Someone once said, "Montana is noted for the raw rugged land. A land known for its isolation and grandeur. The Missouri Breaks stands out even in Montana."
Dan read an article in the Billings Gazette, Oct 3 about being able to see Elk in Montana in the rut. The CMR Wildlife area is part of the Missouri Breaks. I believe it is some of the most rugged and beautiful areas in Montana.
Neither of us had ever known about the elk gathering at the Charles M Russell Wildlife Area before reading about it in the paper. The Slippery Ann Viewing area has a section that is off limits to hunting. There is an open meadow where the elk gather about 2-3 hours before sunset. We watched the show for about 2 and 1/2 hours. Next year we want to go earlier in the season (about the middle of September). I think you would have seen the elk actually fighting for their "ladies hand/hooves" with other ardent suitors.
Follow highway 191 turn just after you cross the Missouri River onto the Charles M Russell Wildlife Refuge. Follow it as it turns into the Slippery Ann road (gravel road). You can follow the gravel road and make a 20 mile loop. The signs say it will take you from 2 to 3 hours to travel it. Yesterday we just went as far as the meadow (about 5 miles from the turnoff). The meadow sits between the road and Missouri River. Next summer we will drive the complete loop.
There were perhaps 250-350 elk in the clearing. We talked to a Fish Wildlife and Parks lady, and she said in years passed the elk number between 500-700. The numbers were down because of the massive spring floods that affected the forage along the river.
The opportunities for photos is extensive, bring extra batteries and memory cards. You can get gas in Hays about 25 miles, Malta about 60 miles or Zortman maybe 20 miles from Slippery Ann. You also might want to pack a lunch. Above the viewing area I saw some travel trailers parked at the campground. There are no facilities at the camp ground and no cell service. I think I need to look into seeing if you can get an On-star subscription for our older pickup.
As I was taking pictures I saw all kinds of cameras from smart phones to professional cameras on tripods. One of the bulls was approximately 100-150 yards in front of us. I was using a Canon 12x PowerShot SX130IS to take his pictures. It goes everywhere with me. I am still learning how to operate it. The videos are new to me, I had never taken more than 1 or two.
When you click on the video at the top of the post you can hear the bulls talking and hear the reply of the cows. The sounds were reviting. Yet somewhere in my memory I had heard the whistles before. Then I remembered my dad had deer and elk whistles he used during hunting season. I loved the whistles as a youngster. My mother would sometimes let me blow into them making the odd calls. But I never touched them when my dad was in the house. Nevertheless hearing the sounds in person was amazing.
As the dark encroached everyone packed up and left. The elk seemed to just ignore the presence of all the onlookers at their grand performance. The elk were unperturbed by us. As we left we heard some coyotes yipping. Perhaps they too were discussing natures play.