an elk within 30 meters of a female or a male, and keep your distance.
  • During the mating season, bull elk exhibit unusually violent behavior when defending their harems.
  • Elk may charge at your car and cause damage if you park it between a male and a group of females.

Advice for avoiding and managing elk encounters:

  • Take a group trip.
  • Always keep an eye out for elk and take an alternate route.
  • If at all feasible, go upward or on the high side of a hillside to avoid elk.
  • Keep at least 30 meters away.
  • Always keep your dog on a leash. Unleashed dogs may make elk aggressive because they perceive them as predators (wolf or coyote).
  • As a form of defense, carry pepper spray, a walking stick, or an umbrella.
  • Be aggressive if an elk approaches too closely. Keep eye contact, never flee or turn your back, and raise your arms or any huge object to make yourself appear larger. Climb a tree or place something between you and the elk, such a tree or a big boulder. Return out of the area slowly. Alert other hikers of an elk up ahead and call Parks Canada dispatch at 403.762.1470 right once to report the event.
  • Get back up and try to move to cover if you are knocked down or fall, or use an object to defend yourself if you fall. AVOID PLAYING DEAD.

Please be aware that swings are taken out of Town playgrounds during the annual fall rut to lessen the risk of elk becoming tangled.

Added Videos

Colorado’s Estes Park In Rocky Mountain National Park, the elk mating season has started (RMNP).

Annual closures were implemented by RMNP park officials starting on September 1 in order to protect elk during the time period and improve visitor possibilities to see elk.

The restrictions, which are in place from 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. on existing roads or authorized trails, are in place until October 31. Horseshoe Park, Upper Beaver Meadows, Moraine Park, Harbison Meadow, and Holzwarth Meadow are the places that have closures.

In Estes Park, the elk rut lasts from late September until mid-October. Numerous elk will attempt to find love during that time by migrating to the lower meadows of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Elk calling and the use of spotlights or car headlights to identify wildlife are both forbidden in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to park officials.

Following the lifting of the morning meadow closures in previous years, a large rise of tourists approaching elk led to an extension of the elk-related closure time in 2020 from 7 to 10 a.m.

As in prior years, fishing in the designated areas of the Fall River, Thompson River, or Colorado River is prohibited from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Can elk be called after rutting?

The rut is an amazing occurrence. Large bulls lower their guard, pursue cows, and make themselves more noisy and visible to hunters than during any other time of the year. The majority of rut hunts are restricted to using archery and muzzleloaders due to this susceptibility. Rifle hunters must modify their strategies after the rut in order to locate those large bulls.

Things quickly alter once the rut ends. Hunting enthusiasts must create a smart game plan. Bull elk after the rut are less loud and move less than they were in September. They could be exceedingly hard to find as a result. On the other hand, post-rut bulls may be more predictable and simpler to stalk when there isn’t a herd around.