Trayfoot Outdoors

The Great Elk Adventure!

The densely foggy pre-dawn September morning held promise, but only to those who wanted to slip through the mountain top meadow unnoticed by the four-leggeds. The tall meadow grass was wet and hanging heavy with dew and leftover raindrops from the night before. I could occasionally catch a glimpse of a lone sentinel tree, standing silently wrapped in the misty fog.

The silence was suddenly shattered by a startling loud shriek! Well, not exactly a shriek. It was the mating call of a large bull elk. He was “bugling” to announce his presence, his availability, and as a warning to lesser bulls to steer clear of his ladies. And this is why we were standing in a mountain top meadow on this murky grey morning. My breath quickened and my heart rate soared as we waited for the huge critter to emerge from the foggy curtain. The fog shifted and there he was! What a majestic creature! He looked like a huge gray ghost, slowly coming in and out of focus, stopping every few steps to let loose with another bugle. I wore my camera button out shooting dozens of pictures, hoping for the perfect shot.

The fog started lifting as we watched him cross the meadow and go behind a clump of bushes and small trees. At the same time we lost sight of him, a twenty foot pine tree started pitching violently back and forth. Following the tree down, we were able to see his antlers thrashing the the dickens out of the pine branches. The bull elk had thrown down the gauntlet and lesser bulls were forewarned.

Are you wondering in what western state I was having this exciting adventure? Try Southwestern Virginia!

That was the first morning in Southwestern Virginia where the Elk Restoration Project was started by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries along with a few essential folks like Leon Boyd who kept stoking the fire to get the project off the paper and onto the ground.

Frank and Linda Mundy, David and Julie Coffman,and I had come out a day ahead of the fall outing for the Virginia Outdoor Writer’s Association and boy had it paid off. Not only did we not have to go out with a large group, we were also personally guided by elk expert Leon Boyd and taken into the private areas where the elk gather.

Leon Boyd, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Virginia district chair, chair of the Southwest Virginia Coalfields Chapter, and a DGIF Board member says one of the things he enjoys most about elk reintroduction is sharing it with others..“It’s priceless for me,” Boyd says. 

Leon Boyd standing by the tree that the elk horned

We stayed at the Breaks Interstate Park and went out elk “hunting” (no guns) every day. We also spent an entire afternoon in a seminar with DGIF elk biologist, David Kald and Leon learning how this whole project unfolded and what they were learning about building an elk herd in Virginia. By the time we left, we had seen 6×6 bulls, small groups of elk and large elk herds with cows and calves. What a week!

This September, a group of ten of us are heading back to the Grundy area, but this time we are staying in cabins on a mountain top (Southern Gap Adventures) where the instead of “where the deer and the antelope play” we are hoping to see the elk play.

If you are an elk hunter, you may be asking why you would want to go see elk where you cannot hunt them. Maybe to study them? Even a seasoned elk hunter could learn a lot from sitting in a mountain meadow and observing these majestic animals because as WT. says “nature is the best teacher.”

For more information on the Elk Restoration Project and to view the Elk Cam, visit or

You can also visit Southern Gap Adventures and Breaks Interstate Park websites and check out their elk tours.

©Copyright 2015-2018 Trayfoot Mountain Studo Jennifer Stroop Hensley Wholistically Speaking. All Rights Reserved.
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