Rocky Mountain Bull Elk Collide Antlers in Epic Battle

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: TCallahan

Recently, a Rocky Mountain National Park tourist was left astounded after seeing two bull elk going at it in a field near Estes Park, CO.

Unlike some of the ‘tourons’ we write about, the observer was a safe distance away from the animals and could capture the moment safely on camera. Check out the video of the two monster elks battling it out.

The viral clip comes as many national park visitors might see changes in the behavior of the deer and elk populations. From the end of August to October, the animals enter their mating season, also known as the rut.

According to experts, this period in a bull elk’s life is intricate. There are five parts of the rut to watch for when visiting areas with a bull elk population this fall.

The rut: a complex process for elk

First, bull elks will gather cows and calves into groups called harems. A harem is typically smaller than the large cow/calf herds you’ll see in the summer and lacks male yearlings. Adolescent males are usually driven off by mature bulls or cows annoyed by their presence. In rare instances, however, these young males stay near the harem and often seem confused about their place in the pack.

Then, bulls will wallow in the mud to use the urine as a pheromone to attract cows. Once the bull is completely covered in mud, it makes him look more imposing to those around him. Plus, it also cools off an overheated elk.

Bulls will also rub against trees, shrubs, and the ground with their antlers to attract cows. They will also make intimidating howls.

Once September arrives, his antlers are entirely grown and almost ready for the displays and approaching fights. The bull polishes his antlers by rubbing them on trees, shrubs, and the ground. Intense rubbing also releases his pent-up energy and leaves behind his scent to let other elk know he’s nearby.

Then, a cow will listen to the bugle for indications about the bull’s size. Similar to our voices, a bugle varies with the individual, but the older, bigger bulls usually bugle more loudly than their young counterparts. Their bugles hint at their presence and fitness to both females and other males. They also use this tactic to announce or accept a fight from another male.

If you see bulls display their antlers and body, they are attempting to get clues about each other’s strength and fitness.

A young male will probably back down during the rut rather than try to duke it out with a mature bull. However, bulls similar in size will usually confront each other. Before duking it out, the two bulls will bugle and hit the ground with their antlers. The bulls then lock antlers and shove each other with all their strength.