The Call of the ( )

Imagine eating at least ten pounds of food a day for months

Now that you’ve beefed up, it’s time to get your own harem.

So you start peeing on yourself and rounding up willing women. Soon, you’re surrounded by over a dozen girls. They love the way you smell. You all eat and sleep together in the woods, and they’ll have sex with you for as long and often as necessary.

There’s no room for error. These are your genes we’re talking about. The window of female fertility is exceedingly narrow.

And don’t worry, you won’t have to raise any of those kids. That’s not your job.

It’s not all fun and games, of course. Other men are constantly challenging your dominance. Their calls are majestic, this strange, echoing scream that sounds something like a mix between a deep whistle and a broken trumpet.

You have to call back, and your call needs to be louder, fiercer. Everyone is listening.

If he doesn’t back down, you might even have to fight him. A tough prospect, because you’ve been losing weight like crazy. You haven’t been eating much. When you’re not busy protecting you’re harem, you’re making sure they eat enough. Or having sex.

Welcome to the life of a bull elk. It can be exhausting. Your antlers are covered in mud, blood – you name it. You shed the velvet off of your antlers weeks ago. You’re in full-on war mode.

Your enemy draws nearer. He’s getting bold. He’s been circling your herd for awhile, trying to lure away the cows you haven’t impregnated yet.

There he goes, banging his antlers against a tree, an ultimate sign of aggression. You have to approach him. After all the work you’ve put into maintaining this harem, you’ve got to defend what’s yours.

He walks parallel to you, sizing you up.

Next thing you know you’re locking antlers, going at it like two skilled fencers. Then, just as suddenly, he backs away and starts after some cows lingering nearby. You head him off and crash antlers again.

You knock him back and, finally, he retreats. You call to the cows in your harem, herding them in. A quick head count reveals you didn’t lose a single one.

Phew.

elk

Photo by Andrew E. Russell.

That guy has been a thorn in your side since the spring, “playfully” challenging you in front of the other bulls at your yearly bachelor retreat in the mountains.

He wants to be you. But he isn’t, and you’ll keep reminding him of that until he gets the message.

Feeling triumphant, you think about charging at that human pointing his obnoxiously large camera at you. He looks pasty, weak – pathetic, really.

There are so many people staring at you in the meadow it’s ridiculous. They smell, and their behaviors don’t make any damn sense. Shouldn’t they be eating or sleeping already? If only they didn’t have those weird shells they can retreat to whenever there’s danger, you could….

But then you catch a whiff of cow pheromones and forget your train of thought.

It’s mating season, baby. This is how you rut.

You bugle to her.

She answers.

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