|Boxley Beast -- Ear, Low Key, Great Rack|
Here is my short list of what I look at:
- Fighting Scars -- Many herd bulls have scars around their shoulders and sides from past fights.
- Body Shape -- Bulls are muscular, but some are real thick. Younger bulls are slim by comparison. Really big herd bulls have bellies.
- Antler Points -- Obviously point counts differ, usually elk bulls pick up points with age.
- Antler Span -- The distance between the right and left antlers in the middle, and at the tips.
- Palmate Antlers -- Old bulls have antlers that get wide and look moose-like with points along the "palms". Curly was an example of this trait.
- Antler Sweep & Curve -- Some antlers curve down, some are straight looking like ladders. With some, the tips curve together, and others are straight.
- Point Height -- Some bulls have short points, and some long. Some bulls will have a long point on only one side.
- Combinations of long and short tines on the same rack. This can vary a lot from bull to bull.
- Drop Tines -- A handful of bulls have drop tines. Last year it was the Boxley Stud and Bubba Stud that had drop tines. Curly had drop eye guards.
- Eye Guards -- Some bulls have long eye guards, some short, some wide, some narrow, some with drop tips.
- Radio Collars -- Some bulls look similar, but one will have a collar, and another will not. Bubba Stud had a collar, the Boxley Stud does not.
- Other Injuries -- The Boxley Beast's left ear tip flops down for example. Cotton Eye Jack had a bad eye.
- Temperament -- Two examples come to mind. The Boxley Beast is a pretty low-keyed bull in contrast to the Bubba Stud that just rages during the rut. Elk do have personalities.
|Bubba Stud -- Radio Collar, Drop Tine, Fierce Fighter|
|Curly -- Palmate Antlers &|
Drop-tine Eye Guards
Naming and IDing the bull elk in Boxley Valley connects me with their lives and how they move through the seasons and across years. I observe the changing of the guard like this year when Maverick, an early rutting bull, lost out to the Boxley Beast in an early struggle for dominance. I would not see this with nameless animals, every one looking alike. IDing them allows me to track them, naming them helps me both explain them to others. These names seem to resonate with elk fans I meet in the valley who ask me about this bull or that. They seem to be connecting with the "elk experience" in a new way, perhaps seeing the stories for the first time. That is my hope.
One of the things I like most about doing this blog and my huge website is that it is my hope that they lead readers to a deeper love of nature. John Muir said it best in his Wilderness Essays, "“I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature’s loveliness.” I am not a John Muir, but I do believe that moving closer to nature informs life, and if more of us will do so, we will not only be ecologically responsible, we will improve the human prospect.