When you begin elk hunting one thing that you will quickly figure out is that bull elk and cow elk are noticeably different in color. As a very solid rule bull elk are much lighter in color than cow elk. This holds for true for spikes and larger bulls, with older bulls often progressing to an almost white appearance. Now of course not every single elk’s color will follow this rule but rare variations aside, this rule holds true.
Elk and elk hunting have been such a large part of my life for so long that I typically can tell if an elk is a bull based on his color, body position, or movement long before I put glass on him. But the ability to quickly differentiate bulls from cows in the field is not a skill solely for experienced elk hunters alone. This rule is one of the very important first things that we teach our novice elk hunting friends. It’s amazing how quickly they pick up on it and employ it as a useful tool in the woods.
The following pictures distinctly show the darker color associated with cows and the noticeably lighter hide color found on bulls. In the first picture of the elk herd you can see how much lighter the bull (in the pond) is than the accompanying cows and calf next to him. The next two are Colorado bulls killed by my family. Again, notice the very light colored hides. Lastly, the cow photos show a very good representation of the darker hide on a cow elk.
Make sure to study pictures of elk prior to your next hunt to get your eyes trained to pick out this color difference. It will give you the ability to quickly distinguish bulls from cows at very long distances with your naked eye.
Hunt hard, hunt often and be out in it.