Friday, September 27, 2013

Predicting Bull Elk Fights: Lesson #2 -- Location, Location, Location

Lesson #1 was about listening for sound clues about bull elk fights.  Lesson #2 is about using history as a guide to where fights occur in Boxley Valley.

I have been chasing elk and bull fights since late 2006, but really hit the ground in 2007.  Over the years my obsession with elk photography has led me to focus on bull elk fights, and elk crossing the Buffalo National River as subjects.

The map below shows the 3 main places I have observed bull fights over 5 years.  Fights do occur in other places, but these are the 3 top fields.  I am certain that habitat is the determining factor that has moved them to the top of the rankings.  Here are the factors:

1. Field Size   Each of these fields is very large.  Large fields setup the conditions where 2 separate herds 2 bulls might graze near one another.  This proximity sets the table for a battle to unite the herds.

2. Attack Points  These big fields offer many attack points for maverick bulls. Behind and around them are major elk trail complexes exploited by bull elk to mount their challenges.

3. Food & Water  Each of these fields has water in the fields as well as the river behind them.  They also offer exceptional grazing with less (or no) competition from cattle.  Cattle and elk don't mix.

4. Large Bedding Areas   Each of these fields has large bedding areas right behind them, including areas across the river.  These are attractive to herds, and to their bulls.

What all this means is that bull fights during the rut are about habitat territoriality as well as the battle for breeding rights. These 3 fields are ideal locations for the rut offering plenty of food, water and bedding areas while the work of the rut is being done.  Pay particular attention to these zones in Boxley Valley and your chances of seeing a bull elk fight improve dramatically.

Map Showing Best Bull Fight fields

Updated Boxley Valley Map Showing Best Bull Fight Fields

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