Although I adore summer and hate to see it end, there are some things about winter that I love too. One, as you know, is the low angle of the sunlight which makes photography all the more fun.
The other is that the elk come down from their summer home in the high mountains, and we can see them in the meadows all around our area.
This year, we saw a big bull who still has a harem who he seems to be keeping near him. The bull elk's testosterone must still be running high because he lets loose with ear-piercing bugles that can be heard from far away. You can hear an elk bugle in this short video.
The big bull who we watched is allowing a few younger bulls to stay near his harem. These are both younger and smaller bulls than the boss. Here were two of them, lingering off to the side of the harem.
They seem to be practicing for when they might have their own harems to defend. They spar which makes loud sounds as their antlers bang together.
After short bouts of sparring, the two walk away like good buddies who were just fooling around. There are obviously no hard feelings between them.
In fact, they are a team in one way. They both are trying to fly below the radar of the big bull, who occasionally walked over their way, looking as if he was reminding them of who was the boss.
After finding this herd, we watched them for quite a while. The sun eventually dipped below the Continental Divide as nighttime approached. The big bull's bugling became more frequent as the light dimmed. It was cold out, so he puffed a cloud of steam with each bugle.
I thought it looked amazing, especially combined with the sound of his bugle.
He acted as if some members of his harem might still be fertile, as he checked their hindquarters regularly.
As it got dark, we became cold so it was time to go.
I really hope that this big bull stays safe through the hunting seasons.
So, although the black bear presence in our forest is rapidly dwindling as they go into dens, Shyla and I see and hear evidence of elk in our forests almost every day now. I'm so glad that Shyla was easily trained not to chase elk when we first met.