Rut for sure!! But like someone said, like here in Wyoming sometimes the warmer September weather will keep the rut held off until October. You will still find a few bugling bulls and some pre rut activity but the full blown rut nut so much. But I don't think I would trade my September hunts for anything!
If the unit was close to home or I could take advantage of rapid weather changes, I might choose the late season hunt.
To this point, all of my Elk have been killed in August, September, and the first week of October.
X10 for the Rut Hunt..... Love hunting that time of year!! Rut on....
Personally I really like the rut hunts better, but as long as your out west hunting your still better off than home at work. I prefer early due to several reasons. Mostly the weather is nicer but can be too warm though. The colors of the foliage makes the scenery much better, though snow is a very close second. To me listening to bugling elk is what it's all about. I love listening to the elk bugle. I took my girlfriend last time, and it was her first time out west. I called in a bugling bull to 45-50 yards right at dark and she was scared to death and loving it at the same time.
There are a shitload of elk on the winter range right now. constantly seeing and bumping into them. Might be kind of fun to hunt them this time of year. It is easy to find elk right now.