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Testosterone stimulates the new growth of antlers, which begins in March or April for mature bulls and in May for younger bulls. Testosterone is the hormone in the bull’s body controlling the “cement” that holds the antlers secure. In Spring the testosterone levels drop causing the elk to drop their antlers. Until late summer, a bull lives peacefully with the other bulls. Come September, all is not peaceful. This is the time of the rut when battles for the harems take place. By October, the testosterone levels drop and and continue until early spring when the antlers fall off.
Why such large racks? Large racks identifies a bull that is successful in finding food and one who is able to defend himself against other bulls and predators. Female cows will mate with the strongest of the males – usually the one with the biggest antlers. Antlers can grow up to an inch a day in the summer. At 7 years of age, a bull’s antlers may have six tines each, weigh as much as 40 pounds, and grow to a length and spread of more than four feet.