Friday, October 21, 2011

10/21/11 Elk Herd Report -- Weekend Outlook & More

This morning was a bit frustrating because only one elk herd showed up, the one in the mid valley area. The bull running that herd is Hacksaw, the same bull I photographed crossing the Buffalo the first week in September. He was the first bull I saw start the 2011 Arkansas elk rut.  I heard him fight about a minute this morning behind the cane line. The unmistakable clatter of bull crashing antlers cannot be faked.

This morning the herd run by Pretty Boy was not in the Ponca fields (like yesterday), and Hercules was not in the field north of Smith Creek. In both these cases, we the herds are moving around a lot in a complex of fields.

Lost Valley Bull in front of Clark Homestead
Here is how you should interpret the map below. Looking at the date patterns, you can see where the elk frequent. Currently, in the case of the herds at the opposite ends of the valley, there are "complexes" of fields around the "viewing fields" that the elk move in and out of depending on the day. So, if you see a bunch of dates that are not consecutive, but are close to one another, you know that a herd is working the complex in question. Currently there are two herds showing this behavior, one in a north complex, the one I call the Ponca fields, and a second, working a south complex, the one I call the Smith Creek fields.

The middle valley herd has been in the same field now for 4 days. There is a similar field complex there, but they seem content to graze in the same viewing field for now.

A Look Ahead
Today begins muzzle loader season. The significance of this is that the hunters will reduce the desirability of many fields due to hunting pressure. This means that the 3 field complexes currently in use will have fewer fields in each complex because the elk avoid the hunters. To get to the bottom line, expect the elk to move into the "viewing fields" more often because there is no hunting pressure in Boxley Valley.

This could also cause a shift of the areas currently in use by the elk. It is quite possible for example that the herd(s) that have been using the south end fields will move to the fields near the intersection of highways 43 and 21.

Elk Herd Crossing Lost Valley Entrance Road in 2009
Each year about this time, the fields along the entrance road to Lost Valley and in Steel Creek (to a much lesser extent) come into play. From now on, it would be my recommendation for all elk watchers and photographers to check the Lost Valley fields as well as the entire valley end to end with each visit. Elk viewing in both these places is exceptional when it happens. Lost Valley is a great place to get elk pictures. It is compact and the old Clark homestead is a great backdrop.

This weekend should be great. We are near peak fall color and the elk are still in rut. We are perhaps now in the last third of the peak period, but elk viewing and photography will be good for at least another month.

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