This Week’s Got Cabin Fever Road Trip, Michigan’s Elk Herd

Pigeon River Country State Forest, Gaylord, MI — March 27, 2020

Last week, The Lasco Press took you on a Michigan road trip to the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron. Escaping the boredom of sheltering in place, even for a few hours, is a refreshing break when done within the guidelines of Michigan’s Governor’s Executive Order.

Individuals may leave their home or place of residence, and travel as necessary:

1. To engage in outdoor activity, including walking, hiking, running, cycling, or any other recreational activity consistent with remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual’s household.

Playing by the rules is important for all of us. Take this interruption in our regular routine to enjoy the sights Michigan has to offer in a virus-safe manner. Fill up the car, pack a lunch and see some of the amazing sights closeby in our state. “Social Distancing” is easy if you stay in your vehicle.

With the amazing response to last week’s story visiting the Blue Water Bridge, we decided to make a run to another spectacular sight you may or may not be familiar with.

Michigan’s Elk Herd

Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources(DNR) offers a wealth of information about the elk herd on their website. They even publish an Elk Viewing Guide with some basic facts to give you an overview of the experience.

Graphic Courtesy of Michigan DNR

The herd is closely managed by the DNR with Elk hunts permitted. Each year the DNR holds a lottery to determine who receives the opportunity to purchase an elk license. In 2019, almost 37,000 applications were filed for the 60 permits issued. Long odds, yes. There is no fee to hunt for Elk with a camera, a long-range lens is recommended, and bring binoculars for your best view.

Elk / Photo Courtesy of Michigan DNR

Close encounters are rare, search tree lines in viewing areas. Bare trees in spring improve your chances of a sighting in the woods. Unlike last week’s trip where you could check the vessel schedule in advance, there is no assurance of a sighting an elk. It is truly a hunting experience.

Where Do Michigan Elk Hang Out

According to the Indian River Regional Chamber of Commerce, just northeast of Gaylord, MI, The Pigeon River Country State Forest, in the southeastern corner of the Indian River Area, is the home to Michigan’s only free-roaming elk herd. The DNR publishes an Elk Viewing Map with the areas frequented by the herd marked.

Graphic Courtesy of Michigan DNR

Gaylord is a two and a half-hour drive north of Fenton. Take Hwy 23/I-75 to the Indian River area. The ride itself, through farmlands and wood forests, is relaxing and scenic. You might even catch sight of a Michigan whitetail deer.

Michigan Whitetail Deer / Lasco Press Photo

Once out of congested areas the speed limit increases to 75 mph. When you arrive, head out on the back roads, stop and scan potential viewing sites, look for horizontal movement among the trees and borders of open fields.

Expect your vehicle to get dirty, most roads are unpaved. During the spring thaw, it is advisable to avoid unmaintained roads. Four-wheel drive is a valuable asset in the woods. If you are going to venture outside your vehicle in this uninhabited area, wear boots and avoid locations that have multiple vehicles present. Remember, these are wild animals and will easily spook if approached. While an Elk appears to be a gentle grazing animal, they can be very dangerous.

If you go, stay safe, enjoy, and send us your pictures.

Picture Gallery

Last year The Lasco Press’ feature writer, Steve Sweitzer, vacationed in Yellowstone National Park. Frequent Elk sightings in the park provide incredible photo opportunities. He shared a few of the pictures he took.