Wapiti (Elk) Reconnaissance Mission in Canmore, Alberta

“Look at that tree over there,” my brother Brett pointed to a slender trunk off to our right, “see how all the bark is missing in that middle section?”

I shifted my gaze upwards from the red leaves covered in dew to the tree in question. One section had been whittled away. A deep red, smooth scar had replaced the bark.

“You can tell elk have been in this area, sharpening their antlers.” Brett continued, “Did you know that every year they shed their antlers and grow new ones? They grow 50 pounds worth of antlers in three months”

“No, I had no idea,” I replied, acknowledging the fact that they are a lot of things I don’t know but my brother does.

Instead of going on a regular hike today, I went elk tracking with my younger brother Brett—the outdoorsman. Although he doesn’t spend as much time in the mountains as before, he still goes climbing, both mountains and frozen waterfalls, from time to time. He is a fly fisherman and sometimes he hunts with a bow and arrow.

Even though I have mixed feelings about hunting, I respect my brother for hunting with a bow (as opposed to a rifle). When he does “catch” something—I hate to use the word “kill”—he takes it to the butcher and then their deep freezer is stocked full for the entire winter with jerky, sausages, ground meat, steaks, roasts, and pepperoni. I’m not a big fan of meat but they are.

If people had to go out and hunt their own meat, their eating habits would likely change. I know I turn strictly to fishing, but still eat eggs.

—–

Wapiti, also known as elk, are one of the largest land mammals in North America. At one time, massive herds of elk covered the plains over the last century and a half they have been marginalized into mountainous terrain and heavily forested areas.

How to track an elk  – Brett Bilon’s tips

1. Location
Know where the elk are likely to be hanging out, to get their food, water and shelter.

2. Timing
The most likely time of day to see an elk is early in the morning or at sunset. The best time of year to see them is early fall, when they rut—males challenge other males in order to mate with females.

3. Optics
Good quality binoculars will you help spot them before they spot you.

4. Wind
Always stay upwind of the elk. If the wind blows your scent towards them, they will run in the opposite direction.

5. Silence
Elk have superior hearing, so be quiet. Consider setting up in an area where you think elk will pass through once they get out of their beds—flat grassy areas where they lay down.

The exception to this rule is during the rut where you can call with bugles, cow calls (squeaks and chirps) and thrashing of branches. The more noise the better when challenge-calling a big bull.

For more information about elk:
http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/elk/

More photos but these ones are by Brett:

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