Michigan is host to plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities, but one species stands tall: The elk. Fall is the best time to catch a glimpse of one of Michigan’s most sought-after viewing experiences.
Elk are massive animals that dwell within the rolling hills and hardwoods of northeast Michigan. Despite weighing between 400 and 900 pounds and standing 5 feet tall at the shoulder, they can be quite elusive throughout much of the year. However, during the fall breeding season, elk are more active while competing for mates. Elk congregate in open fields and bugle loudly this time of year, making for the perfect opportunity to view (and hear!) the wild herd.
The herd can be found only in areas throughout Otsego, Montmorency, Presque Isle and Cheboygan counties. For good locations to spot these stunning animals, there are 13 viewing areas accessible by road throughout the Pigeon River Country State Forest near Gaylord. Road conditions are variable depending on the weather.
When planning your visit, keep in mind that elk gather in forest openings at dawn and dusk to feed and socialize. It is best to arrive just before sunrise or sunset and make sure to listen carefully for males’ bugling. Bring your binoculars, spotting scope or camera for close-up viewing while remaining a safe distance away.
Visit the DNR wildlife viewing page to learn more about this unique Michigan tradition and where to do it.