My boyfriend, Cody, works on his family’s ranch and one of the things that they dabble in is exotic animals and elk. Cody’s dad, Ron, is a taxidermist and he has hunters that will come out and shoot an elk or one of the exotic goats and then Ron will mount it for them. I, not knowing much about elk, had no idea how much work it is to keep an animal like this around.
Last weekend Cody called me and asked me if I wanted to watch them sort and worm the elk. It was an interesting day to say the least. First we went out and got the calves out of their pen. Moving elk is kind of a hassle because they are not very wise animals. It takes a lot of time and patience to get them where you want them. You have to move really slowly behind them or they freak out and run all over heck. A lot of them try to run right through the fence and end up getting thrown on their butt, and if one of them tries to run through the fence, then they all follow. After getting the calves into the correct gate, we ran them through the shoot to give them shots. None of them had ever been through this, so it was not very easy getting them to step through the shoot. After getting them wormed we sent them back into their pin. If you put the calves in with the bulls they might get killed so you have to keep them separated until they are bug enough to hold their own.
Next we did the cows and the bulls. One of the cows freaked out so bad that she ran into the fence multiple times and broke her jaw. Cody said that is a really common thing to happen. A few of the bulls got their antlers caught up in the fence and took forever to untangle themselves. You just have to wait because elk are extremely dangerous and you could get injured if you get too close. As the cows and the bulls were being run through the shoots they were separated into two groups. Some of them were sent to the breeding pen and some were sent into the hunting pen. A few of them were sent into a butchering pen as well. The young, strong, and smart elk are sent into the breeding pen. Elk that are really old or kind of dumb (like the one that broke her jaw) are sent into the hunting pen. Usually only a few of the bulls are kept for breeding and it is the super impressive bulls, so ones with smaller racks are usually sent for hunting. I’m honestly not sure which ones were going to be butchered or how many were going to get butchered. They usually do a few a year for the family and sometimes people will order one.
Elk are pretty majestic animals when you see them from afar, but when you see them in the light that I saw them in last weekend, then they just look like big dumb deer. It was a really interesting experience and I’m glad that I learned so much about having an elk ranch, but I don’t think it is something that I want to help with very often.