Elk (also known by their Indian name, Wapiti), are easily one of Montana's favorite game species. During the mating season (the "rut") in late September and early October, high mountain meadows ring with the distinctive bugling of bulls challenging one another for breeding rights. Mature bulls usually have impressive antlers with five or six points (called "tines") on each main branch. Yearling bulls have tall antlers that do not branch out to points; this is why yearling bulls are often called "spikes." Elk drop their antlers during March or April. Female elk, known as cows, do not have antlers.
Elk have a strong herding instinct, so you'll rarely see an elk alone. (Unless, of course, it's a nerd elk that no one else in the herd likes to hang out with.) Elk live in the high mountain meadows and clearings throughout Montana. They graze in the open areas and use the forests for cover and protection from the weather. Elk spend their summers at high elevations, and move to lower more sheltered areas in the winter. Usually a single calf is born in the early spring and is camouflaged by a liberal peppering of white spots.
Elk are shy and elusive; frequently the extent of their habitat is determined by pressure from human activities. Because they are so shy, wildlife preserves and game ranges are usually the best places to see elk, but they may be closed at different times of the year. To avoid disappointment, check with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Game to make sure where you're going is open to the public.