This time of year I love to travel to the Slippery Ann Elk Viewing Area north of Lewistown, Montana. It’s about an hours north of town on Hwy. 191. I’d call it a scenic drive, passing various ranches, antelope, deer and maybe a coyote or two along the way.
Once we crossed the James Kipp Bridge, we took a right on a gravel road for 5 miles into the viewing area. Slippery Ann Elk Viewing Area is part of the Charles M. Russell National Refuge. In recent years records show that nearly 500 elk visit the area in September. Numbers remain high through early October, and begin to thin out as harems break up and the bulls begin to feed once again to store up reserves for the winter ahead.
As we approached the Elk Viewing Area, we began hearing the bugling bulls, a sound that is music to my soul. We drove another mile down the road past several vehicles to a spot elk within 30 to 50 yards off the road. The viewing area is about 2 miles long and backs up to the Missouri River; viewers are not allowed to leave the road.
We set up our cameras and recording equipment and sat back to watch the show. I find it very interesting to watch the bulls challenge each other as they round up their harems of cows. While all of this excitement is going on, the spring calves are mostly minding their mothers. Even more interesting, is that the cows actually pick the bull to mate with, most likely to choosing the biggest bull, which can weight as much as 1,000 pounds.
As mating season winds down, the elk separate in their groups with the cows, calves, and spike bulls hanging together. The bigger bulls go off in their own direction until next mating season.
In the spring, elk feed on the new grasses after a long winter of eating dry grass and shrubs. In Montana calves are born between May 21st and June 12th. Twins are very rare. Calves are tan colored and spotted, so they blend in with their surroundings. The calves give off very little scent making it difficult for predators to detect them.
As dark approached, we finished our picnic dinner and sat back to listen to the bugling blasts and blunders of the bulls, as well as cow squeals for well beyond an hour, a symphony of nature at its best.
It would have been fun to stay all night, but we politely packed up our equipment and ourselves up and drove back to the Yogo Inn, an excellent base camp for our adventures and the best Sunday Brunch I have had in awhile.
Till Next time, fun travels and tight lines.
Troutski and Road Trekin Adventures