HOLLISTER — Behind 8-foot fences, hungry eyes watched Phillip Rosen in anticipation of the next meal.

As Rosen drove a tractor load of hay into the enclosure Aug. 10, cow elk and their calves approached. Most hung back until a bale was unloaded into a rubber trough. But one cow with curious eyes went straight for the hay on the moving tractor.

“An elk cannot live off just pasture grass,” Rosen said. So he also dumped supplemental pellets into long feeders.

Nearby, the bull elk were also contentedly chewing. Soon, they would shed their velvet and begin their annual bugling for mating season, just feet from Rosen’s house.

“I never thought I would be attached to ‘em,” the longtime hunter said. But there’s nothing quite like that sound.

Why this niche?

He had the property outside Hollister, and he had the connections. When Rosen’s best friend asked him to board his elk five years ago, Rosen agreed to do it. He keeps telling his wife he will get out of it, but so far, it hasn’t happened.

And it probably won’t.

“I love ‘em,” he said.

Rosen continues to hunt elk every year because he can’t bear eating his own herd. But many of his customers are also hunters — ready to secure their winter freezer supply so they can afford to be pickier when on the hunt.

Get a taste

All the elk on P-T Elk Farm have been born and raised on farms. Rosen had 42 elk in early August.

Several of the largest 4-year-old bulls were ready for transport to a hunting ranch in Riggins, to eventually become someone’s trophies.

“It sounds odd to me to even pay for such a thing,” Rosen said. “Some boys back East have never seen an elk.”

The smaller bulls are kept at the farm until they grow larger. But the cows are either kept for breeding or sold as meat.

Rosen said he sells only about four to six cows a year for butcher. He encourages interested customers to reach out to Don Scarrow at butcher shop Scarrow Meats in Jerome, who usually has a full elk carcass for sale. They can also call Rosen at 208-404-1555.

The packaged meat typically sells for $6 a pound.

The farm-raised elk, he is told, is more tender than elk that are hunted in the wild — probably because “they have no mountains to climb.”

P-T Elk Farm also sells goat and rabbit meat.

What’s next

Rosen has no immediate plans to change his operations, and he typically has no shortage of interested customers.

“It just kind of happened,” he said. “It wasn’t a thought-out thing to do it.”

Sort of like a plan to let free-range rabbits graze his property resulted in more than 200 of them? Not quite. He doesn’t expect his elk farm to get much larger. (Separate pens help.)

For now, he’ll continue getting the regular fence inspections required by Idaho Department of Fish and Game, to ensure the animals don’t mix with wild herds. And his wife can have her goats.

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