As the fall season descends over the Mountain West there is a certain mystique in the air. The dog days of summer slowly give way to crisp autumn mornings and nights, which bring with them a bounty of color. In this, nature’s final curtain call before winter, the region’s wildlife is at its most remarkable. The peak rut for most large game, the area’s vast wildernesses are alive with a chorus of bugles.


A bull elk during the fall hunting season


This is one of the most active seasons for wildlife, particularly ungulates. Annual ruts, or mating seasons, coincide with the beginnings of migration, when elk, moose and deer move from the high country to lower elevations, where winter foliage is generally more accessible.


For elk, the annual rut reaches its peak in mid-September. Sociable most of the year, in August bull elk begin to separate and gather cows. Within weeks, the males reach a near frenzy. Bulls will challenge each other, by bluffing or outright locking antlers, for rights to a herd’s cows. A herd bull seldom eats or sleeps, dutifully guarding his precious harem, which requires fending off satellite bulls vying for the same rights.


This scene of large elk herds flanked by spectacular mountain scenery and colorful foliage is hard to resist, and it has become the allure of casual spectators and hunters alike. For the latter, the Mountain West is a destination unto itself. Home to some of the largest native big game populations, the Rocky Mountain West offers a diversity of hunting grounds whose bounty is matched by their challenge.


An elk hunter blows on an elk bugle against a sunset.


Indeed, each year the region’s wilds become a testing grounds of sorts—not only for mating wildlife, but for sportsmen and women. Tens of thousands of individuals from around the world travel here to hunt. A time-honored tradition, the competition between man and nature holds a certain fascination. For some, it is the sport. For others, an opportunity to put food on the table. For others still, a rare entry into nature’s enclaves. Whatever one’s motivation, there is a code, both explicit and unwritten, meant to honor and protect the integrity of the land and the life it sustains.


While the sport is not without controversy, overwhelmingly hunters consider themselves environmental stewards. As human development has impacted migration routes and predator-prey patterns, wildlife populations require management to regulate density, which would otherwise overrun feed supplies and invite disease outbreaks. And, contrary to popular conception, trophy hunters are a small minority of the demographic. Most hunters utilize nearly all of what they kill.


As the popularity of hunting has grown, Wyoming has become North America’s premier destination. And within the Rocky Mountain region, the Bighorn mountains are known for both their challenge and their abundance animals.


The Bighorn National Forest near Sheridan, WY has diverse wildlife from white-tailed deer, elk and moose to pheasants, grouse and turkeys. Access areas are plentiful and are identified with signage or by contacting the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

To learn more about this remarkable region, contact our dedicated team. We look forward to sharing more about what makes this place such an extraordinary destination.