9.17.2011

Peak Of Pennsylvania Elk Rut Nears

Each year the woods and meadows of Pennsylvania Elk Country resound with the mighty bugle of the bull elk or wapiti as the Indians called him.  This is the time that most serious elk enthusiasts journey to Pennsylvania's northwoods to take in the sights and sounds of the rut.  The rut actually begins in late August or early September, but the tempo usually picks up considerably by mid-September and peaks around the last week of the month, with activity usually declining rapidly in early October.

With this in mind I am posting a 2minute 57 sec. video clip, which shows the highlights of the 2010 rut, although the video actually starts with two dramatic clips of elk taken during the last few days of October.  The next few scenes show clips of the famous character bull "Crazy Legs, Jr." which was killed in elk season last year.  Clips of him are interspersed with two different takes of a large collared bull, which was seen frequently at the Gilbert Viewing Area.  The number on the collar was damaged too severely to read and I have no idea what number this bull was, but it was one of the largest seen on Winslow Hill. The somewhat smaller collared bull shown is 8A. Also included are several clips of smaller bulls, and a large bull that many referred to as having a drop tine.  The video ends with a short, violent clash of antlers between two bulls shortly after dawn on the last morning of the 2010 trip.



This brief fight was taken  with the Canon 7D and a 300mm F4 lens.  It was still so dark that I had to use ISO 2000 and the video is not good quality--at least on a large screen HDTV, but is included here because it is dramatic.  All too often some of the best action occurs either too early or too late for best photo or video quality.

The video is a good sample of what one can see if they put in the time in the elk range.  I hope to see you in Pennsylvania Elk Country this fall.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

9.10.2011

More August Elk Encounters

Most who are interested in Pennsylvania's elk herd are now focused on the rut, which begins in late August and really gets underway during September.  Activity should gradually intensify, with the last two weeks of September or very early October being the best time to travel to elk country to witness the sights and sounds of the rut.  Unfortunately we do not yet have any photographs from this year's rut and are still catching up on photographs from the August trip and the western trip.

Dawn on Wednesday August 17th found me driving up Winslow Hill Road from Benezette.  At 6:30 I spied two bulls feeding on vegetation by the side of the road, so I pulled my Ford Escape to the side of the road.  I was concentrating on video this morning and had the Canon T3i with 70-200mm f2.8 mounted on the tripod and resting on soft padding in the rear of the vehicle, so I carefully exited the vehicle, got the camera set up, and began filming the animals.  A major reason that I am using the DSLRS more and more to film wildlife is that one still has the option to take high resolution still photos without using another camera and when I had enough footage, I took a few still shots of the animals when they paused from feeding to look at me.

Young Bull Pauses From Feeding In Early Morning
The Second Bull Pauses Before Vanishing Into Brush
As it grew later, the bulls vanished into the brush, headed in the direction of a meadow.  As I was to find out later, Paul Staniszewski came along about thirty minutes later and found them in the meadow.  He got two excellent photographs, which he was good enough to share with us.


Bulls Posing In Meadow
Many make the mistake of snapping a photo of animals and then quickly moving on in search of another, but patience often pays off and Paul stayed in position for awhile in hopes that something interesting would occur, and he was rewarded when they engaged in a sparring match.

Bulls Sparring-Not To Be Confused With Fighting
These are beautiful bulls, but they are not large mature bulls--not even close.  I was amazed during the August trip how many people would tell me there were two large bulls just down the road and I should go and photograph them.  I am almost certain that this is the two they were talking about and I knew I would get photos of them when the time was right, but at that time I was working a really large bull--at least for August on Winslow Hill after several years of trophy hunting, which has really hurt the resident mature bull  population.  The bull below is one of the few large resident bulls on Winslow Hill and his chances of surviving to reach his full potential are not great.


A Large Bull With The Potential To Become Exceptional If Allowed To Live



I am told by reliable sources that there are some outstanding bulls in the outlying areas and that some if not many of them should show up on Winslow Hill for the rut.  Many bulls do travel extreme distances to visit the traditional breeding grounds on Winslow Hill, but in the past there were several large bulls that lived in the immediate area the entire year.  At this point most of them have been shot in hunting season or died of old age (Fred & Bill Jr.) and have not been replaced by younger bulls as they are taken either before, or immediately when they become exceptional.


When visiting elk country be sure to look for Paul Staniszewski's  floral note cards and photographs in the Elk Country Visitor Center gift shop.  If you have not already purchased my two part documentary film, "The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd", please stop by Benezette Store and Restaurant and have them show you a portion of the film on the wide screen HDTV in the store and consider purchasing it.  The film gives a brief overall history of Pennsylvania elk, but concentrates on the period from 1995 when I first began filming elk until 2008 when the film was completed.  It gives a detailed view of the life cycle of the elk, with an emphasis on the rut.  It also covers the most famous character bulls of the period such as Fred, Bad Boy, Mean Bill, and Screamer.  The film closes by taking a look at elk management issues and the controversy surrounding the hunt.  While some things did change for the better since then, the PGC largely negated the positive changes this year by boosting the bull allocations in Zone 2 and Zone 8 this year and again unwarranted hunting pressure is being directed at the bulls that live around the viewing areas.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill