Elk

Adult bull elk are the characters responsible for all the so-called bugling going on in the LBL’s Elk & Bison Prairie wildlife viewing area.

With cooler, autumn-like temperatures coming along with the shorter days of mid-September, the stage is set for bugling concerts at the Land Between the Lakes’ Elk & Bison Prairie.

A few mature bulls in the wildlife viewing area’s contained elk herd can be expected to vocalize frequently with the approach of the fall breeding period. This period is marked by bugling, frequent squealing often capped with guttural grunts that adult bulls broadcast to advertise for mates and to claim breeding rights among potential rival males.

Elk do that in the wild, and that wild breeding behavior carries over within the LBL’s 700-acre prairie wildlife viewing area enclosure. The elk that reside there are accustomed to seeing human observers in the drive-through habitat, but these are still wild critters.

LBL wildlife biologist Curtis Fowler said some bugling occurs earlier, but the peak of the ringing vocalizations typically comes from mid-September to mid-October. A few adult bulls among a total elk population in the prairie area do almost all the bugling, he said.

Fowler recommends the peak bugling period as one of the best times for visitors to tour the drive-through area. He said slowly driving the 3.5-mile paved loop, pausing at interpretive stops to listen while learning about the wildlife and habitat, should provide good opportunities to experience elk bugling.

The drive-through prairie is open to visitors every day from dawn to dusk. Fowler said late afternoon visits are probably the best time to encounter bugling as well as viewing new elk calves, critters that were born earlier this spring.

Dozens of bison also occupy the prairie enclosure. The burly buffalo are even more visible than the elk, often bringing visitor traffic to a halt when herds of the big animals cross or loiter on the paved drive.

Visitors will find that the bison are rather casual about the presence of humans and their automobiles and trucks. Wildlife-watching motorists must yield right of way, and they will find that road crossings by buffalo take place on buffalo schedules, too. They may take their time (and visitors’, too), and surround vehicles, moving on completely at their leisure.

Especially because of the bison, but because of the unpredictability of wild elk, too, visitors are encouraged to stay inside their vehicles — without fail whenever animals are anywhere close. It is not safe to be out there in close proximity to them. In vehicle-bison traffic jams, you don’t even want your hands and arms out the window.

And if it does not seem obvious enough, motorcycles and bicycles are prohibited within the Elk & Bison Prairie. There is no protection without enclosure. These aren’t goats, and this is no petting zoo.

There is a fee to drive into the prairie area. The cost is $5, with passes available at the prairie entrance or at any staffed LBL facility. Once gaining admission, visitors can circle the loop repeatedly if they wish.

The Elk & Bison Prairie is located just north of the Golden Pond Visitor Center along Ky. 453, The Trace.

• Meanwhile, the Friends of Land Between the Lakes support group is looking for volunteers for their Bugle Corps to serve within the Elk & Bison Prairie.

Volunteers in the Friends of LBL’s Bugle Corp help LBL managers by monitoring the health of animals in the prairie enclosure, interacting with visitors and answering their questions and, importantly, monitoring visitors’ safety.

The Friends seek volunteers who would like to learn more about elk and bison, then spend several days per month cruising the drive-through area, helping visitors and keeping watch on the resident critters, in a vehicle provided by the support group.

In addition to the Bugle Corps, the Friends of LBL continually offer more volunteer opportunities to help in the federal recreation area.

To inquire about Bugle Corps service or other volunteer projects, contact Anita Spaulding, email volunteer@friendsoflbl.org or phone 270-924-2007.

• Early waterfowl hunting is off and running with the September Canada goose season having started on Wednesday of this week, and Kentucky’s early wood duck and teal season opened 30 minutes before sunrise today.

Kentucky’s early Canada goose season, one offering opportunities to take non-migratory, local nesting birds, runs Sept. 16-30. Hunters can take a maximum of five homegrown geese per day during this season.

The combined early wood duck and teal season is a five-day stint, Sept. 19-23 this year. This affords Kentucky hunters the chance to take some of the native, Kentucky-nesting wood ducks before the early-migrating birds skedaddle in advance of the state’s traditional duck season.

The woody/teal combination season also allows Kentucky hunters some opportunities at early migrating bluewing, greenwing and/or cinnamon teal — small, fast ducks from more northern habitats — if they move through these latitudes at the same time.

The teal-only season in Kentucky is Sept. 24-27, another four days when teal may be taken following the closure of early wood duck hunting.

During the wood duck/teal season, hunters can take as many as six ducks a day, but only two of them can be wood ducks. After the taking of wood ducks is closed, hunters can bag as many as six teal daily during the teal-only season.

Canada geese can be taken in addition to woodies and teal during their respective seasons.

Otherwise, general waterfowl regulations, including a ban of lead shot ammunition in the field, are followed during these early Kentucky seasons.

Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoors writer. Email outdoors news items to outdoors@paducahsun.com or phone 270-575-8650.