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Visitors with sharp eyes will notice one animal among the elk this winter: A pronghorn doe has been hanging around the fringes of the main meadow. Other commonly seen wildlife in the canyon or at the ranch include mule deer, moose, bald eagles, coyotes and wild turkeys.
Drivers point out during the 20- to 30-minute ride that not all Hardware Ranch activity takes place in the winter. The 10 pounds of hay fed to each elk every day is grown on the ranch. Enough is produced each summer to feed the elk and the teams of Clydesdales that pull the wagons.
If you go
The Hardware Ranch Wildlife Management Area in Blacksmith Fork Canyon is open for viewing Rocky Mountain elk and horse-drawn sleigh rides ($5 for adults; $3 for kids ages 4-8; under 3, free) through the herd (weather allowing) from mid-December through mid-March. Rides are available Thursday-Monday from noon to 5 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 4:30 Saturdays. The visitor center has the same schedule. Cash or checks only. Visit www.hardwareranch.com for more information.
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"We grow as much as 300 tons of hay," Hunt said. "We are also open to the public throughout the year. You can camp, hike, horseback ride and, if you have the appropriate licenses, you can hunt or fish on the Hardware Ranch Wildlife Management Area."
The original purchase from the Box Elder Hardware Company was 7,560 acres. Through the years acquisitions helped the ranch grow to roughly 19,000 acres.
While some critics argue that it is bad idea to congregate wildlife into certain areas through feeding programs, Hunt said it is still important, and perhaps even more so due to development, to keep the elk from heading to Cache Valley.
Wildlife officials also take advantage of the large number of elk to conduct research projects.
Jenkins told of bull elk that had been ear tagged at Hardware Ranch and then eventually killed by hunters near Blackfoot, Idaho, and Boulder, Colo.
Larsen is looking forward to returning in the years to come with her young family.
"It was a special experience," she said. "We will definitely be back."
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