OPINION — The elk calves are big enough to travel now and the bachelor bulls have gathered together and are beginning to follow the cows.
The September rut is approaching and both elk and hunters are positioning themselves for success.
The three spike bulls that hung around last fall have all made it through the winter in good shape.
One of them had the tallest spike antlers that I’d ever seen. It has matured into a narrow and spindly six-point as a 2-year-old.
What wonderful genetics these prairie bulls carry.
The heat wave of the last few weeks has dried up many of the watering holes and animals are beginning to congregate at the stock tanks.
Of the 32 animals that have been visiting my hay meadows, half are cows, and the remainder are evenly divided between calves and branch antlered bulls.
Listening to the herd call back and forth to each other, cows calming their calves as the sun slowly rises, is one of my favorite summertime luxuries.
They come only once or twice per week, but elk calls entice me through my open windows in the early morning darkness.
Up at four, a short walk in my pajamas with my binoculars and notebook, then an hour of uninterrupted wildlife heaven here in the land where the deer and the antelope play.
After the elk retreat to the timber, I share alfalfa cube treats with the horses and check on their water tank. If I’m lucky, I can often squeeze in a short nap before my wife and I both rise for our morning walk.
Tossing the ball for our Airedale is the highlight of his day.
It’s 10 easy minutes out to the county road and then we climb the hill, huffing and puffing, upon our return.
Leslie is enjoying her retirement and feels no need to keep tabs on the wildlife, no compulsion to count numbers nor antler points, comment in notes about the increase in size that one animal has achieved over another.
She is content with the songs of the meadowlarks, casual conversations over coffee with her many friends, and the half-hour we spend holding hands each morning praying for our grandchildren, their parents, and our country.
Now that Covid’s nightly terror alerts have become passe, the evening news broadcasters are searching for another boogeyman.
They post nightly shark attack stories along the coasts stacked upon the looming monkey pox threat.
One excerpt I recently read informed the public that a recent uptick in attacks is due to a conservation success story.
After a lengthy period of federal shark protection and an annual PR campaign giving sharks their own week-long, primetime, cable special, fishermen are less likely to eat them.
“Successful” conservation programs which lead to a loss of human life seems to be a repetitive theme.
Broadcast networks highlight activities that lead to calamity, riot, or animal attacks.
If it bleeds it leads.
African has their hippos and crocodiles which manage to kill 1500 or so per year.
In India they have tigers and cobras which kill hundreds more.
Australia loses folks to both crocodiles and great white sharks, while Russia has wolves and bears.
Here in South Dakota, we can only compete for airtime with Bison and rattlers.
Governments around the globe appear to be on a mission to promote the lives of photogenic wildlife at the expense of their own citizens.
If we were shareholders in a national corporation and we discovered that our board was purposely attempting to reduce the number of our members through lethal means, we would vote them out.
Yet governments are a grotesque parody of businesses, often seemingly managed on whimsey rather than logic or reason.
Here in the US, it is estimated that we keep twice as many pet tigers as exist in the wilds of India.
Ditto for China’s curious traditional medicine industry that raises the big cats like cattle.
This is even after recent scientific studies have boosted wild population estimates by 40%, as wildlife biologists become more successful at counting cats.
Great white sharks on the other hand are taking it on the chin.
The killer whales we have been protecting for a generation seem to consider them a great delicacy and are gleefully attacking them purely for the taste of their livers.
My imagination conjures up dystopian news headlines of the future where broadcast billionaires have successfully displaced the bothersome flyover people of the Americas and huge herds of bison once again migrate from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
A time where the paths of bison and shark once again converge, and a nightly news broadcast leads with a story where a bison cow defends her calf from a great white rather than from intrusive tourists.
We live in curious times.
The Speirs family has owned and operated Crow Creek Wildlife Management Service since 1996.
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