Marty’s photo of the day #3809: My dog, Nellie, gets credit for this shot. Yesterday I took her outside for a pee break and she immediately sniffed the air and charged into the woods. I assumed it was just her five-times-daily inventory of trees containing squirrels, but then she barked and froze. Just ahead of her was a herd of huge elk. I called Nellie back, praised her for being such a good girl, and put her into the house. I returned with my camera and made this photo.

Hours later, Deb, Nellie, and I went on our evening walk around our property and encountered the herd again. Because we have so many trees and hills on our property, we couldn’t get an accurate count of the elk, but they flashed between the trees in a line that kept going and going. My best guess is that the herd has between 25 and 50 animals.

It’s hunting season in Montana, and it’s at times like these that I am glad Deb and I maintain the “Essen Wildlife Refuge.” Our 25-acres isn’t a lot of space for the elk, but it may be the only place for many miles where they can get a respite from hunters and their high-powered rifles. Hunting season ends on November 28, so we are going to disturb the elk as little as possible in hopes that they will stay on our island of safety until then.

And to any hunters reading this: don’t even think of trespassing on our property. You will be photographed and prosecuted. In Montana, politicians have given hunters every advantage and made a mockery of the concept of a “fair chase,” including encouraging the slaughter of wolves to eliminate competition. Our state is one giant game farm. But not here!