Elk Rutting in Rocky Mountain National Park

elk bugleDuring September the elk are beginning their rut season. The bull elk (males) gather their groups of females (cows). Bulls like the one on the right can be heard bugling throughout the night.

Since our campground is near the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, we like to work during the day and head into the park in the late afternoon.


Fall River Valley

One evening we spent an hour and a half watching the male below. The six to seven year-old, thousand pound plus bull had 9 + points and was in the prime of life.

elk bull

He came down a mountainside to the meadow in late afternoon as it began to cool down. He had about twenty-five cows with several calves trailing their moms, and a few two-year old males with velvet prongs along.


The young males (two-years) don't bother the older bull in the early days of the rut, but when things get serious they will get an abrupt toss out of the herd. Life is tough for awhile until they form their own bachelor groups.


elk group

bullThe lead cow picks the direction and leads the herd, but they are with the big bull. While we watched he drove two younger bulls away; one still lurking but keeping his distance.

The four or five year old males need to grow a few more years and add some pounds before they have a chance. It's an interesting social order. The herd moves at a leisurely pace, grazing along the way. The lead cow is in charge, but the bull doesn't seem to know it. We don't know how anyone can see this and not believe in natural selection and evolution.

It's interesting to watch the bull gather his herd. He tips his head back so the females know that he's not begin aggressive, just trying to get them closer together.

elk herding

The bugle of a bull elk is fascinating with its thrilling sound. Even though we have seen this ritual and heard a bull elk bugle dozens of times, its still riveting. While Annette shoots the video, Larry uses the still digital camera.

elk eating

Elk in Estes Park

Seeing elk in Estes Park area is like looking for buffalo at Yellowstone; they are all over the place. But two times of the year they capture our interest; during the Fall elk rut and the spring calving season.

elk herding

We wish we could delay our departure until the first week of October, because that is when the valleys here fill up with thousands of elk and the bulls get a little more desperate.

young bullThere are some battles and the big boys, even bigger than this, can have a "harem" of one or two hundred cows. No wonder when it is over they are worn ragged. And all for about one-day of mating with each female.

But as said, the women are largely in control of this situation, and they only mate with the biggest and strongest because they want their calf to be healthy. Young undersized calves born late in the spring often don't survive their first harsh winter.


elk herd

Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 10/05.