12.31.2014

2014 Photo Accomplishments

Today I would like to share two images with you that were published in 2014. Both were somewhat unusual images.  The first is of "Limpy" the great Pennsylvania bull elk that thrilled numerous wildlife watchers and photographers for years before being killed in this year's elk season.  He was most likely the most photographed bull in the state in recent years and his images graced  several publications. This year I submitted a photograph of him to Pennsylvania Magazine for consideration in their 2014 Photo Contest.

Limpy-2013: Canon 70D-Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II @ 200mm-ISO 400-1/800 sec. f 5.0
The photo was taken in The Saddle at 6:47 on Wednesday September 25, 2013 as the sun was about to set.  Many will recall this evening as a lot of elk enthusiasts were there to witness the dramatic events and stunning scenery.  At the time I recalled how the  crew from Wild Horizons, who filmed in The Saddle a few years ago, preferred to film in dramatic light and I worked to exploit the situation to the best of my ability as this was definitely dramatic light.  I have never been sure that I made the best choices in the situation.  Perhaps I should have exposed for more detail on the elk, but the way it is shown above is the outcome I had in mind when I pressed the shutter.

Whatever the case, it captured second place  in the Wildlife Diorama category, while Ronald Kauffman of York won first place with a dramatic photo of an eagle flying from a nest and Donald Biresch of Ottsville captured third place with a dramatic photo of wolves photographed at The Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania in Lancaster County.    Winning photos and those earning an honorable mention in the Wildlife Diorama category were published in the September/October issue of Pennsylvania Magazine.

I was also pleased when Bugle Magazine chose the Overlook Bull photograph that was feature in the September 29, 2014 post, "Elk Activity Is Now Spotty" to accompany a short article about the co-operative effort between The Pennsylvania Game Commission and The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to acquire the Woodring Property.

Overlook Bull:  Canon 70D- Canon 17-40@ 39mm ISO 100-1/60 sec. f 5.0
This is an unusual image and I have mixed feelings about it, but as one photographer pointed out it is a different type image than what one usually sees from Pennsylvania Elk County.  When I saw the situation I had no chance to change anything, I had to go with the camera and lens that was on my chest ready to go.  I have seen a lot of elk around this overlook, but never on it with the mountains visible behind.  The light was very contrasty and it would have been impossible to get acceptable quality with film or with a straight-out -of- camera jpeg image with a digital camera.  As it was, the original RAW file is washed out over the mountains and the side of the elk and tree trunks are deeply shadowed. Even though the mountains and sky were too bright the detail was not washed out and it was easy to bring it to the correct exposure in Adobe CC Camera Raw.  The shadows slider was used to bring out detail in the dark areas, and other tweaks were used as well such as dodging and burning, etc. The end result has somewhat of an HDR look to it. At any rate it is a photo that will always stand out in my mind because of the unusual circumstances under which it was taken and because it was published by Bugle Magazine.

I wish to thank the faithful readers of this blog  that have supported me on the issues through the years and to the many who have purchased "The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd" and "Running Wild In Pennsylvania Elk Country".  Also a special thanks to those who helped me in the making of the films.  Your assistance is deeply appreciated.  A Happy and Prosperous New Year to all.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.



12.22.2014

Crazy Legs-A Non-typical Monster


"Crazy Legs, Jr " 2010: Canon 7D-500mm F4.0
Most serious elk watchers and photographer were familiar with the bull known as "Crazy Legs, Jr" that was an impressive rack bull  from 2008 until 2010 when he was killed in elk season that year.  Most have also heard of the original "Crazy Legs", bull  that was killed by poachers in mid-October of 2000, in Grove Township along Route 120 on the Clinton/Cameron county line, but this was before the time of many that visit the elk range today so photographs and video of this bull are much less common than that of  "Crazy Legs, Jr.".

On December 18th I received an e-mail notification that someone had posted a comment on the Support PA Elk Blog asking if I knew of anyone that has photos of the original bull.  When I visited the page; however, I found that the comment was posted back in September so I am not quite sure what went on with the comment notification system.  At any rate I could not find any still photographs of this bull and his time on Winslow Hill corresponded with a period that I was taking very few still photographs, so it is likely that I have none. As a result I searched through my video files from 1996 and 1997, which were years I was sure I had filmed the bull, and made video still captures of some of the better poses.

1995 was the first year I filmed the Pennsylvania elk rut and one foggy morning,  I was filming a bull along Dewey road when Claude Nye, better know to many as Dr. Perk, came along and told me about the bull.  He said, "we used to call him Steve, but now we call him Crazy Legs because he likes to travel". 

"Crazy Legs": 1995:Panasonic AG-455
This film and that from 1996 was taken with a Panasonic AG-455 MUP. This was a popular S/VHS camcorder with wedding and wildlife videographers and featured much better image quality than the 8mm and VHS camcorders that were more commonly used by video enthusiasts at the time.

The bull was larger in 1996 and the non-typical configuration for which he became famous was much more noticeable.

"Crazy Legs": 1996: Panasonic AG-455

"Crazy Legs"-1996: Panasonic AG-455
The following year I switched to a Canon L2 interchangeable lens Hi-8 camcorder, which excelled for long range work. Stills captured from its' footage are also sadly lacking in quality compared to today's equipment, but they do serve the purpose of showing what the bull looked like.

The first frame was captured from  footage of a fight that he lost to anther monster bull on the hillside to the south of Dr. Perk's house in the rut of 1997.  His rack configuration made it difficult to successfully fight, as it was so wide and flat by comparison to a more typical  bull, that the other animal could come right between his antlers and inflict damage.  As a result, it was no surprise that  the Crazy Legs bull was somewhat timid. Most who saw the fight or heard of it were not surprised that he lost, but rather were amazed that he had  fought at all.

"Crazy Legs" 1997: Canon L2
The shot below was captured when he paused from drinking in a water puddle, lifted his head, and lip-curled.  This was taken near the intersection of the road that comes from the Dewey Road parking lot and the road that goes in The Saddle.

"Crazy Legs" 1997": Canon L2
He would survive through three more elk ruts, but as best as I can tell I never filmed him again after 1997.  I was only spending about five days each autumn in the elk range at that time and it was common for this to happen.  There was even a year or so that I didn't film Bull 36 a.ka. "Fred" or "Dogrope" during the rut.  This was usually because the bull was not in the area that I was filming during the time I was there.

It seems that this strain is strong in the Pennsylvania elk herd as currently there are several bulls out that that show signs of this influence.  It is likely in the years to come that  from time to time another non-typical bull with this configuration will appear and be seen for awhile before he meets with misfortune.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

11.06.2014

Iconic Pennsylavania Elk Killed In 2014 Elk Season

Today I received news that the most famous and likely the most photographed  mature bull elk in Pennsylvania was shot and killed on the second day of elk season by a young hunter from Erie.  This was the bull known as "Limpy" which I filmed and photographed  for the first time in 2009 when he was already a mature 7x7 bull. The 2014 elk season began on Monday November 3rd and will continue through Saturday November 8 with an extended season in certain areas on November 10--15th.

"Limpy" 2009
 He became known as "Limpy" in 2010 when he was injured and walked with a limp thereafter.  My Brother Coy of Country Captures photographed him silhouetted against a dramatic sunset that year and I used that for the cover photo on my documentary film, "Running Wild In Pennsylvania Elk Country", which was released in 2012.

"Limpy" 2010
He had a smaller rack in 2011.  This was probably because of the  effects of the injury.

"Limpy" 2011
 He rebounded from his injury in 2012, and grew an impressive rack.

Limpy: 2012

Through the years I filmed and photographed him and always expected that each year would be his last, but somehow he survived.  I suspected that he spent elk season on posted ground and likely quite close to someone's home or cabin as this bull was completely acclimated to humans and had no fear of them whatsoever.

Limpy: 2013
The Pennsylvania Game Commission Calendar has featured photos of  "Limpy"taken by my brother Coy in  the 2014 and 2015 Calendars.  One thing is certain, he will not be featured again unless photographs from the past are used.

Limpy: 2014 The Final Year
There are a lot of elk in Pennsylvania with many  bulls of respectable size out there. This should continue for the foreseeable future, but the death of this animal marks the passing of a time on Winslow Hill when one could follow the life and development  of a bull through the years and brings a final conclusion to a definitive era of elk watching and photography on Winslow Hill and we are the worse for its' passing

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.



10.19.2014

Panasonic GH4-Disaster Brings New Method of Shooting


Extreme Long Range Tool: GH4 With Cage- Canon 500 f4.5 FD Lens-Ronsrail Support, Rode VideoMic Pro
Most of the readers of this blog that encountered in Pennsylvania Elk Country this year have already heard the story that I will relate today, but I would like to share it with all blog readers as this is about an experience that changed my approach to filming wildlife.  I only wish that learning this had not been so traumatic or so expensive.

I have mentioned in several posts that I am now using the Panasonic GH4 as my primary video acquisition tool. I got my first one on May 1, 2014 and liked it so well that my Canon 70D was retired from taking video and became a backup still camera to the 5D MK III and the Panasonic GH3 was used only in situations where the GH4 was on the tripod with a long telephoto attached and wildlife got so close that I needed a smaller lens.  An example of this is that when filming spring turkeys from a blind I kept the 14-140mm Lumix  attached to the GH3 and used it if widlife got so close that I could use a short focal length, shoot hand-held and still get stable looking video.

Fast-forward to early July, which is one of my favorite times of year, as the whitetail bucks and  bull elk have substantial size antlers.  A favorite activity is to take a walk in the back country at the crack of dawn and check out meadows where bucks either feed in the cool of early morning or cross the meadows on their way from feeding areas to bedding grounds in the nearby woods.  A major reason I love taking video is that it is easier to get acceptable results with it at long range than it is with still cameras and many of the bucks that I see are very intolerant of humans, which makes long range encounters the norm. On the morning of July 8th I  found a few decent bucks in a meadow complex and got some video of them.

7P At Long Range: GH4 Video Still Capture
There was really nothing all that special about the situation except that the GH4 worked so well for this long range shooting compared to the cameras I had been using.  The LCD was much better than the one on the GH3 and as I reviewed the clips I had filmed I thought about the trip I had planned to elk country that coming Sunday and I felt on top of the world as I thought about the excellent whitetail and elk filming opportunities that the near future offered and what a pleasure it would be to use this camera.

As it was still fairly early I drove to another spot where fawns are frequently seen and set theGH4 up on the tripod.  A fawn soon appeared and I took some video  footage and then decided to go for a few still frames from my 70D, which was close at hand with the 70-200mm f2.8 attached.  I fired a shot or so from eye level and as the fawn was not spooky I dropped to a kneeling position to get a better perspective and fired a few frames.

Young Fawn: Canon 70D-70-200mm f2.8 L IS II
 When I stood back up, I stumbled a bit, felt a small bump on my back, and glanced over my shoulder. To my dismay, the tripod with the Panasonic GH4 attached was  falling over backwards.  It all seemed to happen in slow motion and before I could turn completely around I heard a sickening crunch as something broke.  I was in denial and didn't even want to look at the camera, which must be whey I took no photos of it after the accident.  I walked up to it and reluctantly assessed the damage.  I had the LCD opened and at a 45 degree angle which is my favorite position for video and the camera fell in such a way that the LCD and mike input jack bore the brunt of the impact.

The Aftermath-Broken LCD Hinge
The LCD was still attached to the camera and the glass was not broken, but the hinge was damaged and it would not display an image. On a positive note the internal electronic viewfinder worked OK and the remote control jack still functioned, but it was very limiting to shoot video this way after the freedom of using the LCD

In one short moment I went from being on top of the world as I thought about the coming summer and shooting 4K video to being faced with the possibility that it would be some time before I could shoot 4K video again.  There several options open to me including going back to the 70D and The GH3 or breaking the XL-H1 out, while the camera was sent to Panasonic for repair. Pursuing this option meant no 4K filming while it was gone, an unknown turn-around time, and even the possibility that Panasonic would simply want to replace the camera at full cost and not repair it.  Another option was to replace the camera with another new body.  The downside to this was the expense and as it turned out it was not possible at the time as they were out of stock everywhere.  This left the option of using the camera with the electronic viewfinder only, but then I realized that I had time to get an external monitor before the trip.

I have considered using an external monitor for years, but never made the step as there was always some other piece of equipment that I felt it was more pressing to obtain. Also there were concerns about the added bulk and complexity of the equipment once a monitor was attached.  Back in the SD days I filmed some performance videos of bands using multi-cameras and a mixer with an output plugged into a TV set for monitoring, but I never used a dedicated on camera monitor while filming wildlife in the field.

Considering the options facing me, I decided to got with a 7" Ikan VK7i Monitor and I got it in time to make a home-made bracket which I used in conjunction with a Zactuo Gorilla Plate, to fit it to the GH4.

GH4 and Ikan Monitor attached by Zacuto Gorilla Plate and home-made bracket
This saved the day and I had a great trip to elk country and continued to enjoy filming whitetail deer, elk, and other wildlife in 4K

Foggy Morning Elk-Video Still Capture
Doe Feeding As Seen On Ikan VK7i
As it turned out I was less than pleased with my homemade bracket and once I was back home, I acquired a GH4 Camera Cage from Amazon and after altering a few minor details I was relatively happy with my setup. Even though I was pleased with this set-up I still missed having the touch-screen on the GH4 and once GH4 bodies were in stock again I got another one and I am using it with the monitor, while the damaged GH4 has so far been relegated to the spot of the camera to use with a small lens for handheld work at close range.

There is always pluses and minuses to any set-up and there are several draw-backs to using an external monitor. The GH4 is a joy to carry--especially with the 14-140mm and 100-300mm lenses, but once a camera cage, external monitor, and microphone are fitted to the camera it is no longer light and compact and with a configuration such as that shown in the first photo, it is very cumbersome indeed, but the offsetting factor is that it is a serious tool for serious long-range work.

Hopefully we will explore this more in the near future including showing more video clips taken with this camera.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


10.12.2014

Pennsylvania Elk Rut 2014 With The Panasonic GH4

I arrived in Pennsylvania Elk Country on Sunday, September 21st to find the rut going full-bore and there were several days of intense activity, but then the rut abruptly crashed on Wednesday night and Thursday was very slow.  Things were a bit better on Friday, but the rut never really took off again during the next week and good filming opportunities were difficult to find.  I went home after the morning shoot on Friday October 3rd and have not heard if there was an upswing after that.

Starting in 2012 I have made a short video each year featuring the most dramatic  video footage from that year's elk rut and today's post features the 2014 video which I just completed yesterday. All of the dramatic footage of the bulls running about and fighting was taken on the first four days of the trip.

Today I have posted the same video on both Vimeo and You Tube to show help analyze the difference between them.

Vimeo Version



You Tube Version



The video was filmed with the Panasonic GH4, with the exception of the sunset scene used in closing which was shot with a Panasonic GH3. I used the14-140mm Lumix for the scenic clips and some of the close encounters with elk, but most of the material was taken with the Canon 100-400mm L lens. The 70-200mm f 2.8 L IS II was used in some cases, most notably the shot of the bulls in velvet in the fog. The  100-300mm Lumix  was used to film the bull following cows and calves into the woods near the end of the video.  Use of the Canon lenses was made possible by the Metabones Canon EF MFT Speed Booster, which enables the GH4 to control the aperture of the Canon lenses and permits image stabilization to be used. An added benefit is that it increases the maximum aperture of the lens making the 70-200mm f2.8 a f2.0 and the 100-400 f4.5-5.6 becomes f 3.2-f4.0, which is a big help in low light. The bad news is that it does not support auto-focus with the Canon lenses.

GH4   fitted with external mike, video cage external monitor.and Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II Lens Note Metabones Adapter at rear of lens
This video is the first I have made that was shot in what is commonly referred to as 4K, although it is actually Ultra-HD (UHD)which has a frame size of 3840x2160 versus the 4096x2160 of true 4K and the 1920X1080 of full HD.  As few, including me, have 4K TVs to view this on some might ask what the benefit is of using this technology at present? There are several valid reasons.

4K edited on a 1080P time line supposedly yields a better 1080P finished product than using 1080P original footage.  Another advantage and the one perhaps most important to me is the ability to crop the footage substantially in post production and still maintain a 1080P or more resolution.  Of almost equal importance is that 4K is the immediate future of video and it is likely that the trend will continue through 6K and eventually 8K, etc.  Shooting 4K now means that one's footage will hopefully retain commercial value for a longer period of time.

Unfortunately the advantage is not visible on Vimeo.  I rendered the file to 1080P, but when the upload was complete a message came up that it was advisable to allow Vimeo to convert the clip to 720P so that it would play better for those that have a slow internet connection and I permitted it to do so. The clip was uploaded at full 1080P to You Tube.  Be sure to selected that playback setting for best quality.  If it gives problems with playing back smoothly, allow it to play through once while you are doing something else and then play it again and it should go better. This is a major reason that I hesitate to post a lot of video.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

9.29.2014

Pennsylvania Elk Rut-Activity Is Now Spotty

Elk rutting activity was very slow on Thursday--at least where I was--but it picked a bit on Friday. That morning was extremely foggy, as is usual for Pennsylvania elk country.  As the fog started to lift a bit, I pulled into a Game Commission parking lot and heard bugling coming from a nearby meadow. Upon checking the situation out, I found several cows and calves feeding along the tree line at the edge of the meadow while a bull watched them from just inside the woods and bugled periodically. At first it was so foggy that the bull was almost impossible to photograph, but then the fog lifted and suddenly a  larger 6x7 bull came running in from behind me and to my right and  locked antlers with the smaller bull.

6x7 Charges Smaller Bull
Bulls Fighting
They locked antlers several times and fought violently for  brief periods before the smaller bull ran off and left the 6x7 in control of the harem.

The Victor
That evening I decided to check out a favorite scenic overlook and found a Wildlife Conservation Officer there.  While we were talking he suddenly whispered, "look behind you" and I turned to see a beautiful bull walking directly toward us along the rim of the overlook.  I had the 70D around my neck with the 17-40mm attached so I brought it to eye level and took several photos. This was the Conservation Officers' first trip to elk country and he was very impressed with the experience.


Overlook Bull
I saw more elk including a few bulls before darkness fell, but the photo above was the highlight of the evening.  These events raised my hopes for the remainder of the weekend, but the trend did not continue, and activity was flat on Saturday and Sunday.

The highlight of Saturday was the Benezette Elk Camera Club Picnic.  I wish to thank the club for the opportunity to address them and play a few banjo tunes.  I also thank them for the courtesy and kindness the members extended to me.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

9.25.2014

Pennsylvania Elk Rut Explodes

Mature Bull Herds Cows During Peak Of The Rut

I arrived in Pennsylvania Elk Country just as a northwest cold front was moving through on Sunday afternoon.  Elk enthusiasts who were there all last week said that activity was good earlier in the week, but crashed as the weather got warm later in the week.  With the passing of the cold front; however, activity exploded again and it was very intense for a few days.

I took mostly video for the first few days of the trip, but on Wednesday evening several bulls were working a herd of cows in ideal lighting conditions for still photography so  I broke out the Canon 5D MK III with the 600mm f4 lens and the 70D with the 300mm f 2.8 and took the photos used in today's post. At first only one bull was present, but soon more arrived on the scene.

Bull Runs Toward Action
One of the bulls has large, sweeping antlers and is called "The Western Bull" by many as  his antlers look more like those seen on bulls in the western states.  It seems that the antlers on most Pennsylvania bulls are more likely to be relatively narrow in relation to their width, while many of  western bull's racks tend to be long, thin, and sweeping in appearance.  This bull is very aggressive and one point on the right antler is broken off from fighting.

"The Western Bull" A Damaged Warrior
Bulls locked antlers at times during the evening and I got a few frames of the action, but there was always some high grass between me and them when this happened and the blurry, out of focus grass detracted from the quality of the photos.

Bulls Fighting
Most expected the activity to continue this morning (Thursday),but most of the elk left the meadows shortly after daylight and there was little bugling.  Later in the morning, a solitary bull was seen feeding and resting along Winslow Hill Road near Elk View Diner and he soon became the major attraction on  the hill.

Old Bull Along Winslow Hill Road
This is the bull that many elk enthusiasts call "Limpy" He is a mature bull that is showing the signs of advancing age.  He has been in the center of the fighting for much of the rut, but now it seems he has moved away from the herd for a time, to rest and avoid confrontation with the other bulls.  He was still there in mid-afternoon when I drove past as I headed out for the evening's photography session.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

9.10.2014

PGC & RMEF To Dedicate Woodring Farm September 13th

9x8 At Woodring Property Rut 2009
PRIME ELK HABITAT TO BE DEDICATED
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to dedicate 81 acres at Saturday ceremony.

Source: PA Game Commission News Advisory

The Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation announce the dedication of 81 acres of prime elk habitat known as the Woodring Farm on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 10 a.m.

Parcel Location
The land is located at 2702 Winslow Hill Road, Benezette Pa., 15821.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Since 1991, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) and its partners completed 301 conservation and hunting outreach projects in Pennsylvania with a combined value of more than $22.6 million. The RMEF has made 10 land-acquisition purchases that opened or secured public access to 8,465 acres. About 11,000 Pennsylvanians are RMEF members.

Directions
From state Route 555 in Benezette, turn onto Front Street, then turn right onto Winslow Hill Road. Follow Winslow Hill Road approximately 2.6 miles. The dedication will take place at the red house on the left. 
Former Maynard Woodring Residence

Calf Elk On Woodring Property
Sunset Over The Woodring Farm
Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

9.04.2014

PA Elk Rut Underway/PGC Announces Fall 2014 Schedule For Viewing Areas


Elk At Winslow Hill/Porcupine Run Viewing Area-September 2013
The Pennsylvania elk rut begins in late August and continues through October, with the peak activity being from mid-September into early October.  Elk Country Visitor Center provides an excellent starting point  for first time visitors, but much of the best elk viewing is on the State Game Lands on Winslow Hill.  The PGC maintains the Winslow Hill/ Porcupine Run and Dents Run Viewing Areas.  When driving up Winslow Hill, past the entrance to the Visitor Center, the Winslow Hill/Porcupine Run area is to the left at the intersection with Dewey Road.  This is perhaps the best for seeing elk at close distance to the road.

Bull Herding Cows At Winslow Hill/Porcupine Run 2013
 Many long time visitors to the elk range still call this ""The Gilbert Viewing Area" or "The Gilbert Farm" as Kenny Gilbert owned it for many years before selling to a consortium of conservation organizations

The Dents Run Viewing Area looks over a large meadow on a distant hillside.  It is picturesque, but most photo opportunities there are at long range.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is conducting activities at the viewing areas on the weekends  throughout September and early October. The public will have the opportunity to chat with representatives of the agency and special informational programs will be provided.

PGC Personnel  At 2013 Elk Expo

Fall Schedule

September 5
4:00 PM-Dark: Visit with the PGC (Winslow Hill Viewing Area)
Saturday September 6
4:00 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Winslow Hill Viewing Area)
8:00 PM - Dark: Campfire (Dents Run Viewing Area)
8:30 PM - 9:00: Campfire Program “Coyotes” (Dents Run Viewing Area) … bring a camp chair if you have one

Friday September 12
3:30 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Winslow Hill Viewing Area)
3:30 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Dents Run Viewing Area)

Saturday September 13
3:30 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Winslow Hill Viewing Area)
3:30 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Dents Run Viewing Area)
7:30 PM - Dark: Campfire (Dents Run Viewing Area)
8:00 PM – 8:30: Campfire Program “Sounds of the night” (Dents Run Viewing Area) …
bring   a camp chair if you have one
 
Friday September 19
3:30 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Winslow Hill Viewing Area)
3:30 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Dents Run Viewing Area)

Saturday September 20
1:00 PM – PGC Program “Monarch Butterflies” (Elk Country Visitor’s Center0
3:30 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Winslow Hill Viewing Area)
3:30 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Dents Run Viewing Area)


Friday September 26
3:30 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Winslow Hill Viewing Area)
3:30 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Dents Run Viewing Area)


Saturday September 27
3:30 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Winslow Hill Viewing Area)
3:30 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Dents Run Viewing Area)
7:30 PM - Dark: Campfire (Dents Run Viewing Area)
8:00 PM – 8:30: Campfire Program “Into to Geocaching” (Dents Run Viewing Area) … bring a camp chair if you have one
Followed by an optional “Night Cache” filled with PGC Goodies

OCTOBER
Friday October 3
3:00 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Winslow Hill Viewing Area)
Saturday October 4
3:00 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Winslow Hill Viewing Area)
7:00 PM - Dark: Campfire (Dents Run Viewing Area)
7:30 PM – 8:00: Campfire Program “Pennsylvania Owls” (Dents Run Viewing Area)
Sunday October 5
11:00 AM: Pavillion Program “Wildlife Sign” (Dents Run Viewing Area)
Friday October 10
3:00 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Winslow Hill Viewing Area)
Saturday October 11
3:00 PM – Dark: Visit with the PGC (Winslow Hill Viewing Area)
            7:00 PM - Dark: Campfire (Dents Run Viewing Area)
7:30 PM – 8:00: Campfire Program “Pennsylvania Bats” (Dents Run Viewing Area)
Sunday October 12
1:00 – 4:00: Driving Tour of SGL 311 (Beginning at the bottom of Dewey Road at gate.

A special thanks to PGC Northcentral Region Information & Educations Supervisor Doty McDowell for providing the information.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

RED



8.23.2014

More About Winslow Viewing Area Changes

I have learned a bit more about the coming changes to the Porcupine Run? Winslow Hill Viewing Area. First I took more pictures of the design.  This one does not show as much of the area, but is a closer view of the segment of the drawing next to Winslow Hill Road and it shows faintly where the current  Dewey Road is in relation to things.

Old Dewey Road is along tree line
Fellow photographer, Tom Dorsey superimposed the above information on a Google Map and also put in where the current location of things are.  Tom has posted this on Facebook and he was gracious enough to share it  with us.


 Tom writes,"I have color coded my image to better explain":

The yellow dots show the new road that will come off of Winslow Hill Rd and turn left just before the current viewing area pull-off. This will then connect to the lower part of Dewey Rd just above the old Gilbert Farm and will allow access to the rest of Dewey Rd.

The large Gray area is the new parking area that looks to be at least double the size of the current one. To get into that parking area you will need to follow the new access road also dotted with Yellow.
The Orange dots show the current Dewey road and parking area that will no longer exist".

The photo below is likely the the general location of the first viewing area , while the second or lower viewing area would be just beyond the end of the row of tall trees to the right.

Likely location of upper viewing area and with restroom facilities closeby
Here is a view of the area the second viewing area will cover taken from the hillside in the distance in the photo above, which is known as "The Saddle".

Lower viewing area is likely somewhat past where road emerges from tree line
As of yet we do not know if there will be a pull-off area along Dewey Road from the point where the new roadway rejoins the old so that one can photograph from that area. If stopping or parking is forbidden it still seems likely that one could stand along the roadway.  If there is no provision for this, much of the photography in this area will be at long range.

I have also been told that work on this is to begin in Mid-October.  Also it seems likely the PGC will take a much more active role in the tourism aspect of the elk program. There is a strong possibility  that a  maintenance crew headquarters will be established on Winslow Hill with the crew concentrating on maintaining the wildlife habitat and facilities in the area.

 I must emphasize that this is my interpretation of what I have seen in writing and what I have been told. There is room for error or the plan may be fine-tuned and changed somewhat as it goes along.

A special thanks to Tom Dorsey of Tom Dorsey Imagery for contributing to today's post!

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

8.20.2014

Major Changes Coming To Winslow Hill Viewing Area

The attention of elk photographers is mostly focused now on the shedding of the velvet which takes place in a time slot ranging from slightly before the middle of August to the end of the month.  In fact most bulls have shed by now,  but it was still possible to find one still shedding on Tuesday morning.

5x5 Shedding Velvet
During a break in the filming I checked the signs on the bulletin board at the Porcupine Run/ Winslow Hill Viewing Area and was amazed to find that major changes are in store for this favorite destination of elk watchers According to the sign several changes will be implemented beginning in 2014 including the relocation of Dewey Road, the construction of a large parking lot, a tour bus drop-off area and hiking trails and observation areas.

Below is a photo of the Master Plan for the viewing area which was prepared by Larson Design Group.


I you are coming up Winslow Hill from the Elk Country Visitor Center, it appears that the new, relocated section of Dewey Road will turn off of Winslow Hill before where the parking lot is  now and curve around the hill to rejoin the existing portion of Dewey Road before one gets to the access road to the property that used to belong to Claude "Dr. Perk" Nye or before you reach where the Gilbert farm buildings used to be located.

The current parking lot is to be replaced with a large lot that is accessible  only by a connecting road from Winslow Hill Road. This will likely mean no more pulling off of Winslow Hill Road along the road frontage so as to minimize the chance for congestion and accidents.  In addition, provisions will be made to gate the parking lot when officials desire.

I looks as though the area where Dewey Road now intersects Winslow Hill Road  will be the approximate location of the bus drop-off.  That section of the old road will either be re-landscaped into wildlife habitat or may be made into a portion of the access trails.


Old Dewey Road in Foreground should be joined by new section before old barn and garage
(this photo was taken before the buildings were razed)

It appears that what is labeled the upper viewing area may be about where roadside parking currently begins along Dewey Road. The second  viewing  area seems to be along a tree line and only about half-way from Winslow Hill Road to the Nye lane. The plan document that is posted seems to be a combination of drawing, satellite photo, and topographic map and even standing on the spot, it is a bit hard to understand exactly how things will be.  It is possible that this area could overlook the hollow to the north of the Gilbert Field.  I do not know at this point.

I wish to emphasize that this is only how I interpret this information based on the knowledge I now have. I will inform blog readers as more information becomes available.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

8.14.2014

Benezett Store To Be At 2014 Elk Expo At Elk Country Visitor Center- August 16th & 17th

2013 Elk Expo

The Elk Expo will be held this coming weekend at The Elk Country Visitor Center on  August 16th and 17th.  Numerous vendors are featured selling a wide variety of outdoor related  products.There is a full schedule of events including  wildlife oriented educational programs, elk and turkey calling contests, the elk license drawing. musical groups and other events.

Be sure to visit The Elk Expo website for full details.  An important point to remember is that parking at the Visitor Center is  limited and will be given first to vehicles with handicap parking require-ments. All other vehicles will be directed to parking at the Benezette Community Center from which  two shuttles will run  to and from the Visitor Center all day.  There is a $3/car fee for parking and bus service to defray the cost of transportation. This service received little use last year as attendance did not meet expectations and most if not all parking was handled by the Visitor Center parking facilities. Attendance may be up this year so visitors should consider the possibility they will need to utilize the service.



 Benezett Store To Have Booth At Expo

Benezett Store will once again maintain a booth at The Expo featuring many items including caps, sweat shirts, books, and videos.



Benezett Store Booth At 2013 Elk Expo
 Among the items to be on sale is a photo book, "Elk Scenic Drive" by Marci Geise and a book released last year, "Pennsylvania Elk" which was edited by Marci Geise and features photos by Ms. Geise along with several by well known Pennsylvania elk photographers including, David Anderson, Jim Borden, Richard Coy, Tom Dorsey, Coy Hill, Willard Hill, Ronald Saffer and Paul Staniszewski).
Click the following links for more information of these books:
Elk Scenic Drive
Pennsylvania Elk


Elk Films to be available at Benezett Store Booth at Expo and at Benezett Store  
   
I have released two documentary films about Pennsylvania's elk herd. "Running Wild In Pennsylvania Elk Country is a 2012 film that gives  a detailed look at the life cycle of the elk as well as providing  a close look at what other species of wildlife commonly seen in the elk range such as whitetail deer and eastern wild turkey are doing as well.



I was ably assisted in producing this film by Ronald Saffer who provided several still photos and valuable editorial advice in preparing the script.  Also David Anderson and John Koshinski provided dramatic bull fight footage.  Marci Geise provided several still photographs and video footage of bears, while Paul Staniszewski provided several still photos and constructive criticism.   Coy Hill provided  the cover photo,  and last but not least,  Billie Cromwell provided valuable input in writing the script.

Also of special note is a violent fight between mature whitetail bucks that I filmed in 2002.  There is a segment on Bull 36. a.k.a "Fred Jr."and  Dogrope" which features segments of a dramatic fight between this bull and a large 6x6 in 200.  This was before the bull was captured and collared.  This is the same bull fight which is featured at present in the Elk Country Visitor Center presentation, but it is edited differently so it is not a duplicate of the show at the center.

Also available at the Expo or at the store is the 2008 release "The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd"

This film is dedicated to elk restoration pioneer, Ralph Harrison. It shows a year in the life cycle of the elk with a focus on the rut, and  also discusses many of the controversies surrounding elk management today. It features a cover photo of Bull 36 in 2002, taken by Ronald Saffer, which was two years before he was fitted with a collar.

Click the following links for more information on these films.

For those who would like to see a sample before buying, they will not likely have a player at the booth at the Expo, but they should be playing the films at the store and restaurant.  If not ask them if they will play you a sample.


I will not be at the Expo this year, but still encourage you to visit and support Benezett Store and the other vendors.


Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


7.18.2014

Summer Bulls In PA Elk Country

Bulls ordinarily travel in bachelor groups during the summer months and I spent a lot of time in early morning and late evenings trying to locate them during the past weeks trip. A lot of the bulls I saw have great potential, but they needed to grow several more years to be impressive bulls.  The animal in front in the photo below is a great example.  He certainly has a lot of points, but the rack is lacking in overall mass and the bull behind him is smaller.  They were part of a bachelor group of 7-8 bulls.  One had a bit wider spread, but the points were not as well developed.

Young Bulls
Most of the other bulls that I saw were traveling in bachelor groups also.  The composition of these groups is not static and it is possible to see a bull with several others on one day and then see him on the next day with another group of bulls.  I would expect that at times the entire group combines in one large bachelor group.

The photos below are portraits of single bulls, but they were traveling with a bachelor group in both cases with no cows or calves in the meadow with them. These were the largest bulls in the herd that day and most of the bulls with them were larger than those posted in the first picture. The first has a beautiful typical rack.

Typical 6x7
The most impressive bull photographed was one that I believe to be the famous "U Bull"  He was named this a few years ago, by some of the dedicated elk photographers.  I have not had a reasonably close encounter with him until this instance and am not an authority on his characteristics. Whatever the case he appears to be of the same genetic line as the "Crazy Legs" bulls.

"The U Bull"- An Impressive Non-typical Bull
There seems to be quite a few bulls that have this genetic trait.  One was featured in the last post and I saw at least two more small bulls that show the same type of antler configuration.

All in all things seem promising for great photo opportunities during the coming rut.  Most of the bulls will be of small to medium class, but at least a few should have impressive racks. As of yet I have seen no 400 class bulls and will not be surprised if none are seen on the hill this fall.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.