Saturday, September 03, 2016

Elk Porn? The Rut Is On

This morning on Facebook a group called PA Great Outdoors made a post of a bugling elk with the announcement “The rut is on! Make your vacation plans now for an unforgettable experience.” I had to read that several times before I believed my eyes. I guess making an elk rut the object of one's vacation plans could be good for tourism, but it unnerved me a bit.

But, seriously, the elk are really active at this time of year as horny (yuck-yuck) males begin bugling to warn all the females that they are on the prowl, and will be headed their way soon. An elk bugle is an incredible thing. Visitors to elk country who have never heard the high, shrill, plangent call of elk are frequently startled by it and wonder what on earth that sound could be. I have been in the woods and heard it echoing down through the trees, and been startled until I remembered what I was hearing.



The county I grew up in in Pennsylvania is called Elk County and these days it is the home of a substantial elk herd, estimated to be over a thousand elk. When I was a kid that was not the case. Elk were rare then, but we always looked for them when we were out driving around. I remember one summer a female elk decided to join a herd of cows not far from my Uncle Gus's camp and whenever we were at camp we'd walk over to have a look at her. She didn't blend in very well and wasn't much good for milking.

In my Marienstadt books, I've written a lot about elk, they have provided good material. I told the story of how the State of Pennsylvania was able to restore the elk herd in a story called The Wilds in The Bucktail Cap in the Trunk. And in Wapiti, in The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall, I was able to combine two rather fascinating bits of elk lore. Years ago someone told me a story that he claimed was true about a boy who got separated from his family while camping. It was late fall and a sudden snow storm descended upon them falling so fast and hard that he could not see. The boy huddled under a tree sure that he was about to die when two female elk came out of nowhere and settled down on either side of him, pressing their bodies against his and keeping him warm through the night. I always loved that story and am so happy I had the opportunity to build on it for my story.

Also, according to Native American lore elk are said to be the protectors of women and that they represent true love. In my story one of the characters has fallen in love with a woman, but is hesitant because of a mistake he made in the past. When he finds a wounded female elk he takes care of her. She limps off into the woods and he does not know if she survived but the next spring he sees a female elk with a calf and he recognizes the scars on her haunch where he patched her up. He knows then that it is safe to love again.

The last time I visited my family in Elk County, I drove through the Pennsylvania Wilds to Benezette where the Visitor's Center for the elk viewing area is. As I was carefully navigating the twisty windy roads I noticed cars pulling off to the side and, there in a hollow beside a stream, were half a dozen elk, two with incredible racks. It was a beautiful sight and made me realize just how majestic these animals really are.

So, for the elk voyeurs among you, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has set up a web cam where you can keep an eye on the elk. So far all I've seen them doing is eat, but, 'tis the season. Enjoy!


Thanks for reading.

22 comments:

  1. Hi, Kathleen!

    When my family vacationed in Tioga and Potter Counties in the 50s and 60s we often took the car and rode around the mountain roads for hours spotting deer. I'm sure our travels took us over to Elk County. We saw quite a few smaller deer but I don't remember ever seeing any large elk with enormous antler racks. Elk are majestic creatures and I am happy to know that their numbers have increased over the years. I appreciated the chance to hear the sound of an elk bugling at sunrise. I can imagine that live cam site becoming addictive. I didn't want to tear myself away for fear of missing something. What a thrill it would be to see a bull elk with a giant rack walking across that field! Thank you very much for showing and telling us about these wonderful animals, dear friend Kathleen!

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    1. Shady, I am a total addict to that web cam--I have it on right now. Fortunately the elk are usually only around in the late afternoon and evening so I get stuff done during the day. The bulls I saw the last time I was there were ENORMOUS!

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  2. Fascinating.
    I love that haunting call - and prefer it to the noises which teenage males of our species create.

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    1. Hahaha! That's a very good point! I agree.

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  3. We don't have elk where I live , so this was very interesting to read. What we lack in elk, we make up for in deer, however. During their rutting season, there are few fences strong enough to keep them away from their hearts' desire.

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    1. The deer are so pretty. Yes, I can imagine that when they get amorous not much contains them.

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  4. Oh good, a webcam. Because I'm way too far away to get there to see them in person.

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    1. There is not much going on during the day but in the evening I have seen LOTS of elk. It is a fun cam.

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  5. I saw a herd of elk at dusk in Los Alamos a few years back. It was beautiful, one of those moments you treasure. We sat there watching them until it was too dark to see. Thanks for reminding me of that with your post.

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    1. I'm happy to remind you! They are just beautiful creatures.

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  6. Hi Kathleen - what a great post telling us about the lore of the elk - and I knew very little about them ... except the rutting. It must be amazing to hear them in the wild ... wonderful for you to be able to visit that countryside ... such an honour ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi, Hilary, I'm glad you liked my post. They truly are impressive. I never tire of seeing them.

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  7. I love the story about the lost boy and the two female elk that kept him warm and alive during that frigid night. How folks can look at such majestic creatures and their first thought is to kill it saddens me. :-(

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    1. Hi, Roland. I agree. I understand the need to cull the herd but I doubt I could ever shoot one. It would seem too inhuman to me.

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  8. Great post! Thank you for the webcam link. Right now I see no elk but the pastoral view and tranquil sounds of nature are very relaxing. Happy writing!

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    1. Darla, check the cam in the evening. Usually there are a lot of them between 6 and 8.

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  9. I would love to see elk but not when they're horny. lol Their call has always given me chills, though.

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    1. I was just looking at the elk cam and one very large fellow was bugling like crazy. Then a hiker came along and scared him off. Boooooo!

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  10. Those antlers on the one in the video are something, aren't they. Strange, yet majestic. It's sad to think people might want to kill the poor guy just to put his head and/or antlers on their wall. Hope they are protected.

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    1. The State of Pennsylvania allows an elk hunting season each year based on the size of the herd. They only issue as many licenses as the herd can support.

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  11. I have encountered many elk and moose in the wild, but thankfully not during rut. In 2015, I spent a few days in the Okefenokee during mating alligator mating season and those bulls can make a sound that will raise you hair.

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