More Photos 2013 Rut

6x6 Bugles on Winslow Hill: Canon 70D-300mm f2.8 L IS-ISO 640 1/200 sec. f4.0
As the Pennsylvania elk rut continues no one has reported seeing a 400 class bull on Winslow Hill.  There are some very nice bulls, but two separate outfitters have confirmed my belief that the best bulls seen so far are running in the 350-360 class.  One speculated that the large bulls will show up later and some do report seeing bigger bulls in other areas of the elk range, but at this point I do not think the outlook is good for seeing outstanding bulls at the viewing areas..

Lest we forget what a mature bull looks like, below is a photograph of a mature bull that is slightly smaller than he was last year, but if you look closely you will note that he has much more antler  mass and a larger body than most of the bulls seen on the hill this year.

Mature Bull Bugles on Winslow Hill: Canon 70D-300mm f2.8 L IS-ISO 100- 1/1000 sec. f5.0
A  unique bull has been frequently seen this rut.  Some speculate that it is a a young bull, while others are convinced it is an old bull past his prime.  Whatever the case his palmated antlers  make him him stand out from the rest of the bulls and he is instantly identifiable at a glance.  The mass of the antlers does seem to reinforce the position that this is an old bull as does a comparison to photographs from last year.

Palmated Bull Bugles: Canon 70D-300mm f2.8 L IS+2x estender-ISO200 1/320 sec. f8.0
The last bull posted today is another one of those bulls that falls comfortable into that range between "raghorn' and mature bull.  He is about average for the better bulls that we are seeing on the hill this year.

6x7 At Dusk: Canon 70D-300mm f2.8 L IS-ISO 1600- 1/80 sec. f 2.8
Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


News From Elk Country

The 2013 elk rut continues on Winslow Hill with some periods being very dead and a good level of activity at other times.  So far no 400 class bulls have been spotted at the Winslow Hill viewing areas, but it  has been reported that the holder of the Governors Conservation Tag took a 430 class bull in the Karthus area yesterday. This is a special license that is auctioned off  to the highest bidder. This year the successful bidder could hunt from September 2-November 9th.

I hope that some larger bulls will show up on Winslow Hill if the rut intensifies next week as it usually does.  As it is most of the bulls are either small or young bulls that have not reached their prime.  Although some of these are very nice, they are not top tier bulls.

Young 6x6 Winslow Hill: Canon 5D MK III-70-200mm f2.8 L IS- ISO 1600-1/320 sec. f4.0
At the other end of the spectrum is a bull that is quite popular with the community of elk photographers.  This is "Limpy" so called because he frequently limps as a result of injuries he received in 2010.  He is now an old bull and his rack is smaller than last year. I hadn't had a particularly good encounter with him until last evening.

There was a lot of rain on Saturday afternoon, but it tapered off into light sprinkles in the evening and elk activity was good.  Odie Swartz and I found Limpy and a small group of cows at the Porcupine Run-Winslow Hill viewing area and photographed him until he left the food plot just before dark.  He spent most of the evening on the grain that was planted, which is not the best setting for photographs. As it was growing late he got in the more natural looking grass at the edge of the plot, which gave a better composition. It was twilight by this time, which  made a perfect opportunity to see how the 70D performed in low light conditions, but I only took a few frames of him bugling before he wheeled an ran down over the hill toward the Gilbert Meadows where several bulls were chasing cows. .  My lens of choice was the 300mm f2.8 and I used ISO 1600. After working with this photograph I would say  the 70D, as one would expect, does not equal the 5D MK III at 1600  ,but this is offset by the better long range ability of its' 1.6 crop sensor and its' much lower cost. This  is an excellent DSLR for wildlife.

Limpy: Canon 70D-300mm f2.8 L IS-ISO 1600-1/50 sec. f 2.8
Another bull that was seen in the saddle earlier last week was also being seen in the meadows at the Gilbert  at the end of the week. Many have commented that this is one of the wildest bulls they have seen in the area.  He barks at people who at times are 100-200 yards away.  He doesn't do this when among the herd at the Gilbert, but he still has that "wild" alert look in his eye.

"Wild Bull": Canon 70D-300mm f2.8 L IS-1.4x extender-ISO 400-1/1000 sec. f  4.0
Another bull has an impressive spread, but I was surprised that he is only a 5x6.  This bull is also a bit on the shy side, but not as much so as the one  above.
5x6 Chasing Cows: Canon 5D MK III-300mm f2.8 L IS- ISO 400-1/400 sec. f4.5
He is shown in hot pursuit of a cow in the photograph above and bugling in the one below. It was hard to get a good portrait pose as he was with a large herd of cows and there was usually one or more out of focus cows in the frame.

5x6 Bugles: Canon 70D-300mm f2.8 L IS+1.4 extender-ISO 160-1/0 sec. f  5.6
I used ISO 160 and 1/60 for the above photo as I was taking video (1/60 sec. is the ideal shutter speed for video in many cases) and fired a still while it was paused in video mode, without changing to settings better suited for stills.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


Pennsylvania Elk Rut Now Underway-Canon 70D Update

Each year thousands of people descend on the village of Benezette and Winslow Hill to experience the sights and sounds of the elk rut and I joined the throng this week.

 The first stirrings of the pre-rut begin once the bulls shed the velvet in August.  The actual rut begins in late August to early September and by the middle of the month it becomes the full-blown rut.  Below are some photos taken at the Porcupine Run-Winslow Hill viewing area yesterday afternoon and evening.  I still usually refer to this as the Gilbert Viewing Area or the Gilbert Farm, but I can understand the other name as the Gilbert is only a portion of the total overall viewing area.  Just before the photos below were taken there was a dominance fight  between two bulls.  I have no still photos as I devoted my attention to filming the fight.  I stopped the camera briefly a few times to change settings and ended up with 7 minutes and 34 seconds of recording.  The fight lasted a minute or so longer than that and it would be longer still if one counts the bulls behavior immediately after the encounter. We were surprised that the action began as early as it did, as it was very warm with bright sunshine. I have not downloaded the video files yet and cannot tell exactly what time the fight ocurred, but my best guess would be shortly after 3:00 p.m. We spent some time watching the herd from that vantage point after the fight was overbefore moving to a different location that gave a closer perspective on the herd. It was 4:31 and later when I took the photos below.

Herd at Gilbert Farm: Canon 70D-Canon 24-105mm@55mm-ISO 100-1/200 Sec. f 8

Bull Herding Cows: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 300mm f2.8 IS+ 2x Extender II-ISO 100-1/500 Sec. f 7.1

Bull Herding Cows: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 300mm f2.8 IS+ 2x Extender II-ISO 100-1/500 Sec. f 7.1

Calf Panting: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 300mm f2.8 IS+ 1.4x Extender II-ISO 100-1/800 Sec. f  5.0
I took a photo of the entire herd from the original vantage point just before leaving to check out another area.

Herd at Gilbert: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS II.4x Extender II-ISO 100-1/250 Sec. f  8.0
In closing I must say that the Canon 70D is working out even better than expected.  Although most of the above photos were taken with the 5D MK III, I find that I am using the 70D for most of my still photography. Since I mostly shoot video I prefer it to the 5D MK III for that purpose because of its' long range video ability and auto-focus in video model.  The clincher is that I am able to shift between long range video and stills without having to change the camera body.

There is no doubt the 5D MK III is better in very low light, but the 70D is very good and seems to be a big step above the 7D in this respect.  I still think the Panasonic GH3 takes sharper video as does the 5D MK III, but at present it seems that the ability of the 70D to handle my Canon L lenses, without loss of automatic lens functions, overrides the quality consideration. Perhaps I will regret it when I look at my footage on a HDTV, but I don't thinks so at this point.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.