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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Thanks for stopping by, Life is good, and I am blessed!

5 thoughts on “Elk of Cataloochee Valley GSMNP

  1. Kent,

    Nice pics. Thanks for sharing. I experienced the same activity with the elks last year in Yellowstone during the 3rd week of September a few days before the government shutdown. At that time the rut was in full swing and very entertaining to watch and photograph.

  2. Pingback: Vacations though the years | Kent Jarrett Photography

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