Most recently, he took the kids to Oak Creek Wildlife Viewing Area in Naches, Washington. “Huh? Where is that?” You ask? My thoughts exactly… but boy was I surprised when they returned with great pictures, interesting facts, and lively stories.
Rocky Mountain Elk are the main attraction at this Wildlife Area (though you can go to another part to see Bighorn Sheep as well) and all it takes is a Washington State Discover Pass and calling (509) 653-2390 in advance to make a reservation if you want to take a guided truck tour (these tours are also available on a first-come first-serve basis but it's worth it to make a reservation if you can). As long as you're willing to head to Eastern Washington (near Yakima) in January or February and don't mind waiting around in the cold a bit, you're almost guaranteed to see Elk... and I'm talking about a LOT of Elk, and many with enormous antlers.
These Elk roam in from the neighboring mountains in search of food and apparently there can be up to 1,200 of these massive mammals at the feeding station at a time. Almost 100 miles of 8-foot-high fence was built in the 1940s to keep the Elk from devouring the acres of orchards in this region and every Winter this feeding station supplements the Elks' diet.
Even with two tour jeeps carrying curious folks in to get a closer look, a decent effort is made to keep a respectful distance from these still very wild animals. However, some of the Elk are just as curious as the visitors so there is a chance of up-close viewing. The male bull Elk with their enormous antlers can actually be very territorial (meaning aggressive) so it is essential to follow the rules while visiting.
The free tour even came with a big button displaying an Elk (but please don't call it a button, my kids are quite certain it is a very special badge).