Friday, July 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.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mid-July Wildlife In PA Elk Country

Today's post features wildlife from this week's trip to Pennsylvania Elk Country.  As usual I am doing most of my shooting with video and have gotten some good footage of a variety of subjects.  I will hopefully post some of the video clips in the near future

Waiting In The Wilderness For Wildlife To Appear-Panasonic GH4 In Standby Mode

While video usually comes first with me I have gotten a few still photos.  The first is of a bachelor group of young bulls that frequents the meadows along the upper end of Winslow Hill.

Bachelor Group Along Winslow Hill Road
I photographed two respectable whitetail bucks while checking out a remote, wilderness area.   This was a bit far for good stills from the GH4 and the 100-300mm and I had to crop tightly for good composition.

Wilderness Whitetails
Unfortunately I did not see any large bulls in the wilderness areas, but I did photograph a few decent bulls in the area immediately surrounding Benezette.  Bulls are usually seen either very early or very late and the one immediately below was taken at 5:56 a.m.  It was a heavy overcast morning with scattered areas of fog, which made the 300mm f 2.8 the lens of choice.  The shot was taken from a tripod at ISO 1600-1/100 sec. f2.8.

Early Morning Bull
A bit later I found the largest bull of the trip so far.  This bull appears to share the genetic characteristics of the famous bull "Crazy Legs" and "Crazy Legs, Jr".

Bull May Be Descendant Of "Crazy Legs" Line
So far I have taken no good stills of calves, but have I gotten a lot of video of them. It seems it is too easy for me to get sidetracked concentrating on bulls.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.





Saturday, July 5, 2014

Elk In The Tall Grass

Bull In Short Grass Along Winslow Hill Road: Panasonic GH4-Lumix 100-300 F4.0-5.6@300mm-ISO 400-1/250 Sec. f6.3
It seems that one often finds elk grazing in the short grass by the roadside when traveling Winslow Hill Road.  I will seldom pass up an opportunity to photograph them in this situation, but I much prefer to photograph them in taller, more natural looking grass, or perhaps I should say grass that is not so obviously manipulated by man.

Cows In Natural Setting: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 600mm F4.0 IS + 1.4 extender-ISO 400-1/400 sec. F 4.5
The grass in the photo above was planted during the reclamation of an old strip mine and looks more wild or natural than short lawn type grass..  It was in this same setting that I photographed one of the largest bull of my June trip.  I was watching the same herd of cows in the evening (the photo above was taken in morning) and as the sun was sinking low in the west a respectable bull appeared, but at first he stayed in the shade at the edge of the meadow.

5x5: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 600mm F4.0 IS-ISO 400-1/400 sec. F 4.5
 In time, the cows moved across the meadow and he joined them for awhile in the last rays of the evening  sun.

Cow and Bull Interacting: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 600mm F4.0 IS-ISO 400-1/640 sec. F5.0
After spending some time grazing and interacting with the cows, the bull broke into a run and left the area.

Leaving The Meadow: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 600mm F4.0 IS-ISO 400-1/640 sec. F5.0
I prefer  to photograph elk in a field that has tall grass with a lot of wildflowers such as goldenrod , asters,and butterfly weed, etc., but those flowers are not blooming yet in June and a meadow such as the one in the photos above comes in a close second.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Bulls, Birds, And Calves

The primary focus of my annual mid-June trip to Pennsylvania Elk Country is to photograph the elk calves, but they were extremely skittish as I noted in the last post.  I got the only decent calf photo of the trip on Friday morning.  As is so often the case it was extremely foggy and I was cruising the hill waiting for it to lift a bit when I saw a small group of cows with one calf  about 25 yards from the road.  I parked well off of the roadway.  Since the grass was tall I made no effort to set the tripod up, but instead stood on the door sill of the SUV, rested the 5D MKIII with 300mm f2.8 lens over the top of the vehicle and fired several frames.  It is good that I did not try to get the tripod as the elk stood there less than a minute before running away.

Foggy Morning Calf
When one is looking for calves it is also common to see different species of grassland birds.  I have seen Bobolinks for years, but always took video before and never got an acceptable still photograph of one until Wednesday morning when I photographed one with the Canon 70D and the 600mm F 4.0 lens.

Bobolink
It was a bit more difficult to see bulls, but a young bull was seen most mornings and evenings feeding or resting along the edge of the food plot near the log cabin on the hill at the Porcupine Run/Winslow Hill Viewing Area.  In this case I took video for some time with the Panasonic GH4 and 100-300mm Lumix lens before switching it to still mode and firing a few still frames.

Young Bull With Cows

I actually found quite a few bulls and some were of respectable size for young animals, but none were had the potential to grow truly exceptional racks this year.  The 5x5 shown below was one of the largest seen on this trip. He was traveling with a bachelor group of three bulls and was the largest of that particular group.

5x5 Bull Peers At Camera
Some would call this a large 5x5 while other veteran elk photographers would chuckle and comment that large and 5x5 are not compatible words.  Whatever the case there seems to be quite a few bulls of this size class out there this year and I plan to post some more photos of them in the near future.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.