Trophyhill - per your question regarding what makes a BULL attractive to a COW...
A lot depends on age structure and sex ratio of the herd you're interested in, and what stage of her "choice" you're talking about when a COW is settling on a BULL.
If you're talking about approaching/staying within a harem - in general - a cow will "choose" the bull that:
1) ACTS the most dominant within the area; and
2) Provides the greatest level of "protection" while allowing the maximum amount of "freedom" and "peace" on a daily basis.
While there's also the habitat component to it, that's a bit more complicated and a bigger discussion - BUT - those two things are what attract a cow to a bull INITIALLY. There used to be those (Val Geist and others) that thought the size and symmetry of antlers also played into a cow's "choice", but I think when you compare typical antlers with non-typical antlers, behavior wins every time; the cow will choose substance over looks.
In some areas, a small 5x5 may provide the highest degree of protection from harassment from other bulls. In other areas, older age-class animals, and larger antlered animals may be the bulls that offer the greatest level of protection. COWS WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE!!! ...they'll initially gravitate to those bulls that will ENSURE that to the greatest extent. I used the word "ACTS" most dominant, because in some populations, the ACTUAL dominant bulls (often older age-class bulls) don't participate in rounding up/keeping harems. They stay in the "shadows" so-to-speak, and don't show up until there's a cow ready to breed - like others on here have said. If a bull like that isn't willing to provide a cow the protection from harassment she seeks, she'll settle on the next-best option.
Sometimes the bulls that cows are attracted to are vocal and aggressive. Sometimes they're more the type that "run and hide" at the first sign of a fight. ...here, the personality of the COW can play into her choosing a bull that fits her personality the best.
What attracts the cow to a bull when its time to BREED is pretty straight forward: she will choose the biggest, strongest, most dominant bull she has at her disposal at the TIME she's ready to breed. Cows won't CHOOSE to miss an estrous cycle just to hold out for a better bull; their first priority is to BREED, then its to "breed with the best." So...if a small 5x5 is the one that provides her the protection she needs day-to-day, and he's the one there when she cycles in - his hard work typically gets to pay off. If, however, she starts to cycle in, and an older age-class, bigger, more dominant bull walks in (or is close enough for her to run out and rendezvous with) - sorry, Charlie!!!!
In areas with diverse age structures, typically the more dominant animals hold the most cows, with subordinate bulls playing the "satellite" roll. In areas with skewed age structures (many OTC areas where the bull population is typically 3.5 years of age or less), you can find cows in one of two types of harems: small harems with a "smaller" bull, with multiple harems all scattered across the landscape, or in GIANT harems all concentrated around one older - typically very aggressive - bull. These groups/this type of bull can sometimes be the HARDEST to kill!!!!!
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Chris as usual brings up some good points! But just so no one is confused, Bulls come down to or over their way to the cows! In other words these bachelor groups are generally separated from the cow groups. It is very common to find these bulls much higher in elevation where applies, during the Summer months. These bulls will at their own pace will make their way down to these cow groups, the cows do not go & seek out the bulls until the bulls come into their areas I believe what Chris is saying is that the cows will choose the bull they allow to breed them. In many cases more than one bull will breed a cow in the 12-16 hours she is in heat or estrus.
Of course once these herd bulls establish themselves with a group no matter the size of these groups they can move anywhere even back to where the bulls came from if hunting pressure of sorts forces them to do so! The cows inherently will start seeking out their breeding grounds, this is generally in the areas they were born in. This is especially notable in non-hunting areas where elk are free to roam naturally without intrusion. Too, in these areas you will see these cow groups stay right in those vicinities they've been in all Summer as Bulls start to show on the scene that were not there previous to pre-rut!
Again, very good info related by all.
i agree, awesome feed back. great job everyone!
I wondered if this was where this thread was headed...
What I stated in response to the question ASKED wasn't (I don't think) confusing, and I wasn't "trying" to say anything other than what I did say. If you're going to incorporate my information into your statements and "educational efforts", I need to correct a few things...
While yes, in SOME habitats, in SOME elk populations, bulls move from their summer areas TO the cow/calf summer ranges:
1) that move in itself doesn't predispose a cow into accepting a bull simply because he "showed up from somewhere else"; and
2) there are MANY habitats and populations where elk AREN'T separated in the "high country" from one another, and where bulls and cows may, in fact, occupy the same or immediately adjacent areas from spring, into summer, into fall, into winter.
Yes, there are times/places where a bull comes out of his high country summer area, heads out to make contact with the cow/calf groups in their high country summer area, "takes charge" of a group of cows, and everyone's happy. However, you are flat out WRONG in saying cows don't go out and seek bulls if:
1) they don't have a bull willing or able to protect them; or
2) there's a more dominant bull in an adjacent harem that is a better sire, and that they might be able to sneak off to and "rendezvous" with.
While cow elk "rendezvous" may not be the NORM in many areas, it's COMPLETELY dependent upon the population of animals in question. What IS much more common, is a cow/group of cows evaluating a bull based on their perception of whether or not THAT bull can, or will, offer them protection, and if he has what it takes to get the job done on the first estrous cycle.
Too many times I've watched radio-collared elk move from one bull/harem to the next, from one basin to the next, in search of a "worthy" bull. Likewise, there are some low-elevation herds in thick Ponderosa Pine/Oak brush habitats were the BULLS actually stay in one spot, and the entire COW/CALF population drops down into the canyons and valleys to engage them. Once the cows drop in, its a MAD HOUSE of activity as bulls and cows get themselves separated out.
If you want to talk about "elk movement" and the like - fine, we can do that. The question, though, was what made a BULL attractive to a COW. Regardless of habitat, regardless of what State you're in, and - even largely regardless of the population you're dealing with, a COW is going to evaluate two things: can the bull provide protection/sanctuary from harassment, and can he get the job done when the time comes. Sometimes, she HAS to settle with what she's got to work with. Other times, she's got options! ...and when she's got options, 99.9% she's going to EXERCISE those options!
When answering questions related to elk movement I believe all will agree there's nothing written in stone! Of course there are always extenuating situations where elk will do things out of the norm. But as a rule, the bulls will come looking for the cows where ever that may be. The difference here is that from a norms standpoint it is not common for cows to travel miles looking for the bulls in times of breeding. This doesn't mean to imply that it will never happen but it is more unusual when it does. Once the bulls make themselves available then "yes" the cows will seek out these more dominant featured bulls that the area has to offer! We are speaking here form a hunting standpoint & want to know what info may give us the best odds in elk habits & mannerisms, we want to play the odds!
It's like playing the odds in a poker game, sure you can win a hand you're losing by hitting the river card, but odds are low & nothing you could rely on in every hand! Play solid hands, understand the game & you can do well.
Same as elk hunting, if we can have a general knowledge of the quarry we are after & sharpen our skills at it we can do well, this doesn't mean they won't throw us a curve now & then but those percentages are low in comparison to their more predictable traits! Have A Great Day Guys!
I'm not sure what little honey-hole you hunt in where the cows stay put nice as you please and just wait for the bulls, but I have frequently observed while hunting the rut that the cows are the ones covering country... Anyone who actually knows anything about hunting elk - especially at high elevation when you can literally watch them walk for miles and miles - knows that the matriarchal cow leads the herd, particularly when there isn't yet a big herd bull trying to keep them sequestered. Again, the elk may act differently in the very limited spot where you hunt, but at least where I and everyone else I have ever known hunts, you are not describing "the norm."
It seems like you just wanted to butt in and sound like the resident expert here just for the sake of so doing...
was that really neccesary? i didn't start the thread for personal attacks
Originally Posted by HuntinKid
No,it wasn't necessary. Lets keep it on the positive side ehh??? There have been alot of very good points mentioned by both Chris and elknut. The biggest being "Nothing is set in stone" when it comes to elk. I think we all can learn from some of the above mentioned. So, as the old adage goes "If you dont have anything nice to say.........."
HuntinKid, this forum was put in place for passionate hunters to have a place to gather, passionate debate is one thing, personal attacks is uncalled for man! I actually thought Elknut had a great point, and lets be honest elk can be different from drainage to drainage not to mention state to state so its obvious we all might disagree to a point, he who think he has the Wapiti down to a science WILL get schooled at some point!
Not a personal attack at all. Elknut is just wrong and heaven forbid I call him on it. I would hate for a new hunter to try to come to this forum to learn something and come away with nothing but misinformation. That is the problem with public forums - every yahoo who has ever picked up a gun or bow somehow thinks that makes them an expert. The other problem with public forums is we have no idea who anyone else is (well except for Chris Roe - he at least identifies himself and posts his street creds). You all could all be related or buddies for all the rest of us know and are just feeding each other posts and kudos just to try to fool the rest of us. I was hoping for a little better on this new forum... Apparently, I was wrong. It has already devolved into another group of cronies all patting each other on the back and acting like the others walk on water.