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 Virginian 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, Leon Boyd 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 Leon 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 of Directors member says one of the things he enjoys most about elk reintroduction is sharing it with others..“It’s priceless for me,” Boyd says.
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 the elk biologist 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 http://vgif.virginia.gov or
You can also visit Southern Gap Adventures and Breaks Interstate Park websites and check out their elk tours.