The elk is one of the most popular wildlife species in western North America. The
Rocky Mountain elk is one of three species of elk in North America. This species
was once found in many states, but today they are found in the mountains of British
Columbia and Alberta, south to New Mexico. Once native to West Virginia, the last
recorded elk were found in Tygart and Greenbrier River area in 1890. Today, using
hunter-generated money, limited introductions have been made in a number of states,
and soon will return to West Virginia. Elk hunters know what others will soon learn;
a bugling bull is one of the great sounds in all of nature.
Being a wildlife professor, my fall teaching schedule meant that fall elk bowhunts
were not possible. Retirement meant I could elk bowhunt so in 2000 I went to New
Mexico and hunted elk. One late afternoon my guide and I heard a bull bugle in a
deep canyon. We estimated where they might emerge and this bull was with 40 cows
and several satellite bulls. The shot was rather long, but good. He’d recently lost
one lung. The cause was a 6 inch piece of elk antler we found in his lung cavity,
apparently from an earlier fight with another bull. Even though he only had one lung,
he seemed fine when harvested.