Since their release back in December, West Virginia's first reintroduced elk herd has garnered a lot of interest and excitement. Sportsmen and women from all over the state, and right here at home, have anxiously anticipated their first sighting of the huge beasts as they roamed free over the coalfields.

Another exciting milestone was waiting to see if any of the transplanted elk would successfully bear the first elk born in West Virginia in over 140 years. Just a few weeks ago that milestone was not only reached, but surpassed.

WVDNR staff was able to confirm not one, but two calves were born into the new resident elk herd by using game cameras. These youngsters are definitely a jewel in the elk program, but just like our thriving whitetail population, the wilds are a rough place for a newborn animal even if they are as big as a calf elk.

Hopefully, as the summer rolls on, more calves may show up. Even if they don't, it is still an exciting time to be watching the elk reintroduction program. Newborn elk calves aren't the only things causing a stir where elk are concerned.

Half of the elk released last winter were bulls and, not to be out done by the cow elk, those bulls are creating a stir by doing some growing of their own. While the coalfields hunters are not strangers to impressive headgear where deer are concerned, an animal the size of an elk take impressive antlers to a whole new level.

Social media has been abuzz with pictures and reports of sightings of the local elk herd and several of them are sporting some impressive headwear. When you see a set of antlers reaching 3 feet or more off the head, it is easy to be a little awestruck. Even for the seasoned elk hunters around the state.

Local deer hunters are getting regular photos of the impressive animals on trail cameras set out to help them pinpoint those target bucks for the coming season and those are sure to be prized photos. Whether seen in person, or on a trail camera photo, there is something special about a set of antlers as big around as your wrist and as long as your arm. Those massive antlers still have nearly a month of growing left.

There are more big steps yet to come with the resident elk and those are just as anticipated as seeing the calves and the quickly growing massive antlers. In just a couple of months those same elk that were released in December will begin to go through their first mating season in their new home and that will likely be as exciting for the elk watchers among us as it will be for the elk themselves. There is nothing like hearing a bull elk bugle out his interest to the world on a crisp fall morning.

The elk and the entire reintroduction program is growing and generating a lot of interest, not only locally, but statewide and even reaching across state lines. Countless volunteers and organizations have stepped up and offered a hand to help the new residents get the very best welcome and care.

One of the groups leading the charge to lend a hand, and just as importantly their checkbook, is the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation(RMEF). The RMEF has been on the forefront in helping the elk program, not only in WV but several other states across the country.

The Hatfield McCoy Elk Country Chapter, located in Logan, has donated countless volunteer hours to the elk program. The Chapter is also getting ready to host their annual fundraising banquet which will no doubt be an exciting time celebrating these regal new residents.

The event is scheduled for July 29 at the Chief Logan Lodge and Conference Center. If you want to spend a great evening talking about elk, winning prizes and having a wonderful time you might want to check out the event. For more information contact Steven Ratz at 304-785-6762.

It is amazing how much excitement the elk have generated in just under the year that they have been reintroduced to the state and that excitement is still growing as well. If you haven't had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of these majestic animals, it definitely needs to go on the bucket list.

Seeing them on television does not do them justice. The next time you are driving through the southern coalfields keep your eyes open. The growing elk population are liable to pop up anywhere and they are an impressive site to see.

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