Dang, I need to get my priorities straight. I’ll be with sorority sisters at a Girlfriends Getaway in Saugatuck on Lake Michigan this weekend, when I should have convinced the girlz to head to Atlanta, in the northeast area of the Mitten, for the 26th Annual Elk Festival. We could have entered the King & Queen of the Hunt competition in a choice of three categories: 1). Sexiest Camouflage 2). Most Redneck Camouflage 3). Best Camouflage (head to toe).
Atlanta is Michigan’s Elk Capital, and with an estimated 1,500 of the animals the area claims to be the home of the largest herd of free roaming elk east of the Mississippi River.
Michigan’s elk are of the west-of-the-Mississippi ilk. In 1918 seven elk were imported from Wyoming to restart Michigan’s elk population, which disappeared around 1875.
Now the elk range the 100,000-acre Pigeon River Country State Forest, primarily in an area bounded by M-32 on the south, M-33 on the west, M-68 on the north, and I-75 on the west, where there are yellow “elk crossing” signs posted on the freeway.
The DNRE has identified four viewing areas where there’s a fairly good chance of spotting the animals. This time of September is a prime viewing period because it is when the bull elk, which can weigh up to 1,000 pounds, gather harems for the breeding season. The best viewing times are early and late in the day. Weekends can be busy with other binocular-toting folks hoping to glimpse the animals, so a weekday might be a better choice for enjoying the spectacle. Sometimes, you may be able to hear the bugling even if you can’t see the elk.
On my drive through the area in July I was not prepared with the list of designated viewing sites, but I’d hoped to get lucky and just happen upon some of the antlered animals gathering in fields. The only elk I saw was in front of the Post Office in beautiful downtown Atlanta. It was behind glass, accompanied by an informational display.
Atlanta’s Elk Festival, September 24-26, is packed with fun activities, although they don’t have a direct connection to the animal the event celebrates. I guess it would be difficult to have a Rubber Elk Toss or Greased Elk Contest, so they substitute chickens and pigs.
The Elkfest Parade steps off at 6 p.m. Friday, followed by the Great Atlanta Bed Race. If you don’t travel with your bed but are inspired on the spot to enter the competition, there are $10 “Bed Rentals for last minute teams.”
I’ll bet the race’s finish line is somewhere near the Beer Tent, where the King & Queen of the Hunt contest takes place at 9 p.m. Friday. For that you need to bring your own camo.
Visitor Info Clicks: Gaylord
Travel Michigan: Pure Michigan