Elk Bugling on the C. M. Russell Wildlife Refuge

I missed going to Slippery Ann on the C. M. Russell Wildlife Refuge last year during elk bugling time and I promised myself that I’d get there this year. Score! I had out-of-state family visiting in Chinook and they were excited to get my invitation to drive to the refuge with me for this event.

I made a list of everything I wanted to have – lawn chairs, bug spray, binoculars, camera, warm jackets and sandwiches for supper while we leisurely watched and listened to the elk. After getting almost everything in my car (the binoculars could not be found, darn it), I pointed my wheels to Chinook.

I made a quick stop at Grateful Bread in Havre and picked up our supper sandwiches and some very yummy cookies and put them in my cooler.

My next stop was to pick up my almost 84 year old aunt and my cousin in Chinook. Even though my aunt was born and raised in Chinook she lives in southern California now and it is my absolute delight to show her and my cousin around the region.

We turned into the C. M. Russell Wildlife Refuge off US Hwy 191 just a few miles south of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. The road was dusty and that’s a good thing! If it rains in this area don’t take dirt roads because you can quickly be stuck as that dirt becomes gumbo under your car.

There were several campers above where we stopped but not too many folks just parked to view. It was a Tuesday evening and mid week usually has less visitation.

When you build up an event, get there and then wonder if the elk will be bugling, fighting, gathering their harems, or even showing up, you get a little nervous when you see and hear nothing after arriving!

Well, all it took was about five minutes and about a half dozen elk appeared in the area. In probably another five minutes that herd was double and the bugling was literally like a symphony warm-up. We watched, took photos, shared binoculars from a nearby lady, and enjoyed the warm and bug-free evening. Our warm jackets and bug spray didn’t even come out of the car!

I’d rate the evening as perfect! I had a couple of close calls with deer on the highway on our return to Chinook but otherwise it was something well worth the drive. Enjoying it with family made it even better.

Typically, the elk will gather at the Slippery Ann area the last couple of weeks in September and the first couple in October. U. S. Fish & Wildlife manages the area and they also do a bus tour from Lewistown out to the viewing area with some good information about the purpose of the refuge. I’ve taken their tour before and learned a lot.

If you get the chance to go to Slippery Ann during the elk rut I highly recommend doing it.


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