Autumn is the best time to view Tennessee elk. The rut is underway, which means mating activity, lots of animal movement and the haunting bugle of the bull elk day and night. The free-range Tennessee elk are on the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area about 40 miles north of Knoxville. There are two good viewing places in the Royal Blue and the Sundquist units of North Cumberland.
Perhaps the best place to go is the elk-viewing pavilion at Hatfield Knob on Peabody Mountain in Campbell County. More than a dozen elk are frequenting the area mostly in the mornings and evenings. Directions: I-75 north to Caryville, then take U.S. 25W to LaFollette and about 6.5 miles past. Immediately after topping the mountain turn left at the sign onto a gravel road and go about 4.5 miles to the parking area. The pavilion is about a one-third mile walk.
The original elk release site is at Montgomery Junction on Massengill Mountain, near the community of Norma in Scott County. To get there take I-75 north to exit 141 (Oneida/Huntsville); go west on Hwy 63 for 11.5 miles and then left on Norma Road, going about five miles to a left turn onto Montgomery Creek Road. About a mile further is the release site, a good place to begin slowly driving and listening and glassing [Note: A few elk hunters will be hunting here on Oct. 3-7 (archery) and on Oct. 17-21 (rifle) and one youth hunter the following weekend].
Elk can be seen anytime but viewing is best in the mornings and evenings. Recommended equipment includes binoculars, cameras and insect repellant. For those going off-road, watch for poisonous snakes since they are quite active right now.
The main elk herd in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is in the Cataloochee area on the North Carolina side. For the best viewing opportunities in the Park go to www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/elk.