(c) Jack Ballard
THAT AIN’T NO BULL – When hunting in the timber the hunter often sees only parts of an elk before viewing its entire body. In the open it’s often advantageous to spot a bull quickly as time to shoot may be limited if animals are moving from a feeding area toward cover. The presence of antlers is obviously the most reliable way to distinguish male elk from females during the fall. But other cues can be helpful.
Once they’ve acquired their winter hair coat, bulls and cows are usually colored quite differently. The bodies of cows appear in shades of light brown, something along the lines of mocha, hot chocolate mixed with coffee. Bulls on the other hand, sport pelage on the body that is lighter. Descriptors for their coloration include: tawny, blonde and yellowish-tan.
On multiple occasions I’ve been able to identify a bull in a herd of elk in the timber long before seeing its antlers. Observing a blonde body in a herd of brown has allowed me to focus on a specific animal instead of glassing a dozen. In most cases, older bulls exhibit even lighter shades of tan than youngsters. You may get fooled occasionally, but unless it’s wearing a tawny hair coat, you can usually conclude in a hurry “that ain’t no bull.”