Saturday, August 11, 2012

Timetable for the 2012 Elk Rut

Real Bull Elk Fights Begin In Late September
Any time now bull elk will be scraping the velvet off their antlers in preparation for the 2012 elk rut. This blog and my website, will cover the 2012 rut in-depth.

During the elk rut I visit Boxley Valley at least 4 times a week, sometimes 7. There is no substitute for being local, but my elk viewing and photo guides are a pretty good second choice. With them you can hit-the-ground-running when you visit for elk viewing. (See the map below for an example.)

I did report in this blog that I heard a bull bugle on two separate occasions in July. Truly, that was really an abberation -- a full month prior to when I usually hear the first bugle. That deranged elk was the equivalent of a person who yells fire when somebody lights a cigarette. I support his first amendment right to free bugling, but it does confuse things.

2012 Rut Timetable in a Nutshell

  • Mid-August -- Early-September -- Bull elk are scraping velvet. I have not observed this yet, but the bulls clearly have just about completed their antler growth. (Yes, I realize this is not really the rut, but it does set the stage and helps you understand the timing.)
  • Early-September -- Often one bull will start rutting early. I have seen them "running" cow elk pretty early in September, but usually it is only one bull (maybe the whack job who is bugling early). There will always be early and late rutting. Don't visit expecting to hear bugling.
  • Late September (The Big Dance Begins) -- By the 3rd week of September, the rut is on, and it is early peak. Bulls start fighting for domination, meaning breeding rights. The early bull fights are particularly vicious because the "pecking order" is being established for the first round.
  • Late September to Mid-October (or a bit later) -- The Peak Rut -- Biologists don't like a peak rut identified, but if you want action, this is the very best chance to see great bull fights. Bugling is strong during this period, and best in the morning and evening.
  • Late October to Mid-November -- Late rutting continues, but clearly the intensity of the peak has passed. I have filmed bull fights during this period, but by then the pecking order is long established, the they are rare. Is there much to left to see, absolutely yes. The viewing is great.
  • Mid-November through December -- Bull elk continue running cows, we are in the 3rd estrous period now, and few cows remain to be bred. As we transition to late in this period, bull elk and cow elk segregate into all-bull and all-cow herds. This process blends with the end of the rut, and it generally is complete by the end of December. 

That is the timetable of the rut. It is not precise, and these stages blend together. In just a few weeks we enter the 2012 rut. For 3 months this is one of the great reasons to visit the Buffalo National River. We are the elk capital of the south. Stay tuned.

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