The purpose of our long road trip was to go on the Hap & Florence Points Memorial Sleigh Ride. Dena can fill in the story much better than I can, but basically, when the elk were starving Hap & his wife Florence started to feed them hay. These are wild elk - completely and totally wild. They eat the hay that is shared with them and then they go off into the woods. They are not fed during hunting season so as not to gather them in one place and risk their safety. They are also not fed during the rutting or calving seasons. And make no mistake, they are HUGE.
From Dena's photos:
During a severe winter in the 1980s, Hap and Florence Points began feeding starving elk to help them through the harsh winter. Lyle and Kathy Points continue the tradition, offering scenic horse-drawn sleigh rides to view and feed the elk in their natural habitat. Open mid -December to the end of March. Call (208) 325-8783 for more information.
First, we got there and waited and eventually saw the sleigh coming up the road. Those horses are called Shires and they are magnificent - huge and beautiful and very strong.
This is Lyle Points - the nicest guy ever. The money we paid to go on the sleigh ride helps pay for the hay - but it can't possibly be enough cuz there was a lot of hay on that sleigh and after we got off, the rest was taken back down to the bottom lands and dropped for the elk.
After the sleigh got to the bottom lands, the elk appeared out of nowhere and came in almost a single file line - led by the number one cow.
There were hundreds of them.
And they came right up and began eating our seats right out from under us. First came the cows and yearlings.
Then later some of the bucks - this is a five pointer, so not too young.
Another five pointer - there were about three or four of them and Lyle knew which was number two in the herd and which number three, etc.
Every so often, they'd begin play fighting. I took lots of pictures of them joining racks.
A couple of them came up with fur on their antlers. That Other Girl picked some up off the hay and Lyle said she could keep it as a souvenir. It was very odd fur - each hair is hollow to help keep the animal warm, so it wasn't soft at all.
After they ate their fill, they went and laid down to digest the food.
And then . . . the top elk arrived on scene.
All the others moved aside and opened up a wide path for him to travel to the sleigh and the hay.
They gave him a wide berth and
he took it. He is the one and only six pointer - magnificent antlers that were well over 3 feet tall.
It was a gorgeous day and, even though it was only 32 degrees, it felt warmer in the sun and I kept having to take more clothing off. At one point an elk started chewing on my elbow - must have thought I was made of straw.
The big kahoona ate the seat Dena was sitting on.
Mom seemed to be enjoying herself.
That Other Girl certainly did enjoy being face to face with the wildlife - maybe too much?
A close up of the six points on the big guy.
These two cows started watching something - and kept watching on high alert for quite a long time. The entire herd was watching with them. If they'd alerted, the entire herd would have disappeared in a matter of minutes.
More play fighting between numbers two and three.
When the sleigh moved forward, the elk all looked so surprised.
It took only seconds for them to catch it up and settle into their eating again. But time was up and we had to go.
More shots of the lovely Shire horses - wish I could remember their names.
It was a fantastic road trip and I'd do it again in a minute. Thanks Dena.