Bulls In Rut: Elk Fighting Behavior Captured In Photos

In the late spring and summer, bull elk use large amounts of testosterone to produce their antlers. For the most part bulls are not aggressive during this period - all that "anger juice" is going toward building their headgear. But as the summer draws to a close and a bull's antlers harden, testosterone reroutes itself back into his system. By September and early October, testosterone levels are at their peak, just in time for the fall rut activity.Don Jones
This annual ritual involves gathering cows to breed, and with so much pent up love to share, a bull wants as many cows as he can get his hands on. Bugling and rubbing antlers on the trees, shrubs, and the ground mean two things. To cows it means a mud-covered Valentino is ready to party. To his brethren, it's a warning that he's the king of the castle and it's wise to stay away. Transalation: "You want to holla at one of my girlfriends? Well, you have to come through me first."Don Jones
Responding bulls, or those that simply want to steal some lovin' from their next-door neighbor, meet the challenge by displaying their antlers and body size to one another--a lot like two boxers sizing up the competition before the bell. Younger, smaller bulls typically retreat if they're outmatched. However, get two equally aggressive bulls of similar size and mass in opposite corners, and it's on like Donkey Kong.Don Jones
Like whitetail deer, bulls charge and lock horns with one another in an attempt to push and shove an opponent into retreat. It's a display of strength and dominance, but not without a cost. Bulls lose an incredible amount of energy during a fight and sometimes suffer puncture wounds and other injuries from an opponent's antlers. Some veterans even lock racks and starve to death or become so exhausted from battles, they never recover.Don Jones
To the victor belong the spoils. It's a competition for the right to breed. A bull elk that towers triumphantly over his opponent typically has the privilege of walking away with whatever lovely ladies are standing on the sidelines. How long he'll remain the boss man is anyone's guess. With so much on the line, you can be sure another stir-crazy bull is waiting in the shadows for his chance at the title belt. Keep clicking through this gallery to see more photos of bull elk in action.Don Jones
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You mess with the bull, you get the horns. Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to bull elk defending their territory and cows from intruding suitors. Every September and October, it's possible to walk a ridgeline and see (or hear) this amazing clash of titans play out. These photos from Donald M. Jones record this behavior.

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