Shortening days and cooling temperatures signal the start of the rut (elk mating season). Mature bulls move in among a group of cows and calves( called Harems). Adololescent males are usually driven off by the mature bulls or by cows intolerant of their presence. By September, a bull's antlers are fully grown and almost ready for the displays and battles to come. The bull removes the tattered velvet and polishes his antlers by rubbing them on trees, shrubs and even the ground. Vigorous rubbing also releases his pent-up energy and leaves behind his scent to let other elk know that he is around.The biggest bulls are animals in prime physical condition and may be six to eight years old. Before a fight begins, the two bulls display their dominance by bugling and thrashing the ground with their antlers. Then the bulls lock antlers and shove each other with all their might.Fighting is a show of strength, not a battle to the death, but bulls do get hurt.
© Ramdas Iyer Photography