Elk of Cataloochee Valley GSMNP

My sister has been trying to get me to “Her Mountains” for years. So this is my third trip to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP). This time it is all about the Elk, of course I will also be stalking bear, otter, and maybe bobcat.

The elk are located in Cataloochee Valley over near Maggie Valley NC. The last 7.2 miles of road down into the valley is one lane gravel with 2 way traffic. It is a blast, but be careful and take your time.

Once down in the Cataloochee valley ranger road is about 2 miles long. It is broken up into 7 or 8 different large fields. Seems like a large bull Elk owns each field and keeps his harem in there.

I arrived in the valley about 30 minutes before sunrise, using my binoculars I could make out several large shapes.  Before there was usable light for photography, they started to bugle.  Pretty neat.  Cross bugling elk of my bucket list.

My first Elk:

He is a perfect 6X6.  They score the elk by the number of points on each side.

Later I got to photograph two young bulls practicing their sparring for later in life.


Most of the elks went back up in the woods by 8:00 am, so of course I had to go in after them.  🙂

Went back later than same day about 1:00 to find a shade tree and take a nap in the car, but people were already lining the roads backed in and setting up like their were going to tailgate.  I grabbed a spot about in the middle.  Met a ton of nice people.  Southern people just seem nicer that city folks.

Anyway on with the story.

Around 4:30 I heard a bugle, so I grabbed my gear, left the car and found this magnificent bull with his group of 4 cows.  He is an 7X6.


Man, he really kept the girls in line.  He was in the mood for love, they are interested but not quite ready.PBKJ3227-FrameShop

Then a second bull started bugling, and the 7X6 would answer back.  I could tell the second bull was getting closer.  He was the one I was really after.  The largest bull in the valley “ole #67” an 8X7

PBKJ3309-FrameShop PBKJ3390-FrameShop

They met up on either side of a tree / brush line about 15 yards wide.  They both bugled, stomped, and trashed the trees.  They it was on like donkey kong!

They met head to head deep in the trees and no clear shots 🙁


The fight moved to the other side of the tree line.  I tried like heck to get over to see the end of it.  One of the younger videographer he is going to email me name so I can give proper credit, but here is his video!

An awesome day and another bucket list item crossed off.  I’ll be going back later this week to see if I can capture a pair breeding.



She wasn’t having anything to do with his moves or advancements.  However, when he gave up an turned to walk away, she mounted him.  Something seems backwards to me.PBKJ4193-FrameShop

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Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP)

After my trip to the Masters, I stopped Great Smoky Mountain National Park for 3 days on my way back to boring Illinois.  I stayed on the quiet side of the mountain in Townsend Tennessee.  Several of the photographers I follow recommend and stay at Dock’s Motel.  I read the reviews on trip advisor and was a little nervous since the April and May rate is $35 a night for a sleeping room.  Everything was great, the room was clean, hot shower, soft bed and internet for $35 a night.  It would have cost me $17 a night to camp in Cades Cove with no power, bed or hot shower.

My sister loves her mountains, in fact they are called her mountains, but she has agreed to rename Cades Cove to Kent’s Cove.

I spend 3 full days in Kent’s Cove looking for wildlife.  I was a week to 10 days too early, but here is some of the photos I was able to capture.

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Couldn’t find any wildlife but I thought this stump looked like a howling wolf.PBKJ1552-FrameShopPBKJ1761-FrameShop

Love my Mind Shift Gear Rotation 180 Pro.  Notice the Bear Horn sticking out.MindShiftGear IMG_1680-FrameShop

Was able to find a few wildflowers that were starting to bloom at the lower elevation.PBKJ1451-FrameShop

Virginia Blue BellsPBKJ1455-FrameShop PBKJ1458-FrameShop PBKJ1775-FrameShop

Trout LillyPBKJ1776-FrameShop PBKJ1781-FrameShop

Great White TrilliumPBKJ1784-FrameShop

Yellow TrilliumPBKJ1783-FrameShop

Pink TrilliumPBKJ1786-FrameShop

Wild TurkeyPBKJ1474-FrameShop PBKJ1515-FrameShop PBKJ1531-FrameShop

Short Eared OwlPBKJ1488-FrameShop PBKJ1493-FrameShop PBKJ1497-FrameShop

Yuck, one of the riding horse in Cades Cove Riding StablePBKJ1472-FrameShop

Eastern Screech OwlIMG_1689-FrameShop


On the last night with less than 15 minutes of shootable light I found my only black bear.  He didn’t want to get close and just kept sticking his head behind brush every time I tried to move into a clearer position.  Oh well, at least I found one after more than 15 hours of hiking all over the mountains.PBKJ1803-FrameShop

Hopefully I will get to go back towards the end of September for the Elk rut.

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