Saturday, September 24, 2011

Elk Rut Now at Peak -- 9/24/11 Report

The 2011 Elk Rut is now at peak, there is no question. This high level of activity will continue for another 3 to 4 weeks. During this early period of the rut bull elk fights are most common, but seeing one is a rare event, even for frequent visitors. Sparring by satellite bulls is fairly common.

What is meant by "being at peak"? A few things. First, there are many more cows in heat now. You can see this by the behavior of the bulls. Second, the very biggest bulls have now arrived. In the last few days the Boxley Stud and Bubba Stud bulls have joined the rut. There are two more bulls that are herd bull class that I have not ID'ed or named, but I have seen them.

Over the next week or so, the stuggle for control of a herd of cows will pick up. Bull elk now have many estrous cows to motivate them. It is their scent that has motivated the big boys to join the rut. Stars of the 2010 rut are now back. The current main contenders are the Boxley Beast, Maverick, Hacksaw, and the Bubba Stud all with cows now.  The Boxley Stud and Godzilla are satellite bulls to the south field where the Boxley Beast and Maverick have harems. Maverick will have his hands full with these two, the Boxley Beast probably can fend them off. There is an additional bull I have not named yet, I saw him for the first time today. He is also a satellite in the same south field.

These situations are very dynamic. Sometimes bulls move their harem a mile or more away overnight. The one unwavering fundamental to elk watching is to check the entire Boxley Valley end to end with each visit. The current great viewing in the field near Smith Creek can change overnight to nothing.

Remember these three things as well:

  •  Last year's great viewing location means very little. Year to year locations can change a lot.
  • Second, the elk observation pullout by the Lost Valley entrance is a terrible place to view elk, they are practically never there. It is a 1% likelihood location at best.
  • Elk and cattle do not mix. If you see cattle in a field, you probably will not see elk. They don't mix.

Things You Should Not Do

  • I have already observed trespassing on private property. Approaching elk to get closer only drives them back. You have no right to enter private land, if a park ranger comes by you will get a ticket.
  • Pay attention to traffic. Pull off as far as you can to avoid traffic. Keep out of the road.
  • Do not stop in a traffic lane and block traffic.
  • Focus on your driving, not the elk. You could kill someone. 

9/24/11 Elk Location Map, Boxley Valley

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