It's hard to imagine any place on earth which can compare to mid and late September at Our Western Montana Lodge. Granted, I love every season, but there is something extra special about fall - at least while we're enjoying it.
Take the animals - I've seen more animals of late than I have all summer combined. Since most large animals are in rut this time of year, they tend to be more visible and more active. For example, the Elk. One of the most majestic and awe inspiring large animals on the North American continent, our Elk are doing their best to fill their roll. In just one day - less than three hours time in the Valley - I saw three bulls and their cows. And, they weren't little, scruffy bulls either! Of the three, I'd say the smallest had to be a five point.
I didn't even have to beat the brush for these upclose and personal encounters. I was actually on my way out (first bull and herd in the morning) for the day - and then on my way back in (last two bulls with their cows) later that evening. All three were close to or crossing the road.
As if that isn't enough, I talked to some locals who have been seeing and hearing up to eight bulls in a group. In fact, one man told me of two guys who just sat and listened to the Elk bugle and carry on until well after dark. Now, if that doesn't raise the hair on the back of your neck and put goosebumps on your goosebumps - well, you've been hanging around the city far too long!
However, if Elk just really aren't your 'thing', consider the Moose. The next week or two is supposed to bring us to the high point of their rut. Now, I haven't personally seen a bull in the last two weeks, but I've heard it on good authority that they are not only out there - there are some real nice looking ones.
Of course the excitement isn't limited to the big game this time of year. The antelope are plentious - and often hilarious to watch as the bucks jockey for position. I must have seen 30 - 40 last evening. Most easily seen on the North road - or coming in from the west - these lively little animals may look a lot like deer, but their personalities are quite different!
None-the-less, if deer are what you seek, we've got those around too. Although not as visible as some of the larger game and the antelope, I managed to see half a dozen right beside the road recently. With the bucks in the middle of their annual competition for the ladies, a little time spent off the beaten path out to be quite rewarding.
Not everything in the valley is about the 'rut', however. The ducks and geese are gathering for their annual pilgrimage to south. A couple of mornings ago I'd estimate we saw better than 100 geese on Culver Pond as well as myriads of ducks. What this means, of course, is great photo opportunities as well as potentially terrific hunting - especially as there are a lot of birds but not many hunters.
Okay, enough of the birds and animals. Some time spent at Elk Lake Resort this time of year offers incredible opportunities to enjoy the local color as well. The aspens in the Centennial Valley have gone overboard in an effort to show off their fall foliage. In fact, the drive over Red Rock Pass has got to be one of the most beautiful around.
Add to all of the above - great fishing, great opportunities to view smaller wildlife and birds (a couple of friends had an excellent photo shoot earlier this week with a badger as the model), and little to no people. Now, the Centennial is NEVER really busy, but this time of year you practically have the whole place to yourself!
I guess, all things considered, I have a LOT of good reasons to think life at Our Western Montana Lodge is at its best this time of year.
Lady of the Lake