Published In Highline Magazine, 2010 Winter Edition, as part of the series: Wild Sex: A Biannual Look At The Ecology of Mating.
Dear bull elk, we understand you’re tired. You’ve been fighting and having sex all fall—who wouldn’t be? Having 30 cows to yourself sounds like fun, but we know the kind of stress you’ve been under.
It starts out pleasantly enough. You spend your summer hangin’ with the boys, eating willows and getting your photo taken by people with no apparent sense of personal space. The unsightly, tick-induced bald patches on your neck have grown in, and shy of a few liver parasites, you’re feeling fine. Those handsome antlers you’ve been growing since April have topped out at over 30 pounds. Nice rack!
But that’s when it hits you. Late August testosterone rolls in like you’ve shot-gunned 100 cans of Red Bull. In fact, those testosterone levels stay around 1,000 times normal for the next couple of months. Suddenly you’re a 10 on the tension scale and super randy!
Your neck swells. You start peeing in mud and rolling in it. As the musky smell of urine swirls around you, the cow elk start to dig it and hang out. You might as well start threshing bushes with your antlers-turned-erotic appendages, jutting out your neck and curling your lips Billy Idol style. Let out one of those long bugles, which I must say seems a little high-pitched for a guy your size.
And while you’re at it, it’s time to kick the crap out of a buddy you’ve been hanging out with for the past eight months. Clearly he can’t be trusted around your girls. Pull all that weight up on your hind legs and try to stab him with your front hooves. If that doesn’t work, try to shove him around with your antlers. Here’s hoping your vegetarian diet has put the pounds on, because lifting and twisting that big rack is going to cost you some serious calories, and you’re far too busy to eat.
And now you’ve won the rut. Feeling a little tired from weeks of raising your hooves and throwing that rack around? Too bad! You’ve got as many as 30 females that need some love, so you’d better get to work while the other bulls know who’s boss. Lift that beefy torso, mount those females and make some calves! And watch out—the young males off to the side are trying to sneak a quicky with your cows when you’re not looking. You’d better keep an eye on them.
By Christmas you’re exhausted, and here’s the kicker: by the time the testosterone vacates your testicles and you come to your senses, it’s often too late. You’re so low on fat reserves that in this weakened state, it’s possible you’ll starve, or be eaten by a wolf. Many bulls before you have died at the young age of seven or eight, while the ladies go on to outlive you by up to 16 years.
I recommend you ditch those antlers, get yourself something to eat, and enjoy a few months of light-headed freedom. You deserve it.