HYRUM – Hardware Ranch will not be doing sleighrides this year due to the longstanding drought that has taken its toll on the feed grown to feed the elk during the winter. Last year the worldwide pandemic cause Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to cancel sleigh rides.
Brad Hunt, the manager of the 14,000-acre Wildlife Management Area, said they raised about a fifth of the feed they usually do.
“We used all of our water rights early and even purchased some extra water rights. We still didn’t have enough water to grow what we needed,” he said. “We thought it was better to conserve what we had for our disease surveillance program.”
They hope to trap 25 male and 25 female newborn elk this year and collar them with radio collars to track their migration.
Year after year hundreds of families have enjoyed riding in horse-drawn sleighs while guides teach their passengers about the wild wapiti. Though sleigh rides will not be offered at the popular winter destination, Hunt invites the public to see the new education center.
“We are making changes to the visitor center and calling it the Wildlife Education Center,” Hunt said. “We are adding displays, paintings and putting out spotting scopes and binoculars for people to see the elk up close from a distance.”
The education technicians will be there to teach about a variety of subjects and have worked with schools in the past. They will be prepared to teach on subjects like predators, prey, migratory patterns, antlers, horns and things like that.
For those who want to witness the elk from a moderate distance, the drive to Hardware Ranch is just 16 miles east of Hyrum up Blacksmith Fork Canyon on State Route 101. Officials suggest dressing warm and packing a lunch.
“The Education Center will be open from Dec. 10, 2021 until February 13, 2022, from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p. m.,” he said. “We are also working on podcasts that people can turn their radio to a station and hear what they would hear if they were on a sleigh going through the elk.”
In past years DWR has held an Elk Festival, but it became so popular they didn’t have space enough for the crowd.
“We are spreading out the Elk Festival,” Hunt said. “We will do something different every month or weekend instead of cramming it all on a set day.”
In the past, the visitor center has had a full calendar of school busses bring students to learn about Hardware Ranch.
The DWR will not be offering school programs at Hardware this year but will be offering opportunities for the general public to join education specialists on guided walks, scavenger hunts, crafts and storytime twice daily at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. during the winter season.
The two viewing areas outside the center will provide great views of the elk every day of the week.
In addition to viewing elk and the activity, hiking the Curtis Creek Trail at the Wildlife Management Area is a great way to get away and enjoy the beauty of the area. Great trout fishing is also available in the Blacksmith Fork River, which flows through the canyon leading to the ranch.