The Elk Are Back, So Is the Winter
Some things you never get tired of. Some things are just as cool the last time as they were the first time. Coming home from an evening meeting I startled ten to twelve elk on our driveway. They trotted out of the way. Some were on the edge of my headlights, others were large specters moving off in the dark.
I woke up this morning and decided I wanted to see where they spent the night. Maybe I could follow their tracks and catch a glimpse. I didn’t really think I’d catch up to them, elk roam five to ten miles a day. Unlike the deer family on our hill that seems to have taken up residence and doesn’t wander more than a couple of hundred yards, elk herds travel.
They must have been doing the great loop a few weeks ago. The camera caught the guy below hanging out near a spring below the house. He had his harem with him. Quite the guy. He and the harem moved off after a day or so and we hadn’t seen any around until last night and today.
I did see elk ‘sign’ around. ‘Sign’ is the mountain man way of saying shit, scientifically known as scat. The difference between deer, elk and moose ‘sign’ was explained to me this way: Deer sign are like rasinets, elk are like large chocolate covered almonds and moose (there’s at least one of them around too) are like big milk duds. See the things you earn in Montana.
I took Herc, the Montana Mountain Dog, with me to find the elk herd. It might have been a mistake, its difficult to be stealthy with a 120 pounds of dog racing back and forth sniffing at the footprints. He had a great time and wanted me to go with him to chase the elk herd. My arm is sore from holding him. Time well spent though.
We bumped into the herd not far behind the house. I was surprised; so were they. The pictures didn’t come out well but you get the idea. They were too far away for my cell phone camera to be clear. That, and the dog was jumping, pulling and otherwise reverting back to wolf mode.
After the elk moved along, I decided to continue up the mountain until I reached the overlook. There’s just enough snow to make climbing slippery and a lot like work. It’s worth it though. The view from the overlook is stunning on a clear day. On those crystal-clear Montana days, you can see forever. Today, not so much
A forest covered in fresh snow is quiet. Where I was there were no background noises. No cars, no trucks, no planes or someone else’s music. A crow flew overhead and you could hear his wings move. It was like that before man showed up in the valley and it will be like that long after we’re gone.
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