Contributors to this thread:
Elk Rut 2018 Slightly Off a Little?
I’ve heard it a dozen or so times this year, “man the elk rut is the worst I’ve seen in years”. I know it’s easy to say when your struggling or eat tag soup, but I also know a lot of the West/Southwest was in serious drought this last year. Most guides and outfitters believe it’s science from lack of nutrition that disables cows from cycling into estrus. I would like to hear from the seasoned hunters what they experienced this drought year versus other years where feed was less of a challenge in relation to the rut. My experience from hunting the tail end of the 1st archery season in NM was the mature bulls were still bachelored up, and the rag horns were hanging with the cows waiting, which was not consistent to what I’ve season in years past. I did shoot a small 5x5 but over water and he was hanging with the cows. What say you?
I've had bulls bugling the last two days. Saw three herds of cows all still with the herd bull. Seems like everything has been running a week or so late this year.
I started hunting in WY on Sept 8 and they were bugling on their own at 2: in the afternoon, then there were days they shut down by 8:30 am.
The "rut" doesn't change. Bulls can be called from August to October and beyond. Cows come into estrus based off of changing daylight times. What changes is a hot cow near you that makes a bunch of horny satelite bulls plead with her all day long to leave the herd bull. I called in bulls from the 1st to the 15th this year, same as last year.
The rut is early and late every year. Just ask the guys in the camp to the south of you and then ask the guys in the camp just north of you to get the other answer. There are slow days and killer days in one drainage while 3 miles over its the opposite. Just try not to miss the 17th. :^)
Rather than the rut being different I think that the location of the elk was different in places due to the drought. Hence, the rut appeared different cause the hunters were not where the elk were.
As dry as it was I doubt it had a big enough impact on nutrition to affect estrous cycling. The sheep and cattle that were grazing in the same dry areas seemed to be doing ok. At least the rancher I talked to thought his stock was getting enough grass. A big old bull cattle was enjoying the cows so they seemed to be cycling.
Best year I can remember as far as being vocal. They were going off the first 3 days of the season until 4 elk were shot out of that herd.
Went back out a bit later in the season bugling like crazy. We had all day timber bugling going on even though the heat was unbearable at times. It made little difference.what was crazy was the little cricks that Always have water in them were completely dry. It did not change where the elk were rutting at all. Same drainages held elk as always.
Hardest thing was sitting on elk all day with that heat and limited water. Long long days.
For the last 3 years I have noticed that the Elk seem to be the heaviest in rut. Is right around September 27 thru October 10th. I mean hot and heavy. Cow call and they come running you over. It’s been insane. I have never seen the elk rut nowhere close to the start of September of even the first two weeks. In fact it is October 13th right now. And just two days ago I cow called 3 different bulls in for my buddy’s. And these bulls come in hot ready to breed. Only one of the 3 got shot. But that’s a funny on my buddy for later. Now my turn today
Ike is spot on. Nothing changes from year to year other then if you have a hot cow where you are.
Good points here and makes plenty of sense. Are you saying the availability of feed does not affect the cows ability to cycle into estrus? That was more of where I was going with this.
It was off in NW Colorado this year primarily because of the heat, I think.
Bought a new wood stove for the tent and didn't even use it.
Best bugling I have had in 5 years. Great rut for me sept 1-25. Heard bulls and called bulls in most days. Fun times
Hunt - awesome man... What state where you hunting?
Awesome year. Was strange in that they would be vocal for a day, quiet for a day. I realize the cows in estrus part, but it was just crazy coincidence if followed that pattern.
We had them screaming hard on the 7th ( our first day in NM), but just locating with each other.... The days after the bulls seemed to quiet down, likely because of our presence. If I could do it over again, I would of left the calls at the truck and just followed the bugles.
The rut is always “a little off”! Ike hit the nail on the head...
Glad to hear some bulls are bugling. I have a hunt that starts Monday.
It was great in the Southwest
I found one that was bugling well on the 1st of September ;)
I hear them bugling well into the end of October on public in Colorado.
It was above average for vocal bulls, no complaints!
Just came out of the woods in central NM on a friends muzzy hunt. Some bugling, but seemed to just be young bulls. Saw a couple decent bulls, but did not hear or see a big bull which tells me the rut is pretty much over there. He was happy to shoot a meat bull rag horn saturday.
This is a simple scientific explanation, you can use whatever excuse you want but cows always come in to estrus around the Autumnal equinox. week before, week of, week after. their gestational period for having a calf is 9 months. they will always get breed during this time. all the other factors that get discussed are just guesses at rutting activity. and a vast majority of the rut activity happens in the dark. Watch when the calves start showing up in the spring and count back 9 months and you'll have a pretty good idea when the rut happened.
If I didn't see/hear it, it didn't happen. I don't think the rut occurred in NM this year. There will be no calves next year...LOL
I also think it depends on the definition of rut. To most it means "did I hear a lot of bugles"? Could be you were in the wrong drainage, could be there was too much hunting pressure and the bulls were silent, could be the dry conditions had the elk in different areas than you were, could be hot weather had the bulls less active during daylight hours. But I'm pretty sure the rut happened about the same time it does every year.
Several years ago I was hunting early Sept the bulls would begin bugling 3PM, go all night, and not quit until about 10AM the next day. Other hunters and posters on Bowsite bemoaned the full moon and hot temps for shutting the rut down and no bugling.
Back to my point, cause this has gotten way off track - do you think the lack of feed ( pretty sure no one will argue the south west was in one hell of a drought up until Aug), had any affect on the cows and their cycling into estrus.
To answer your question, I'm going to say no. The drought was certainly an issue but in most areas there was significant rain during the monsoons and things greened up in a big hurry. I do think antler growth was down due to poor nutrition early but I think the elk were doing just fine by September. You hear this same complaint every year from elk to whitetails and every year almost every cow/doe drops a calf/fawn just when they are supposed to. The rut happens whether we witness it or not.
Norcal, absolutely not! No more than wet years altering the rut!
As IVL mentions the Equinox takes place around Sept. 22-23, cows can come into estrus 10 days prior to 10 days after. This is the majority of cows not every cow! Right time & right place no matter the state or unit hunted & you will experience rutting elk! The more elk the more rutting, less elk less rutting!
No idea about cows in estrus, but I saw the effect on tine length for sure. Shorter, thicker tines on bulls in my areas.
Right on fellas, that makes good sense to this guy. Appreciate your comments.
Unusual for sure, I saw several good bulls, with a single cow, or no cows at all, even after the 20th. There was no screaming by Satellites, only short location bugles with single bulls. Saw no herd bulls posturing, or glued to a cow's butt. In fact, didn't see a ton of cows over the two week period, so you'd think they'd be a commodity?
I was into elk every Day, for 14 Days. So, the numbers were good. Very little hunting pressure where I went.
There were just spread out, and not talking, or playing the game. Weather was warm, plus I guess the Wildfire probably didn't help.
I was in Montana . More elk more rutting action and better chance to catch it. You can count on me being in the woods the 10-25 as much as possible!! Hunt
I thought is was a little slower this year for the time period I feel is peak but it was hot and dry and full moon. When it got cooler with weather/moisture bugling and daytime activity picked up. Pretty much happens same time every year bugling or not, you can bet they're still breeding though.
There are lots of different factors that trigger rut behavior,the equinox being a major one. The exposure cows have to rutting bulls is another. Physical condition , summer nutrition, whether the cow is lactating or feeding a calf, and the list goes on. In my state the rut has been more spiratic than it's been in years . A combination of summer nutrition in most areas of the state being less than adequate ,mixed with high temps , and bulls staying together later than usual and not being in the presence of cows can all be part of the reason why. Granted some bulls did herd up ,I can personally say the rut activity displayed by bulls in the SW region of the state was hot and cold , more than just hot. Here is a little information to support the theory that nutrition DOES play a significant role in cows estrus!
"Females in the low- and medium-nutrition treatments excreted significantly higher P4 concentrations prior to breeding than did animals in the high-nutrition treatment. Diet failed to affect P4 concentration during pregnancy, but we found evidence that P4 concentrations were positively correlated with body condition (ingestafree body fat content) during early gestation. Females that did not breed failed to exhibit estrous behavior, and hormoneexcretion profiles confirmed that these animals failed to ovulate. These results suggest that inadequate nutrition in summer and autumn reduce pregnancy rates by preventing estrus and ovulation rather than by inducing early-embryo mortality."
best year for bugling in sw colorado in 25 yrs.Out of 16 hunts I heard bugles 12 hunts and the area just got pounded by muzzle loaders......go figure?
splitlimb13, interesting info sir!
I didn't notice anything different here going off of over 40 years in the elklwoods, there's some years better than others but it seems if we hunt enough days we get into action every year no matter weather etc. I cannot ever remember having a so called bad year, it generally all works out in the end.
I will say that if this was considered an overall bad year I'll take it! (grin) Heck, I can't wait for better ones!
Probably not a good idea to use splitlimb's info in one of your future podcast - JS
No need, I have plenty of elk info to share, thanks for checking them out!
Never listened to one. No plans to either.
This year was the second year in a row that we didn’t encounter any cow elk.
For units that are supposedly ‘Over Objective’ on cows this is strange. Usually we are getting run over with cows.
So, since the lack of cows means lack of bugling. Or it could mean all the other flat brimmed hat dudes running around honking on their bugles the last week are educating the elk.
If the bulls aren't bugling, then you need to move.
Bulls are going nuts every day of September and then some...if it's not where you are at, then it's in a different drainage.
I think the rut general occurs around the same time every year. But I think weather and feed has to have a little effect.
This year was weird where I was at. I was talking to buddies in other parts of the state and they said bulls were bugling like Crazy. At that same Time I was seeing elk but they were Acting like summer patterns. Raghorns with large groups of cows. No bugling etc.
Finally had some bulls bugling on the last weekend of the season. I don’t know if it was he dryness or the heat. But bugling was nonexistent.
Now in the same area they are cranking Saw a bull breeding multiple cows and multiple bulls bugling like Crazy on 10/14/18. Central Colorado
+1 Caddisflinger....I talked to hunters here in Southern NM this season who would say the rut isn’t happening or they’re not bugling but from what I saw from living in the heart of the unit everything was just like it has been every year. Once the pressure hits the elk start to move and every year I see them head to big pieces of private land or head over to another canyon on the forest. It’s big country and hard to cover it like elk can . I have been in some nasty, nasty, way up high places with horses where the bulls were bugling hard all day and run into other hunters walking on a trail not to far from their camp and tell me the bulls aren’t bugling. I think the drought affected antler growth this year but I saw elk rutting as hard as I ever have.
i think that a few guys have answered your question about lack of feed affecting cow's coming into estrus. the answer is yes for older cows and no for younger healthier cows. drought affects the whole heard. but elk are nomadic for a reason and their body tells them where they need to go for the best nutrition they can get. which is why a lot of them end up on private ranches that are well managed. Raising cattle with drought conditions in mind leaves vegetation when conditions are tough. it was dry all year long in Colorado, no snow this winter, very little rain during the growing season the grass was short everywhere. An elk's body knows what it needs and where to find it, and they do. they are a very hearty animal and can endure a lot. a lot of forrest is over grazed, and blm also. its no coincidence that the elk seem to concentrate on certain ranches every year, good land management is crucial to healthy heards.
As far as rut activity goes. I thought this year was normal with other years. Sept 7th was the best day I seen this year. As far as bugles bulls amped up in general.
Every herd of cows I seen last week had a bull with them still.
All the different experiences in my state is what I mean by sporadic. Bulls are screaming now in the wilderness as they usually are ,all depending on what is going on in that certain group of elk. Even "drainages" that have several bulls have been quiet and a mile or two away bugling. Just because they're not vocal doesn't mean they're not there . To the op yes it nutrition is one of many key factors to bringing cows into estrus.
IVL, I agree with that observation!
I question surveys that share info in such a manner that we're lead to believe that All Cows avoid estrus during low nutrient times/lack of rain. I can see it affecting some but by and large a very small portion of them. Elk are so much smarter & tougher. As many have shared there was plenty of bugling/rutting going on when in the right places. (Hot Cows) We too see this every year in our areas with guys complaining about any & all conditions no matter what they are. It seems those guys don't put elk down with any consistency no matter what the year has to offer! They seem to think the guys who are consistent year after year must hunt great areas or are just plain lucky, actually most don't but they take full advantage of any opportunity that comes their way & are willing to grind it out to the very end!
The rut in our area was what I would call an exceptional year! in my 30 year elk hunting career,(i'm just a rookie) it ranks up there as one of the best. i did notice one thing this year that i had not seen before. we have a very high bull to cow ratio, and historically have. and historically the cows are broken up into lots of small groups, due to the fact that we have a number of mature bulls. this year was no different with numbers of bulls, but the difference was the larger body bulls kept the majority of cows together and there wasn't much fighting. these bulls obviously had better feed and burned less calories getting it. they weren't any bigger horn size than the satellite bulls that i saw, and i saw some impressive satellite bulls! It seems the pecking order got established pretty fast! the big satellite bulls that we called in and killed all came in silent until they were about 50yards away from our calls then and only then would they bugle. on a typical year these Bulls would be screaming in. and there were plenty of bulls bugling this year it was just interesting for our area to see this. every year is different and just when i think i have them figured out I learn something new! the one thing i know for certain is you have to hunt were the elk are, and stay with them to be successful, after that there are millions of ways to get the job done!
Backpacking July 28 2018 above timberline in the northern half of Colorado we glassed up a herd of 40-50 cows that hadn’t calved yet. Seen calves that were much smaller than I normally see during the muzzleloader season. Lines right up with an October breeding period in that area.
These calves arent very old on Aug 5th.
If I remember correctly after the 1st period of cows coming into heat they will then again come in heat 21 days later. Which is why you get kind of a second rut around the 15th of Oct. then I think some will come into heat one more time 21 days later in Nov. don't know how feed would correlate with that.
I'm sure there's some study that correlates nutrition to the rut. I have no intention to dispute their findings. The only thing I have to go on is 34yrs experience in a hard hunted general area.
I've had a bull enraged with testosterone on the 1st of Sept. He was blowing snot and coming in like he was possessed by a demon. I've also seen three 6pts chumming around like frat buddies the end of the 2nd week of Sept that could care less about mews or bugles. I've come to the conclusion there's no such thing as "normal". There's only something that falls between the two extremes.
I agree with those that say elk are going to rut when elk are going to rut...to hell with when we think they SHOULD rut. We may not see it, we may not hear it, but that doesn't change what nature dictates. The rut is going to occur around the same time every year...period. If calves are born too soon, they face late spring storms. Calves born too late, they may not be big or strong enough to survive their first winter. Mom Nature isn't stupid.
BTW, this isn't meant to brag, just a case in point. My first day of hunting this year was 6 Sept. I talked to several people the day before that said due to hot weather and how dry it was, they hadn't seen or heard a thing. My first morning, I heard 4 different bulls, including the one I killed. The following morning when I was finishing hauling out the meat, I heard 2 more. None were more than a couple hundred yds away. You just have to be in the right place at the right time.
My buddy is in CO right now rifle hunting. Or, he was. He killed a 5 by 5 yesterday. Said the thing was bugling his butt off and came over 500 yards to him. He said every hunter in their group was hearing several bulls daily.
Justin, that doesn't surprise me. As LONEBULL pointed out, cows that aren't bred during the first estrus cycle will come into estrus later. Back when I rifle hunted, I heard some bugling and moved in. The herd bull, surrounded by his harem, was in mid-bugle when I ruined his day. It was 15 Oct.
We had a good season in Oregon. More big bulls than I have seen in a long time. One thing that changed on the ranch was hunting pressure. It changed up normal actions but the Elk were still there. Very dry here this year but the ranch always has some water and great feed. I believe as others have said that the rut happens no matter what. Would have been a great season except that we only killed time but no bulls
During my first half day of hunting this year, Sept 7th 4:30 in the afternoon, I called a 330" class bull into 30 yards but couldn't get a shot.
An hour later I called a 260" class bull to within 20 yards but couldn't get a shot.
He got nervous and backed out but was still bugling. Another bull started bugling a couple hundred yards away so I left the nervous bull and went after the second bull.
As I closed inside 100 yards suddenly another bull bugled and then another and then another and then another. All of a sudden I was right in the middle of a bull frenzy with 5 different bulls all going crazy, bugling, chuckling, grunting and running around me. I wondered what the hell was going on and then I heard a cow in heat. It was thick timber and brush and I never saw her but I could sort of follow her movements by hearing her call which sounded exactly like the estrus whine from an open reed call.
Bulls were chasing the cow and chasing each other.
I was spinning around like a top as bulls kept moving past me everywhere except downwind of me and they were all screaming their heads off.
I was there til dark and had to navigate back to my truck thru unfamiliar territory and didn't get back until midnight totally exhausted but it was worth it.
I've had some very exciting encounters over the years but this was the single most intense and exciting few hours of my elk hunting career. I literally heard hundreds of bugles in a couple hours and drew my bow back on 5 different bulls. It was better than any Primos video I've ever seen and on public land in a general unit.
I continued to have good action the next 4 days, but not quite as intense and killed my bull on the 11th.
I talked to some guys where I was camping and they weren't having much action, so right place at the right time I guess. And the rut happens when it happens. It also probably helps if you can figure out where those right places are...
Not sure what the big deal is with elk bugling now in CO it's always that way. The first rifle season hands down is one of the best times to kill a big bull. You have almost 10 days of quiet time prior to said season, the big bulls now have control of the herds, its normally a bugle fest. Not hearing bugles during that season is a lot like not hearing bugles in September. You're in the wrong place and will most likely be a contributor on the "Late rut to no rut this year thread"
BIG difference between Colorado and Wyoming.
Hell, a GEN unit in Wyoming is like a Limited Entry unit in Colorado :>)
Wife had a rifle tag in the Gila in NM this past weekend Oct. 20-24. Saturday the bulls were bugling till about 1pm. She shot a nice 6x5 that was in a group of about 6 bulls and about 40 cows. Smaller bulls were sounding off, but the bigger bulls were also still chasing little bulls off and sniffing out a couple cows in the group. Sunday while we were packing out rest of the meat there were still bugling going on till about 11am. Both days were overcast, cold and windy. Two weeks before on a mobility impaired hunt we had bulls going crazy first day which was Oct 6-10. Second day nothing till evening when cold front moved in and we were able to connect on a nice 330 bull. Woke up next morning to everything frozen and bulls screaming once again.
like Cheesehead Mike I had a similar experience where I followed 2 bugling bulls up this hillside around 5pm and ran into a whole sidehil of bugling bulls.Bulls were bugling non stop for the last 1 and 1/2 hours till dark. they were fighting, cows were talking.Better than any primos video hands down also on public land. Never got to draw my bow! When I got back to camp my buddy asked me how many bulls I heard my response was ALL OF THEM!! any where from 8 to 12 That's like 3 yrs worth for me Next day only called in 1 bull the rest were gone. Just happy for the experience
Elk are still rutting into Nov . In Az. Weather is the factor.
I'm sorry but I don't believe weather has anything to do with it.
SBH, you are exactly correct, although it certainly may influence how vocal they are. We may think they aren’t rutting because they may not be talking, but Ma Nature dictates when they’re rutting...whether we think they are or not.