With the elk rut season coming to an end, it was interesting to see the male challengers were taking every steps to avoid fighting with the defending bull. Only when the challenger though he could take on a defender there would be a battle. First step would be to listen to the defending bull's bugle, which indicates size and strength of the defender. If the challenging bull was not deterred from the bugling, then he would locate the defender and size him out. If the challenger still felt confident, there might be bluff charge or two, both bulls walking side by side with each showing the other how big they were, this can go on for several minutes. If neither bull moves off, the next step would be to fight each other, this can last few seconds to several minutes. From my experience, in most cases the defender is the winner, even more so the larger the harem a defending bull has. Because there is a good reason why a certain bull has a large harem, the females decide which male to seek out for mating from the bugling. A weaker bull not only has tougher time defending but also keeping his harem together.