With few exceptions, the elk and deer know what's up with hunting season. Maybe it's all the hot Montana men in their Cabella camo. Maybe it's the noise. But they know. They also know that they stand a better chance against hunters than they do against packs of wolves. So they flip a coin to see where to hang out and watch the fun, as humans try to outsmart them. Trust me, most of them escape with nothing more than a little excitement. I think they view it as elk version of humans running the bulls at Pamplona. Something else the two legged dummies do for fun.
The exceptions? A few years ago, during hunting season, the teen-age daughter of The Boss looked out her upstairs window and could not believe her eyes. She had a tag for hunting one elk, but school kept her out of the field and at the computer. What she saw outside was a large, six point buck casually grazing in the pasture with the cattle. Maybe he was trying to pass as a Jersey cow. Maybe his genetics were inferior, aka stupid. Maybe it was just his time. So, the young girl grabbed her rifle, walked out the back door, and dropped him where he stood (yes it was completely legal). It didn't rattle the cattle one bit. Open pasture eating comes before entertainment any day. When her father came running, she looked at him wide-eyed and said, "Gosh, Dad, I don't know what all the big deal is about finding a buck during hunting season. It's easy."
I hear guys at the store and gas station moaning that there are no elk this year. Nobody is getting anything. The local boys call the season, "Taking my gun for a walk." The wolves have decimated what were large herds. A few years ago, you could see 50 of them in the pasture. Now we have seen between five and ten. We can tell when they show up because the border collie barks a lot. He doesn't go near them. Too big. But he makes noise. Usually around 3 a.m.
Hunting season ended this week. There is a ton of snow on the pasture, so the elk come down looking for hay to steal from the cattle. The Boss looked out the window yesterday and saw.... you guessed it.... a 6 point buck casually walking by in the pasture, no anxiety, unflappable and calm. A really BIG, SMART buck. I imagine he was mentally flipping the bird to the puny human being.
They know when hunting season starts so they can show up and watch the tourists. And they know when it ends so they can steal hay from the Jerseys. These critters ain't stupid.