Sunday, December 28, 2008
This was another of the animals that was very trusting of humans. I first photographed it with a still camera in a meadow near the Gilbert Viewing Area on the evening of September 26th. The bull was resting in a reverting meadow and Odie Swartz, Terry Younkin, and I were able to move about freely in front of the animal as we tried to find a suitable opening through the brush and tall grasses through which to photograph the animal. We did not infringe on the animal's space, but rather remained a respectful distance from him. Finally he stood up and bugled in response to a challenge from another bull.
As of yet, I have few details about the circumstances under which this animal was taken, but it seems it was killed well away from the viewing areas, (Spring Run area).
The controversies surrounding the management of these animals are examined in depth in "The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd", a 2hr-42minute documentary. The Film also deals extensively with the elk culture on Winslow Hill, and the life cycle of the elk. Click Here for more information on the film.
Friday, December 19, 2008
With all of the drab weather we are experiencing now, it seemed appropriate to post some photos of a more beautiful time of year, and this morning was superb.
Although the area is home to a wide variety of waterfowl, most of it was too far away for good close-up shots with the 500mm F4. It seemed that Canadian geese were the most numerous species present, but even none of those got close enough for stunning portraits.
The most striking feature of the morning was the stunning autumn leaves, and the frost on the grasses. Autumn starts out with a promise of many beautiful days to come, but all to soon the leaves are gone and many days are drab, dull, and colorless. This was one of those mornings that was so beautiful that it lifts ones morale and fills them with hope.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: John 10:10 King James Version
Looking back upon the events of the past two weeks of the Pennsylvania rifle deer season, I couldn't help but think of a portion of a scripture verse and reflect upon how accurately it portrayed some of the events that took place.
It all began with the loss of the adult doe featured in last weeks Camera Critters post and gradually escalated until events reach a climax yesterday afternoon. During the course of events a beautiful fawn such as the one pictured below was shot through the head.
It was within plain view of the public road, which passes through the property, and was quite close to it. There was no chance that the shooter did not see the animal fall. It was a classic case of wanton waste (simply shooting the animal for spite, or the depraved joy of shooting it just to watch it fall). I do apologize for showing such an unpleasant scene, but I do feel it is important to show what some individuals are capable of doing.
This is not the same fawn as shown in the first photograph, but it was one of the same herd. I cannot find a good photograph of this animal while it was alive, so I substituted a photo of one of its' fellow herd members.
I have found where at least one other deer was shot and removed from this property illegally. Fortunately, I was on the scene on Friday afternoon when road hunters came to the area again.
Thanks to a prompt and efficient response from Pennsylvania Game Commission Conservation Officers and The Pennsylvania State Police, the violators were quickly rounded up and now face substantial penalties. At some point in the future I will share the events of that afternoon with you, but I must wait until the case clears the judicial system before doing so.
Sadly, I am convinced that they are not the only wildlife criminals causing problems in this area, and the herd of whitetail deer, which are featured often on this blog, still face a great deal of danger.
The fawn pictured today was discovered while engaged in apprehending the violators on Friday. This particular deer was not killed during that violation; however, but had been killed previously.
Ethical hunters and non-hunters alike, despise the acts described here, but unfortunately there are a substantial number of persons out there engaged in this type of activity.
For more Camera Critters photographs, click Here.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Both were taken at Norris Geyser Basin. Norris is comprised of several features such as Steamboat Geyser, but today we feature a valley known as Porcelain Basin.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
The first morning of Pennsylvania's rifle deer season and every deer in this photography is a legal target--if a hunter has the proper tags and they are in an area where hunting is permitted. Fortunately these animals are safe, unless they stray from the posted sanctuary or a wildlife criminal drives by and shoots them from his vehicle.
It is unclear just what happened, but on the third morning of season, I realized that the large doe which is standing to the left side of the picture and looking to the left, was missing and most likely dead.
She was a stunning photographic subject when she was standing in a good position, but many readers were concerned about her health when they noted how thin and bony she appeared in many shots. This thin look was most likely a combination of genetics and a result of the strain of raising a large number of fawns.
It is most likely that I will never know what happened to her. It is very possible that she strayed from the posted sanctuary and was legally killed, but I am leaning toward the view that she was taken by a road hunter, since I have seen some well known practitioners of this crime driving past since season opened.
As it stands, a favorite deer that has provided countless hours of viewing pleasure is gone. There is a remote possibility that she will yet return, but she never missed a day of putting in an appearance in the past, so it seems likely that she is gone forever.
Road hunting was one of the most common violations, which I encountered in my years as a Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer.
For more Camera Critters photos, click Here!
Saturday, November 29, 2008
The whitetail mating season, or rut, usually peaks around the middle of November, but in recent years has often continued through Thanksgiving week and into Pennsylvania's rifle deer season, which brings it to a screeching halt.
This November was colder than those in the recent past and in fact temperatures were probably more in line with what they should be for this area. This resulted in the rut seeming to come to an abrupt end at the beginning of the week. Mature bucks were still looking for does on Sunday-at least the one in the photo below was- until he heard the frantic clicking of the 30-Ds' shutter.
On Monday morning I photographed a 7-point which was still pursuing does, but since then I have seen only small bucks in Pennsylvania. The yearlings that I see on a regular basis, that have not yet dispersed from the herd, are less aggressive, and are more interested in feeding than chasing does. While it is certainly still possible to see a mature buck chasing does, with each passing day it becomes less and less likely.
The same held true for Virginia when we traveled to Shenandoah National Park on Wednesday morning. We did see some large bucks by the roadside before day as we were driving to Big Meadows and saw a large buck with a broken right main beam after daylight.
These animals were not chasing does, but were concentrating on feeding and regaining weight so they might better face the winter months to come.
For more animal photos, click Here.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Being an obsessive-compulsive whitetail deer photographer, and with the whitetail rutting season in full swing, my main photographic subject is of course the whitetail deer. Last week Billie Cromwell and I were in Shenandoah National Park from dawn Monday morning until mid-day on Wednesday. It was a successful trip.
After sunrise on Tuesday morning we found a beautiful ten-point buck in the strip of grass between Skyline Drive and The Byrd Visitor Center.
"Salty" and his wife were there for a morning photographic shoot and arrived at a point in time when the buck crossed into the meadow after a doe and then followed her back to his original spot. Salty arrived on the scene at this point and I captured the buck crossing the road between us.
There is no hunting in Shenandoah National Park so these bucks are safe unless they stray from the park, but private property is very close in many areas and it seems likely that many bucks are taken each year when they leave park land. In addition, poaching is a problem within the park, but a dedicated Ranger force keeps close watch.
For more Camera Critters photos, click Here!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
The whitetail rut is in full swing in Pennsylvania and Virginia. I have been dividing my time between photographing the local whitetail herd and those in Shenandoah National Park. Since "Salty" has been posting a lot of Virginia photos, I will post some of Pennsylvania deer for this week's camera critters.
The does are smaller in our area than most of the Virginia does, which seems to be a hereditary factor as the food sources seem to be of equal quality. in our area fawns are almost never bred in their first autumn and most are two years old before they have their first fawn.
In the photo below a fawn which was born this past June, stands with its' mother and surveys the countryside.
I love photographing the does and fawns while waiting for the bucks to appear. While I see yearling bucks each day, the larger ones do not always appear. Sometimes one may go a day or so without seeing one and it may appear too early or late for good photography, but in this case a decent seven point appeared in mid-afternoon.
This buck is at least 2 1/2 years old and may even be 3 1/2. Deer in this area are small compared to those in states that produce a large number of trophy bucks. Many hunters from this area travel to the mid-western states such as Iowa where they seem to find some extremely large bucks. As for me, I no longer hunt and I am to content to photograph the local herd and what bucks I can find in the National Parks such as The Smokies and Shenandoah.
Click here to view more animal photos from Camera Critters.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The following is the official Pennsylvania Game Commission News Release . While the article is shown here for your convenience, it is recommended that you follow the link, if you wish to read more information on elk and other wildlife in Pennsylvania.
Source: Pennsylvania Game Commission News Releases
2008 Press Releases
ELK HUNTERS HARVEST 42 ELK IN 2008
HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe today announced that 40 of the 45 licensed elk hunters harvested an elk during the season that was held Nov. 3-8. Additionally, of the 10 licensed elk hunters who participated in the September season, two harvested an elk.
“Elk are one of North America’s premier big game animals,” Roe said. “Pennsylvania is privileged to offer this unique hunting opportunity, a product of successful wildlife management that helps to finance wildlife conservation and supports Pennsylvania’s rich hunting heritage. It’s an unparalleled experience for hunters, particularly those who can’t afford to go on an expensive one- or two-week guided elk hunt out West.”
Along with extracting samples needed for disease testing, the agency also collected samples necessary to examine food preferences and habitat use by elk. Also, hunters collected liver samples that will be evaluated for mineral contents.
The largest antlered elk was taken by Susan Luse, of Aaronsburg, Centre County. She took a 799-pound, 7x7 on Nov. 3, in Covington Township, Clearfield County.
Those hunters rounding out the top five heaviest antlered elk harvested, were: William Kleppinger, of Quakertown, Bucks County, took a 653-pound, 7x7 on Nov. 3, in Bradford Township, Clearfield County; Tyler Rieder, of St. Marys, Elk County, took a 652-pound, 7x7 on Nov. 6, in Covington, Clearfield County; Darrel Maines, of North East, Erie County, took a 624-pound, 7x6 on Nov. 3, in Grove Township, Cameron County; and Kerry McAfoose, of Kittanning, Armstrong County, took a 591-pound, 7x7 on Nov. 4, in Benzette Township, Elk County.
The heaviest antlerless elk was taken by James Misti, of Lyndonville, New York, who harvested a 435-pound antlerless elk on Nov. 4, in West Keating, Clinton County.
Those hunters rounding out the top five heaviest antlerless elk harvested were: Leroy Byler, of Mercer, Mercer County, who harvested a 409-pound antlerless elk on Nov. 6, in Benezette Township, Elk County; Thomas Williams, of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, who harvested a 406-pound antlerless elk on Nov. 4, in Benezette Township, Elk County; Bernard Cossack, of Old Forge, Lackawanna County, who harvested a 400-pound antlerless elk on Nov. 5, in Benezette Township, Elk County; George Laudeman, of Minersville, Schuylkill County, who harvested a 395-pound antlerless elk on Nov. 3, in Gibson Township, Cameron County.
For the September 2008 hunt, which was held September 1-27, two elk were harvested. Dale Schmidt, of Germansville, Lehigh County, and Cark Kemp, of Leechburg, Armstrong County, each harvested an antlerless elk.
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Content Last Modified on 11/12/2008 9:21:01 AM
Friday, November 7, 2008
Even though I am primarily a big game photographer, I do enjoy photographing most anything nature related. I generally view birds as a subject that I should devote more time to, but I seldom succeed in doing so, as I am mostly in spots that are less than ideal bird habitat. That being said, for the last few years I have established a bird feeding station in a rock break at my favorite deer observation post. It seems that only a few species of birds are frequent visitors. At present the Tufted Titmouse, and Nuthatch are most commonly seen. It is especially hard to photograph the Nuthatches as they are really hyperactive, but last Saturday evening I succeed in getting what I regard as my best Nuthatch shot to date.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Located in Yellowstone National Park between Cooke City and Silver Gate,Montana at the eastern entrance, and Tower Junction, The Lamar Valley is often called "The American Serengeti", because of its' abundance of wildlife. It is also a place of stunning scenic beauty.
While I usually do not use the 2x extender it did give passable results in the above photo. I find that in most cases it is best to use the 1.4X or the lens without an extender and then crop the photo as needed.
For more camera critters, click here.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
If I am not traveling to more exotic locales in search of photographs, I spend most mornings and evenings with the local herd of whitetail deer. As I do, my mind often wanders back over my years as a Deputy Conservation Officer and Game Lands Maintenance Worker and Supervisor for The Pennsylvania Game Commission. Salty and I have lived through enough experiences that we could each write a book about them and yesterday as the early black powder , and Junior/Senior citizen season antlerless season wound down,(today was the last day) I couldn't help but think of an incident from several years ago. This memory was brought on by hearing nearby rifle shots which could have been on the property that I protect, or it could be on a neighboring hunting club. I drove to the area and hunters were searching for a blood trail on their property.
Years ago, Pennsylvania had a two week bucks only season, which was followed by a three day doe season on the following Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. In those days, most local factories gave the workers the first day of buck season and the first day of antlerless season off, and schools were closed. To be quite frank the day was usually a blood bath. We ordinarily made more arrests on that day than at any other time and sometimes more than we had during the entire autumn before that point.
In this case Salty was to meet me in a spot where he had a clear view of the hunting club. He arrived there about dawn. I was only a short distance away and heard a terrific barrage of rifle fire from the area so I hurried in that direction and asked him what was going on. He said," this is unreal and I don't know what to make of it, but someone came out of the club house and started blowing on a whistle and firing a rifle at deer in the field. He killed at least one, and we need to go and check it out." At that time a club member came driving past us, paused and said that they had a member who was not too bright. A doe and two fawns had been seen in the field in front of the club on numerous occasions during buck season and they were not afraid of people at the club house. The person in question wore a whistle around his neck on a string in case he got lost. Some of the other members decided to play a practical joke and told him that if he saw a deer, he should blow a whistle to get their attention, and then begin firing.
This is what he did. All in all he fired eight shots. As Salty and I stood watching, he grabbed the deer and began dragging it to the club house and we ran toward him. It was illegal to move a deer without first filling out a harvest tag and attaching it to the head. When we got close to him, he asked if we knew how to gut a deer as he didn't know how, and he kept saying loudly,and repeatedly, "I killed my first deer"! The deer was literally shot to pieces as the rifle was a 30/06 and he had hit the deer several times, but most were not in immediately fatal areas. Several legs were broken, a shot or so in the intestines, etc.
It became obvious that there was no attempt to circumvent the system. When most fail to tag, they intending to keep hunting and do not use their tag so that if an officer checks them they appear to be legal--their moment of exposure to arrest is when they are in possession of the dead deer that is not tagged. If they can get that deer in without being caught they are basically home free. In this case it was obvious that he was so excited that he had not even thought about tagging the animal, so we gave him a written warning.
I have thought a lot about the incident over the years, and it is one of many reasons that I no longer hunt.
This is not an attack on conscientious, ethical hunters, who are out to harvest meat for the table, but this type of attitude and behavior is all too common!
For more animal photos click here!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
The passing of a cold front brought dramatic skies to our area one afternoon during the past week. There were brief sunny spells, interspersed with periods of dark clouds, strong winds and rain showers.
For more sky photos click here.
In the first photo, Buckwheat is using a 70-200mm F2.8 IS L lens. His favorite lens is an old 300mm F2.8 L lens that is tack sharp and has a butter-smooth tripod ring, which makes it easy to rotate the camera from horizontal to vertical and back. He is using the 70-200mm more and more for elk as he finds that the animals are often too close to frame correctly with the 300mm.
He recently acquired a 24-105mm IS L lens, which he uses for scenics, etc.
Randy Quinn uses a recent 300mmF2.8, and a 70-200mm of the same variety as Buckwheat. In the photo of he and Odie the 300f2.8 is partially visible in the left corner of the photo. He is holding a point and shoot camera. I forget the brand, but I think it is a 3.0 Megapixel and that camera is proof that it is not just the camera and lens that counts, but it is more about lighting, composition and focus. I have seen photos from that camera that print out extremely well and that would make anyone proud.
Odie uses a 300mm F4 L that is of pre-image stabilization vintage.
Salty shoots a 24-105 IS L, and a 100-400 IS 3.5-5.6L. He is strongly considering a 70-200mm F2.8 IS also. A common theme seems to be that one often needs the 2.8 aperture in big game photography and that in many cases 300mm or greater is just too much magnification for much of Pennsylvania's elk photography.
I carry the Canon XL-1H Camcorder with normal lens, 70-200mm IS F 2.8 L, 300mmF4 IS L, and the 17-40L. All of the SLR lenses work on the camcorder with an ef adapter, which extends the effective focal length of these lenses by a factor of 7.2. I usually carry a DSLR body, which gives me the option of taking stills with any of the above lenses except the camcorder's normal lens. Sometimes I also have the 100-400mm along, usually when I am not walking too far from the vehicle, or I substitute it for the 300mm if I think there is a good chance of encountering long range shooting. If I do not carry the camcorder, I often use the 500mm F4 IS L, in which case I also carry the 70-200mm and 17-40mm to be able to cover varying types of situations.
We carry Canon 20D, 30D, and 40D cameras. All of the lenses are Canon. The tripods are various models of Gitzos except for Salty's and he intends to upgrade to a Manfrotto of some type in the near future. I use a Manfrotto Video tripod, and a Gitzo 1348 with Wimberley head or Arca-Swiss ZR-1 ball head for still photography.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Each year several of us spend large amounts of time discussing the merits of different cameras and lenses, and the mysteries of Photoshop. This in turn has led to us going on shooting expeditions together.
Ron Saffer, better known as "Buckwheat" is the unofficial leader of our group and is highly respected because of his meticulous craftsmanship with his cameras, and his extensive knowledge of the natural history of elk. He, along with Billie Cromwell provided much appreciated input when I was writing portions of the script for "The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd".
He consistently has photographs published in "Bugle "-the official magazine of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and several of his photos are featured in their calendar.
Randy Quinn is an outstanding photographer who has spent a lot of time in Cades Cove in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He has amassed an amazing collection of superb photographs of bears and whitetails while working there. He is a super bird photographer and has been published in Birds and Blooms magazine. He also has a fine collection of Pennsylvania Elk Photographs.
Odie Swartz, loves photography and is an all around great guy and excellent photographer. He has built several computers and as best as I can determine was the first of us to work with Photoshop and print photos with a computer and printer.
I am the oddball in that outfit, in that while I own and frequently use an excellent battery of still photography equipment, when it comes down to the crucial moment, I usually opt to carry the video camera on the tripod for the serious work and carry a DSLR with a lens that is image stabilized and rest this rig over top of the video camera in hopes of getting sharp shots.
This violates Buckwheat's statement that the three most important things in photography are: tripod, tripod, tripod, but he understands my addiction to video and excuses my malfeasance in this instance. (After all I always use a tripod with the video camera)
My brother Salty has been published in The Game Commission Calendar and writes the popular rural interest blog "Country Captures". This is his second year of photographing elk.
This is an up and coming young bull which many call Crazy Legs, Jr. because he has the same rack configuration as that famous bull had in his early years.