Saturday, October 8, 2011

"Limpy" The Bull That Roars: A Close Look At A Mature Pennsylvania Bull

7x7 known as "Limpy" Roars
It was one of those perfect evenings on Winslow Hill during the rut of 2009 as several small and medium sized bulls ranged a meadow in pursuit of cows. As the sun dropped low on the western horizon the air was tinged with a pleasant coolness, which hinted of cold frosty nights to come.  For a time  many other photographers and elk watchers enjoyed the evening, but they left as the sun dropped below the horizon and I found myself alone with the elk.  I had almost decided to leave too, but there was a lot of bugling coming from the edge of the woods nearby and I decided to get into a better position to record audio of this spine tingling serenade.  As I drifted through the meadow I reflected on what a perfect evening it had been with the exception that I had seen no mature bulls.  I had just placed the Canon XL-H1 video camera in position to record the audio when suddenly several bulls came out of the tree line nearby following cows, which passed to my right side and circled to the hillside behind me with the bulls close behind.  All the while, the air was rent with screaming bugles.  Some of the bulls were raghorns, but others were large, mature bulls and at one point two bulls locked antlers in a violent but brief scuffle.  I had been not been aware of the  mature bulls as individual animals before this, but all were to loom large in my elk experiences during the next few years.

Mature Bull Bugles While Others Lock Antlers
 One of these animals was the bull featured in the first photo above  I was to encounter him again at The Gilbert on December 23, 2009, which was a bright, but bitter cold winter day. He and several smaller bulls spent the entire day there with a large herd of cows, basking in the bright sunlight in areas that were protected from the winds.

7x7 At Gilbert: December 23, 2009
 I was to see him again during the rut of 2010 when he spent a lot of time lying near the rental house at the Donnie Dudley rental house on Winslow Hill.  He walked with a pronounced limp and soon acquired the soubriquet of "Limpy".  Eventually he moved to The Saddle area and figured prominently in the encounter, which I and my brother Coy of Country Captures and retired PGC Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer, had with the holder of The Governor's Conservation Elk Tag and his guide on the morning of September 29th.  See , An Unpleasant Encounter In Pennsylvania Elk Country, which was originally posted on October 10, 2010.

7x7 Bull "Limpy"  September 29th 2010 Before Encounter: Video Still Canon XL-H1 W.Hill
This is one of those bulls that is very impressive indeed, but seems to have grown little if any larger since 2009.  He is also noted for his deep, throaty, rumbling bugle, which could be described as a roar. It is one of the most impressive bugles I have heard!

While one should always respect these animals and not infringe on their personal space, this bull is completely acclimated to humans and is very trusting of them. He is living proof that many Pennsylvania elk are not "as wild as any" as is often claimed.  Hopefully he will not be killed during the coming season, but if he is, it will be interesting to see how those involved try to spin this into an exciting, challenging, hunting adventure.

7x7 Lying In Woods Near Harem
 A seasoned outdoorsman who has photographed elk all over the United States, and hunted them in one of the western states discussed this situation in detail with my brother last week in Elk County.  His two major points were that these are some of the largest, most easily seen bulls anywhere in the United States including the national parks and they are also the most accepting of humans and most docile he has seen .  When discussing that 10 of the 18 bull tags issued (19 if one considers the Governor's Conservation tag)  were for the Hunt Zones that most directly influence the viewing areas on Winslow Hill (Zones 2,8, and 10)-his reaction was WHY?

To be continued along with discussion of more facets of the elk management controversy.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pennsylvania Elk Rut 2011-Part 1

I arrived  in Pennsylvania's elk country on the afternoon of September 18th, and returned home after the morning's activity on Friday September 30th. Weather conditions were less than ideal, but rutting activity and photo/filming opportunities were outstanding.  At one time I preferred bright, sunny weather for photography, but now I like to do a substantial amount of photography  and filming in weather which has "character".  Video is especially effective when it is raining or snowing as the falling precipitation contributes to the "wild" look of the scene. As usual, there was a lot of fog at times, but this too can result in dramatic photographs as long as it is not so thick as to obscure the subject.

Early Morning Fog Adds Atmosphere To Photos And Video
Distant Herd Bull And Harem
The warm weather was actually the biggest problem as rutting activity decreases during warm periods and there were some evenings that were very disappointing.  I recall one in particular where several bulls arrived at the Gilbert viewing area, only to lie down and do little except bugle intermittently until it was too dark for good photographs.  I actually do not have many good photographs from this trip as I concentrated on video and neglected to take stills in many cases.  I am currently in the process of rough editing and archiving the video from this trip and have almost completed that which was taken with the Canon XL-H1 and  I am now about  to begin working with footage taken with the T3i.  Considering the amount and quality of video taken, this was one of the most outstanding trips to elk country I have ever had. 

Another important aspect of the trip is getting to touch base with a lot of people that one only gets to see once or twice a year and it is always good to meet blog readers and those that have seen the elk film.  In what is hopefully to be one of many meetings, Richard Coy organized a gathering and picnic at the old Benezette School pavilion on Saturday September 24th for those that discuss the Pennsylvania elk herd on Facebook. He called it "Elk Rut Shoot 2011".  After the afternoon picnic, several members of the group went to the popular viewing areas on Dewey Road for an evening of elk photography.  I already knew several of the attendees, but it was good to actually meet the others I only knew as online personalities from Facebook or the blog,. .  In the past few years I  have met many people face to face that I have corresponded with in comments on the blog, e-mails, and Facebook postings and in most if not all cases, I find them to be exactly as one expects them to be.  Most that are interested in serious wildlife photography are truly good people and this shows through in their writing and when one meets them.

Pennsylvania Elk Rut Shoot 2011; Old  Benezette School
Photographers Meet In Elk Country: Paul Staniszewski, Odie Swartz, Ron Saffer, David Anderson, Randy Quinn
I thank all of those that have purchased "The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd" and that read the blog.  The video, which was released in the fall of 2008 continues to sell well and is still pertinent to most of the issues about elk management and the hunt today.  The PGC did eliminate the combined hunt zones, which did address one of the major concerns discussed in the film, but this year they  negated that by doubling the number of bull tags issued for Hunt Zones 2 and 8, which are immediately adjacent to the elk viewing areas, but that has been discussed in the past and will hopefully be a subject for future posts.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.