I had to laugh yesterday morning, September, 1, 2015, because it was as if the alarm clock went off, announcing Fall, and the elk rut began. There had been little to no rut activity before that time – a bugle here, a bugle there, elk cows gathering at Mammoth, etc.
Last year Touchdown, the bull elk king of Mammoth, was at center stage and collecting girls in August. He was taking no chances on any other guys honing in on his turf and so set up shot and had all of his adoring girls lazing around, waiting their turn. But, this year, no Touchdown and I worried that he might have been killed in last year’s hunt. I was already mourning our great loss.
And then I found this little guy hanging out on the Mammoth lawn yesterday. His rack is narrow and tall like Touchdown’s field goal rack and I wanted it to be Touchdown but it just wasn’t. So, now I was really convinced of our king’s demise.
Continuing on into Gardiner, going home after 5 nights camping in the Tetons, I noticed so me elk at the Boiling River. The light was just perfect and the blue of the water enticing. This is not a place that I like to go and there was no obvious sign of a bull amongst the herd but I decided to walk out just the same.
The girls and calves were blocking the trail and some guy was walking amongst them, waving a big stick to make them move. Guess that people had been trapped down there for awhile and so this guy decided to do something about the problem. He was holding the stick sort of like a Samurai sword, itching to strike if the opportunity arose.
The elk moved and the people left. Up on the hill in the sagebrush, a mighty high narrow set of antlers rose into view but I could see no face. I was told that the bull had been resting there for a couple of hours. The day was getting late and so I figured that he was about ready to get up for a drink of water and so decided to wait. That turned out to be a great decision because before long there was Touchdown, standing and surveying the small group of cows before him.
Touchdown looked over the girls and then checked out the crowd. He was checking to make sure the coast was clear so that he could come down to the river and upon seeing this I immediately took several steps back to make him more comfortable. Interestingly, the boy came on down and took several very long drinks.
After his drinks, Touchdown just stood in that spot for several minutes. And, then he moved forward a few feet, thankfully away from the large boulder, and stood there for a long time.
One cow wanted to let Touchdown know that she was all his and so she re-crossed the river and stayed close by.
And then she got her own drink of water and crossed back over.
Meanwhile, Touchdown was trying to play it cool, acting like he didn’t really notice.
He stood there, not moving his feet and looked around. But, after she finished crossing the river and went back up on the other bank, he began having a hissy fit, stomping the water and dragging his antlers as if tussling with sagebrush.
And, then he moved into the center of the river and completely caught me off guard when he decided it was time for a soak.
Of course, I am delighted with the big guy’s antics – thrilled to be capturing the moments. He doesn’t soak for long before he gets up and shakes off.
And then he proceeds across the river to follow his girl.
I was waiting for the bugle but only got one, when he was looking away from me. The sun went down and soon the elk were in the shade and the scene no longer interesting. Smiling from ear to ear, for finally having a good, fun photo op in Yellowstone, undisturbed and with my favorite bull in a natural setting, I went on home to unpack from camping.
It was a good day and a great five days in the Tetons – having fun, visiting with friends, taking photos and camping. Life is good.