A bugling elk during rutting season

For hunters, few experiences can compare to the excitement and adrenaline rush of elk hunting. While elk hunting is a rewarding pursuit, no matter when you get the opportunity, seasoned hunters eagerly await the rutting season for a unique and unmatched adventure. Rutting season, often considered the pinnacle of elk hunting, offers a remarkable blend of challenges, opportunities, and insights into the behavior of these majestic creatures. 

At Rocky Mountain Elk Ranch, we plan many of our guided elk hunts at our Idaho ranch during the rut, which typically occurs some time between September 7th and the 25th and these are usually the first dates to fill up on our calendar.  We’re here to delve into the reasons why rutting season is widely regarded as the best time to hunt elk.

Natural Instincts and Behavior

The rutting season, also known as the mating season, typically occurs in the fall. During this period, bull elk are driven by their primal instincts to compete for the attention of cows. This instinctual behavior creates an environment ripe for hunting opportunities. Bulls engage in intense battles, showcasing their dominance through bugling calls and physical contests. This not only makes them more audible and visible but also momentarily less cautious, increasing the odds of successful encounters for hunters.

Vocalization and Bugling

One of the most distinctive features of rutting season is the bugling call of bull elk. This hauntingly beautiful sound echoes through the forests and meadows, serving as both a mating call and a challenge to competing bulls. For hunters, bugling acts as a sort of beacon, guiding them toward potential prey. Hunters can mimic these calls to attract elk, creating an exciting interaction and a heightened level of engagement with the environment.

Increased Elk Activity

The rutting season witnesses a significant increase in elk activity. Bulls traverse larger areas in search of receptive cows, making them more mobile and accessible to hunters. Moreover, the rut pushes elk to lower elevations where the vegetation is richer, increasing their visibility and making tracking them somewhat easier. This higher activity level not only enhances the chances of spotting elk but also provides opportunities to learn about their movements and behaviors.


Elk hunting during rutting season offers a blend of physical and mental challenges that keep hunters on their toes. The art of stalking and approaching these large and wary creatures demands patience, resilience, and a deep understanding of their behavior. The heightened excitement and uncertainty of rutting season adds an extra layer of challenge, making every successful hunt a testament to a hunter’s skill and dedication.

Book a Guided Elk Hunt

While elk hunting is an adventure that holds allure year-round, rutting season undoubtedly stands out as the most thrilling time to embark on this pursuit. You can experience the excitement of the rut when you book a guided elk hunt with Rocky Mountain Elk Ranch. Please visit our about us page or call 208-351-7301 for more information.