Typically you are not going to find elk of any kind--male of female--this far south for most of the year. They usually like to hang around the mountains where they are more comfortable. During the summer months the males dump the females and take off for an extended party with the other males. Sort of a a "boys night out" that lasts for a couple of months. Each year they seem to like to do this in our area and in the dusk of the evening they like to hang out on Cow Creek Road.
The wife and I heard about this little male bonding show about a year after we moved to Montana. We were told that if we enjoyed critter creeping then we would enjoy catching the Cow Creek elk. Most of the time the elk pack numbers about 25 elk, but there have been times when there have been up to 70 of the good ol' boys hanging out together. It is a pretty impressive sight and the boys are pretty smart--it isn't hunting season!
Typically a person has to start heading out before the sun sets to catch the boys at play. That does not guarantee that a person will catch the boys at play, but this is the usual party time for the guys. Usually the wife and I head out in the pick-em-up truck around 8:00 to 8:30PM in hopes that we stumble upon the guys gathering near their favorite watering hole. Even if we do not see the boys at play we usually see a pretty spectacular sunset over the Beartooth and Abasaroka Mountains. Usually we stop near the watering hole and wait. Then it happens . . .
The elk begin to come.
It is sort of like that scene in the movie Field of Dream in which the baseball players start appearing in the corn field walking towards the baseball field. With the elk the first thing that one sees are the antlers popping up over the hill--then the head--and finally the whole body. First, one and then another. This continues to happen until the whole hill-side is filled with bull elk ready to play.
These are majestic animals--big, powerful animals that are graceful and elegant in their demeanor. I can understand the allure of the elk to so many people and why they want to have one mounted and place on the walls of their homes. They are pretty spectacular to see. Yet, at the same time, I have never been a hunter and cannot imagine shooting one just to have a steak on my grill and mount on my wall. I never tire of watching elk whether it is on Cow Creek Road or in Yellowstone or near Gardiner, Montana--they are an awesome sight to behold.
Amazingly I do not think that there is much of an initiation for an bull elk to belong to the boys club--basically I think that they have to be male. They come in all sizes and ages to hang out and tell "tall elk tales" about their many escapades. Mostly, I think, it is to blow off steam and get away from the females. I kind of like their style--we human males probably could take a few lessons from these guys!
There are some pretty impressive old' boys in the group--usually one can tell by the size of the antlers. These are two of the more impressive ones that we have seen:
As I have written, these creatures are magnificent to witness and observe. The wife and I could spend hours watching these graceful creatures frolic in the fields, but the sun does not care. It continues on its journey towards the west and night--usually leaving us to watch the shadowy creature in the growing darkness . . . until they are out of sight and eventually gone.
Until there is nothing left but the silhouette against the evening's sky. It is hauntingly beautiful.
It is both a privilege and a joy to be able to see such beauty and strength at such a close and intimate range. It is an honor to be in the presence of one of God's majestic creatures and to witness them in the natural surroundings of God's creation. Both the wife and I revel in this gift from God . . . and to imagine that it is practically in our backyard. Who can complain! Certainly not me. I am blessed!