The smell of the rut clung thick in the air and I could not help but pause in delight. The warm breeze was at my face, closing my eyes, tipping my head slightly back I took in the fragrant aroma of the rutting bulls. This surely must be what heaven smells like; at least it is for those who love to hunt elk in the peak of the rut.
I was surrounded by the sound of raging bulls in their relentless pursuit of a ready cow. Some bugles were guttural mixed with growls and glunks while others were high pitched, squeaky in sound as if they were just learning to sing. The bulls were racing to sound off their voice with the hopes of drawing a needy cow to them and also to warn off other bulls who might think of entering their domain in an attempt to steal part of their harem.
The frenzy was so hot that the direction the wind blew was nearly irrelevant. These bulls seemed not a care if they smelled me, no they had one thing and one thing only on their mind; the frenzy of the rut. The herd bull running non-stop circles around his harem, checking each cow over and over again so not to miss the opportunity of her readiness.
Younger satellite bulls inner mixed within the herd were sure to stand clear of the herd master for getting in his way or enticing a challenge would surely get them either beat up or kicked out of the herd. The cantankerous herd bull would select random lesser bulls even if they were minding their own business and run them out of his circle with ferocity. He meant war; he would not back down, willing to fight to the death.
The entire herd responded to his dominance, even the un-ready cow would run and dodge his fury quickly with the attempt of blending back into the herd and avoiding his charge. Cows, calves, spikes and satellite bulls responded and obeyed his ferocious bugle letting the sound drive them to and from bed, water and feed. The entire herd submitted to him. He is Royal…he is king of the mountain.
The distant sound of the wayward bull’s bugle would sprinkle the air, drawing closer and closer to the sound of the frenzy. He could not resist, he too wanted in on the upcoming action and would trot for miles to get in the middle of it. Screaming in often times to simply find that he was lesser, quickly backing off before feeling the fury of the herd bull.
The occasional bull will step up to the challenge and go toe to toe with the dominant master of the herd. The sound of crashing antlers fills the air as the desperate challenger hopes to take over the thrown. Tines are broken from the force, bodies are stabbed, mangled and scared from the brutality of the fight. Only the grittiest of bulls stand up to the challenge but there is room for only but one herd bull. The prize is worth the fight as the dominant bull will win an all access pass to the gathered harem.
Finding a mature old bull, worn hard from the battle is easy to spot. He will have scars on his face, neck and body, tines will be snapped off his main beams, his body lean from the relentless pursuit. He will bugle when other lesser bulls dare not, the king makes himself known. He is un-mistakable, he is what dreams are made of.
A New Mexico management elk hunt on the UU Bar ranch is truly an elk hunters dream come true and I found myself absolutely awe-struck. This is my version of heaven on earth.
My hunt is for a special king of sorts. I am not looking for your traditional “trophy bull” but instead an old bull that has reached his genetic maturity and is possibly somewhat of a “freak” or a bull that simply will never be a 6 point or greater in size.
Newly appointed ranch manager, John Caid has spent all year looking over the herd at the UU bar and is working diligently to improve upon the current habitat enhancement program coupled with a revamped breeding management program. Continually enhancing the habitat of the 180,000 acres of the UU bar ranch benefits not only the elk, but also the abundant numbers of mule deer and antelope.
The aggressive breeding management program will not only help to remove undesired genetic traits found with some of the bull elk but also afford the opportunity for the average harvested age of the elk to increase. This alone ensures a long abundant life for the bull elk on the UU bar. True stewards of the land and wildlife, the UU bar ranch is helping to ensure the future of the next generation of elk and also elk hunter.
Be sure to tune into Team Elk Season 4 on the Outdoor Channel to see and feel for yourself the relentless pursuit of the rut in a place that I call heaven.