Tuesday, September 28, 2004

It's that time of year

What to do when the circle of life sort of runs right over you.

Look close, you'll see about twenty elk in this picture. I took this as the elk came down for their evening drink. This time of year it's dicey in the basins and meadows in the high country. The elk are in rut, this is announced by an incredibly eerie sound: the bugling of the bulls, which sounds day after day. The cows, which are normally quiet and travel in small family groups, suddenly combine into enormous harems and wait while the bulls sort themselves out.

Any other time of year the elk are very mellow, as long as they see you coming and you don't chase them with a camera, they won't bother you. I've been fly fishing, paying attention to the sky -- sudden blizzards can explode here, even in July -- and my fly. And suddenly I won't be alone in the pool. I've had as many as six young bachelor bulls come right into the water with me. The closest one was a mere three feet away. They almost ran over me getting to water. Then they ignored me and got down to some serious drinking. They had the small antlers of two year-old elk, covered in softest dun colored velvet.

They stayed with me until some idiot tourist started chasing them with bread and cameras. I don't know why but tourists seem to think Colorado is one massive petting zoo. I saw the same thing in Yellowstone this July, when I went up to Idaho and Montanna to fly fish. I watched a very dumb man sneak to within fifteen feet of a two-thousand pound very annoyed bison. It's quick way to get hurt or dead. At one point we had almost 300 bison surrounding us as we tried to leave. I was more than a tad bit nervous. For as big as they are, they are shockingly quiet, I could only hear the soft sound of leaves moving as they grazed off grass and trees.

The weirdest two things that I've witnessed happened at the same time. I was in Wyoming fishing the North Platte river, about ten miles north of Colorado. A young fawn came right up to me, watching me cast. I felt like I ought to hold my breath and wait, motionless. It felt so magical that I didn't want to break the moment. When I said hello to him he bolted. I was still shaking my head over it when I saw an even weirder sight: A moose was travelling with an orphaned deer fawn. They came up to the river, directly across from me. I slowly pulled in my line and began to carefully back away from them. Moose are no joke, they will happily pound you into a broken pile just because they feel like it. One travelling with young is twice as ornery and needs a great deal of space and respect. If you see a moose in the forest start backing up very slowly and hope you get clear before it decides it really doesn't like you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Worse than a moose traveling without young is an old moose the day after hunting season ... I was traveling home to Maryland from my father's place in Maine the weekend after Thanksgiving. I decided to take the long route because the interstates were crowded with folks going 75 mph with dead deer attached to their hoods, none too securely, either. Coming across NH rte 2 on the shoulder of Mt. Washington there was a traffic jam of stopped cars. Problem was a rather portly old moose who had decided that with the season over, the main drag belonged to him. Some idiot in a small car decided to honk at him, and the moose ambled over to the car, slobbered all over the windshield, dented the hood, and then leaned against the hood at an angle so that the windshield popped out. So some other idiot started honking at the first car, trying to get the driver to move off the road onto a seriously iced-up shoulder. The moose was, of course, distracted from his destruction and ambled over to the second car.

That's when I decided that my tires were good enough to drive on ice for a while...


October 5, 2004 at 11:56 AM  

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