Tuesday, September 1, 2015

nice 6x6 joins Ponca herd today

PM alert-- big bull in Ponca field just north of pullout.  Got pics but too late to post. Nice 6x6.

2015 Elk Rut is just 3 Weeks Off

First Rutting Bull in 2009 (Twin Forks)
September is the start of the Boxley Valley Elk rut. Last year by the end of the month big bulls had arrived to join the cow herds that arrived earlier in the month.

The horrible heat of August broke late in the month. Morning temps in the 50's and 60's brought the elk back to the valley. If you want to see elk you have to get out of bed. I would get to Boxley Valley at dawn, roughly about 6:30 AM. My last visit to the valley much earlier showed 3 herds, one in the north end close to Ponca, a second in the mid-valley area, and a third, in the deep south end and stragglers were elsewhere. By 7AM the elk were moving back to cover near the river. They really don't like heat or bright light.

It now feels like we are getting into a fall weather pattern. The extended forecast is good for elk viewing with cool nights and daytime highs in the low 80's.  Rain is also forecast for many days. Elk do love the rain, and it often extends viewing.  Thunderstorms are a different matter, elk seek shelter then.  The most reliable time to see elk is in early morning. They do come out in the evenings too, but the times vary depending on weather.   Later in the season, all day viewing is possible as temperatures drop.

Bull Elk are still in Velvet.  Photo 2009
So far this year I have not seen a big bull. Most years there are bulls that start rutting early.  These are not the real big bulls, they are quickly ousted by the biggest bull elk that show up around October 1.   This seems to happen overnight.  This is also the beginning of bull fight season as the big guys vie for control of cow herds. You will be lucky ever to see a real fight. I have seen maybe a dozen fights over many years, and hundreds of visits to Boxley Valley. I can hear the buildup to a bull fight a half mile away. I will be writing on this in this blog over the next couple months. My goal is to cover the rut from the start through the holidays.  It is usually over by the new year.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Elk Viewing Improved by Cold Weather and Hunting Pressure

The evening of the 9th was very good for elk viewing and bugling. Today, Monday should be less so because of high winds and warm temperatures. Bugling was strongest in the Smith Creek field in the south end of the valley. That bull was being followed around by a second smaller bull that really irritated him. He bugled all evening. Strong winds today signal the frontal change to much colder weather as winter storm Alex contols the weather going forward. These cold temperatures should improve elk viewing all the way through next weekend. 

Remember to respect private property. Last night elk watchers were running all over private property, in some cases jumping on bales of hay. This is not acceptable behavior and can result in a fat ticket from the NPS that patrols the valley. This really upsets the residents of the valley. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

11/7/14 Elk Herd in Mid-Valley South of Pullout

Elk are now in a mid-valley pattern. This morning there was a nice herd about a 1/4 mile south of the Elk Pullout. Just a bit further south was an all-bull herd with some big bulls. Just after the rut, bull elk form all-bull herds, generally according to size. Today's all bull herd included some big bulls, herd bull size but they stayed back from the road offering only long shots to photographers. Elk had steamy breath today in the cold temperatures.  There are reports now of a herd in the Steel Creek area. In the Steel Creek Access there are a couple of pastures that elk frequent. Photographers will want to get a photo of an elk herd against Roark Bluff. The best time to see an all bull elk herd is in the morning.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

10/23/14 2 elk herds now visible

In spite of cattle grazing in the north end of Boxley Valley, a second herd has moved north to just south of the elk pullout in the first pasture. This makes 2 herds visible in the North end of Boxley Valley. Heavy morning fog makes evening viewing best. The northernmost elk herd is very close to the Ponca Access. Elk viewing is pretty good and there is occasional bugling when satellite bulls are nearby.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

10/21/14 Elk Herd Location Map

Elk viewing remains best near the Ponca Access due to cattle grazing in the other fields on the north end of Boxley Valley. This morning there were quite a few elk watchers and photographers from many states. Relatively heavy fog made photography difficult. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

10/19/20 Elk Remain in the North End of Boxley Valley

Elk viewing was not good this morning in the heavy fog. The best prospects for viewing remain in the Ponca Fields, espeiially closest to the Ponca Access. Evenings will be best for photographers. It will take a couple of days for the elk to re-establish normal movements since the cattle entered the Ponca fields. Until then things remain pretty unpredictable. Fall color is a couple of weeks off to peak, if it can be predicted. This is the sweetspot of the year for hikers and horsemen due to moderate temperatures for as far out as it forecast. The trail-heads are very busy now.