Elk viewing in the Mitten State is a time-savored tradition. Use your patience and bring a paper map. No, really.
MICHIGAN—Although Michigan is known as the “Wolverine State” (for the many wolverines that once lived on the peninsula), Michigan is home to another species of majestic nature that has been carefully managed by the state’s Department of Natural Resources, and protected and managed for all nature lovers to enjoy.
That animal is the elk, a species that disappeared in Michigan around 1875 but made a comeback in 1918, when seven of the animals were released into the wild. From there, the Michigan herd grew to 1,500 by the early 1960s, allowing for the reintroduction of hunting.
Today, Michigan’s elk herd has leveled off at about 1,000 animals, which can all be found in the northeast section of the Lower Peninsula.
If you’d like to see the animals in their native habitat, the fall is the best time to see them—and there are plenty of options for planning your next Pure Michigan adventure.
Designated Elk Viewing Areas, Carriage Rides and More
For the purposes of giving Michiganders the opportunity to catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures year-round, the Michigan DNR has created 13 designated elk viewing areas, which are an excellent way to see them during October, when they are more likely to be found actively feeding in open grasslands. The viewing areas, which can all be found along the Pigeon River viewing area, can be seen on the DNR’s map by clicking here.
Fall is also mating season, increasing the chances you’ll hear the male bull elk’s trademark bugle.
While finding the elk can sometimes be difficult, there’s another way to greatly increase your chances of seeing the animals: an elk viewing tour by carriage, which is held each year by the Thunder Bay Golf & RV Resort and runs through Oct. 22.
Learn more about the award-winning tour, which includes a five-course dinner and wine tasting, here.
Elk are also hunted in Michigan, although only 100 to 200 licenses are given out each year through a drawing that begins in May and ends in June. More information is available here.
What to Bring on Your Elk Viewing Adventure
If you’d like to search for Michigan’s elk this fall, you should definitely consider bringing the following, according to the Michigan DNR:
- Binoculars or spotting scope
- Paper map (cell phone service is unreliable)
- Drinks, snacks, and a tankful of gas
- Warm clothes
- Patience, and a positive attitude, as wildlife viewing is never a guarantee and the best moments usually happen unexpectedly.
For additional information including more viewing and safety tips, check out the DNR’s Elk Viewing Guide.