As I sat on an outcrop of ancient lava rocks waiting for a buck mule deer to emerge, I suddenly heard the clashing of antlers behind a grove of aspen near Crystal Butte in Island Park. It sounded like an agnostic battle between two bull moose who start the early rutting season with a little pushing and shoving around; not a real fight.
A cow and a calf came out of thicket as the rattling of antlers ceased and a short time later, they were followed by a large bull. A smaller bull began working his way to where I was sitting, probably a little mad because he got his behind kicked and was looking for something smaller to challenge. Knowing how unpredictable all moose can be during this season, I quickly worked my way back to my truck and safety as the bull came within 100 feet of me.
It is still a little early for the bulls to contend seriously with each other for the affection of the cows as the rutting usually begins the last week of October and goes through November. At the height of the rut multiple males will be competing for the cows. It is an exciting time to be out in the wilds as long as we take precautions and stay safe.
I believe that the most dangerous animal in our forests, swamps and deserts is the cow moose and second to that are the bull moose during the rut. Moose do not have great eye-sight but their hearing is good and they like to investigate sounds which allows hunters of them to call them in.
During the last week I have encountered several bulls in the mountains north of St. Anthony and east of Rexburg. These are two of my favorite areas to try to watch these huge brush-eating monsters.
When the snows start getting deep in Island Park moose move south to the Sand Creek Road the and the White Sands Road just north of the sand dunes that run from the Sand Creek Road to the Red Road. In the area east of Rexburg the moose usually congregate along the Mud Springs Road as it winds through the aspen draws surrounded by active farmed land or CRP (the federal compensated Crop Rotation Program) lands.
One of the most impressive and viewable areas where moose gather during the rut is near the Jackson Hole Airport. It is a popular area for photographers to work the 30 to 40 moose that gather there during the fall. If you are interested in observing epic battles with the clanging and rattling of their large antlers; this could be the place to see real life gladiators in action.
An addition to watching the moose in Jackson Hole coincides with the gathering of Big-horned sheet and the migration of elk onto the Elk Refuge. The sheep migrate to the southeast side of the large butte while the elk mostly gather in the marshy area near the northwestern side.
These are great activities to enjoy as the colder weather invades our area. Just be safe and keep your distance from these wild animals; if you get in a fight with them, you will lose and we will probably read about the encounter.