Elk Rocket Scientist

It is said by some local hunters that, in order to shoot an elk, you have to outdumb them — trying to outsmart them will leave you sitting alone with a blank elk tag. Personally, I have a lot of experience in chasing them around with a camera, and I can attest that they have a unreasoning prejudice against people pointing things at them.

I was out yesterday helping a customer with a virus problem; as I returned home, I noticed a half-herd of elk grazing in the clearing that will, we trust, soon contain the Retreat Center. They glanced indifferently at my car as I hurtled past; lifting their heads briefly, they soon returned to the serious business of nibbling Mom’s flowers and fruit trees.

I determined to get a close-up picture — not owning a telefoto lens, I routinely fail to capture wildlife with my digital camera. As I stepped out onto my deck, I was pleased to note the sound of a helicopter nearby — although I am careful to move quietly, and am widely known to be dainty in size, the elk usually (for some unknown reason) hear me coming.

Unfazed by cars and helicopters, the herd perked up their heads and began trotting away as soon as I descended to the ground. Gnashing my teeth, I snapped a few halfhearted pictures but was mostly treated to the uninspiring sight of 40 elk bottoms.

Elk, unlike me, are not particularly dainty. When pursued, they cause substantial destruction among the local flora; I soon abandoned the chase in hopes of preserving what grass may remain down by the pond.

About an hour later, a neighbor called to warn that the herd, having been reinforced and now 80-strong, was heading back through our property. Hope springs eternal in the heart of an amateur photographer, so I sidled out onto my front deck to try once more. Again, most of the elk quickly reacted to the dire threat of my camera, and harumphed and galumphed gracelessly into the underbrush where they glared at me from under lowered brows. (Actually, I’m not sure elk have eyebrows, but they definitely managed to glower.) Just as I was about to give up, a particularly feckless elk doe walked around the corner of my house and provided me with this picture. She may have been the victim of a practical joke, elk lodge hazing, or perhaps even a triple-dog-dare. As you can see, she was startled by my presence but too dumb to run away.


I suppose if I was an elk hunter, I would wait comfortably at home and shoot the first elk that rang my doorbell, except that they would probably eat the doorbell instead of ringing it. There is the additional drawback that I don’t have a doorbell.

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