There is a period after the second estrus when elk country goes silent and still. Cows huddle in nursery herds and move to wintering areas.
Bulls, thin and drained from rutting, move into thickets near water and easy forage and, in the words of one old-timer, lean on a tree to catch their breath. Winter winds are yet to rise, and bachelor groups of bulls are yet to form and begin wandering in search of feed.
Sometimes brief, sometimes lasting a few weeks, it’s one of the hardest times of all to find and kill a bull. But sometimes hunters have no choice. It’s the open season specified on their tag. Or it’s the only time they can get off work.