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Elk Activity Graphs

The graphs below are the result of my elk research project in 2001 and 2002. The data provided here is taken from elk herds in southern Minnesota. However, the results may apply to other areas.

These graphs will help you better understand when bugling activity peaks during the day, and during the fall rut. The graphs will also help you understand how the weather affects bugling, and why the moon does not affect bugling and peak breeding.

If you have questions feel free to log on to my Talk Forum / Message Board and ask questions, or e-mail me. Good luck elk hunting, and let me know how you do.  

T.R. Michels

Daily Bugling Peaks


 Elk bugle most frequently at dawn and dusk, with slight increases in bugling activity at noon and midnight. This graph shows the daily bugling activity of approximately 165 bull elk. It has been theorized that elk bugling should correlate with the activity of the cow/calf herds. The results of these studies support that theory. This graph shows that bugling generally begins to pick up 45-60 minutes before sunrise, as the cows begin to feed in the morning, and decreases within 2-3 hours of sunrise, as the cows go back to wooded areas to bed down for the day. Bugling begins to increase again about an hour before noon, when the cow herds often get up to stretch and eat for a short time, and generally decreases within an hour of noon, as the cows bed down again. Bugling then begins to increase again about 2-4 hours before unset, as the cows get up to feed in the afternoon/evening, and decreases within 1-2 hours of sunset, as the cows bed down for the night. Research studies show that elk may often begin moving at about midnight, when bugling may increase again.

Morning versus Evening Bugling



This graph shows that, from late August to late October, bugling was slightly higher in the evening than it was in the morning. This was probably due to the fact that morning temperatures were generally lower than evening temperatures. The dates given here may not apply to other states. Check the Peak Elk Bugling Dates to find out when bugling peaks in each area.


Bugling and Temperature


 The above graph shows that elk bugling increased with the temperature; it peaked at about 70 degrees, and then decreased. I suspect that at some point it is too hot to bugle.


Monthly Bugling Peaks and the Moon


This graph shows that during 2001 there were semi-regular bugling peaks; with peaks in mid September, mid October and early November. As can be seen by the dates of the Full moon and Perigee of the moon, these bugling peaks were not correlated with either the Full moon or New Moon, nor the Perigee of the moon. This suggests that bugling was not affected by the moon.


Bugling and Breeding Date Differences of Bulls and Different Aged Cows



This graphs shows the difference in bugling peaks of bulls with 3+ year old cows, and bulls with 1-2 year old cows. It has been suggested that peak bugling should correspond to peak breeding. This graph supports that theory, and shows that peak bugling by bulls with 3+ year old cows occurred during mid September, and that peak bugling of bulls with 1-2 year old cows occurred 1-3 weeks later, in late September or early October. The early (first) bugling peak of 5 year old bulls with 1 and 2 year old cows was attributed to responses to bugling by the bulls with older cows, not to breeding activity of the 1 and 2 year old cows. The results of this study show that peak breeding of 3+ year old cows occurs 1-3 weeks earlier than peak breeding of 1-2 year old cows.



Yearly Variations in Bugling Peaks



The monthly bugling peaks of the same elk herd may occur during different weeks in different years. This graph shows that peak monthly bugling (of the same elk herd) did not occur during the same weeks in 2001 as it did in 2002. It also shows that the bugling peaks were not correlated with any lunar factor during either year. Since peak bugling was correlated with peak breeding, but peak breeding was not correlated with any lunar factor, this study shows that peak breeding was not affected by the moon.

The late bugling peak in September of 2002 was attributed to the fact that September temperatures were higher in 2002 than they were in 2001. There was no fourth bugling peak noted in 2001, because the study ended in mid November. When the study was extended to early December in 2002, a fourth bugling peak was noted. Studies have shown that a decrease in testosterone levels late in the rut often lead to an increase in rut related activities. This is probably the reason for the high bugling peak during late November in 2002. I suspect that daily temperatures influence monthly bugling peaks to a great extent.


Got Questions? Log on to the "T.R.'s Tips" Message Board


There is more information on elk bugling and activity in the Elk Addict's Manual available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products catalog.


All information, data and graphs on this page are the sole copyrighted property of T.R. Michels/Trinity Mountain Publishing. Copying and use of this information, data or graphs, without written permission of the owner, is expressly forbidden by Federal law.


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