Thursday, March 19, 2009
LEAD COW = Head B.I.C
ONE OF THE BIG BOYS FROM THE FEEDING STATION THIS YEAR
Deep Snowy mountain tops.....Temperatures Plummeting well into single digits...this is a normal winter here in the beautiful mountain ranges of
Washington State. As the lead cow or AKA "Head B.I.C" (HEAD BITCH IN CHARGE) signals it's time for everyone to move out...you can find all of the Cows and Calves migrating their little hearts out; down to the low lands. AWWWWWW the low lands.....A place where the air is warmer, the snow is lighter...and the food...well its FREE!!
Who would want to graze and frantically forage for food...having to constantly keep moving and using energy...trying to stay warm... and struggle to live, when someone is going to hand you your food???????
This is pretty much the way life is when you are a Elk in the hills over here.
Most of the cows and calves follow their lead cow, and make their way to one of the 5 WDFW winter feeding stations.
Old B.I.C..... She is a smart Ol' lady....elusive, hard to slip an arrow into, smart, cunning, and knowing every inch of her woods. This makes her migration quick, and leads her to her trusty wintering grounds year after year. (she isnt HEAD B.I.C for nothing)
This year the cow and calf turn out at the Oak Creek station was good, but not higher then last year. Don, one of the head volunteers at Oak creek told me The count this year per week was down on average aprox. 500 elk from last year. Their was a fair amount of Cows and Calves this Year, however the spike count was down..the reason for this obviously is the amount harvested in the area by hunters. Their was no more then 10 spikes at one time in the station this year. When you consider that they fed anywhere from 800-1200 elk on a daily basis this winter...10 isn't an overwhelming number.
The Big Boys....This Hunter chicks dream....
Alot of the very Mature bulls will stay in the High Country during the rough winters. The Bulls have a much larger body then the cows...about 1/3 larger, making it easier for the bulls to cope with the deep snow, and low temperatures.
This year at Oak creek it was a pleasant site to see Large sticks everywhere you turned!!!Bulls, battleing to be first in line when the hay truck starts up..and some just laying..lazy like.... no more then 10 yards in front of the viewing dock.(Like the one pictured above taunting me) Don told me today on the phone that the Branched Antler Bull ratio to cows was FOR SURE better this year. Where in past winters it has been 1/15 or even 1/20.. their was days that in the count it was 1/10..... those are some sweeeet numbers for people like me who are PRAYING for that Washington BIG BULL tag!!
Now these numbers ARE ONLY Oak Creek Feeding Station Numbers, their is 4 other localized stations. The winter feeding project is an enormous project, and one that the elk quite frankly depend very much on. Sadly the min. of Hay fed this year had to be lowered due to the cost of the hay, but the quantity of Hay fed this year was 10lb for every elk. Keep in mind the younger calves don't consume the 10lbs...BUT YOU DO THE MATH. 10lbs a day per elk..with 800-1200 on any given Day... that is some heavy duty numbers!
SO the bottom line here is....I don't always have a lot of nice things to say about the Washington State Dept. Of fish and Wildlife, because I don't always agree with their choices, and how money is spent...I do however feel grateful that our State takes care of the Land Owners to the extent where the Elk don't trash their land trying to winter, and that they keep our "Yakima Heards" strong by using the feeindg program.
And above all...HIGHER BRANCHED ANTLER RATIO means Happy thoughts for this Washington Hunter Chick trying to pull her Bull Tag!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!