Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesday: The Second Day -Elk Hunt 2007

I failed to mention that it turned colder Monday with increasing clouds. Rain showers were in the forecast. As it grew late the clouds thickened. Sometime after the hunters went into the area where the 6x6 stayed, there were a few drops of rain. Shortly before darkness fell, I was astonished to hear the boom of thunder. It was about one mile to the vehicle so I left, walking as quickly as possible, but it was soon plain that I was not going to win the race. It began raining heavy enough to damage the cameras so I covered the camcorder and tripod head with a large trash bag and placed the DSLR safely in my shoulder case. Next there were occasional blinding flashes of lighting. This was weird weather for November. I did make it back to the vehicle without incident, but then it began to rain heavily and continued most of the night.

Tuesday came in with light showers and a strong wind from the northwest, which made it brutally cold. I originally intended to spend the day in the backcountry, but re-thought my strategy. What was I going to prove anyway? I likely wouldn’t see anything considering the weather conditions. It seemed likely that I could get a better handle on the hunt by driving the road and checking strategic areas.

To my surprise a herd of elk was at The Gilbert Viewing Area and one of them was a 7x6 bull. I videotaped him at long range with the XL-H1 and 300mmF4 lens. I forgot to take a shot with the card camera function so the picture, which you see, was captured to the memory card by playing the tape back in the camera. This meadow is in the No Hunting Zone.

7x6 Bull Gilbert Viewing Area

I found a pickup parked in a nearby Pa. Game Commission parking lot, so it was obvious that someone was hunting the reclaimed strip mine area. The truck was still there at dark.

Elk Guide's Truck

I drove several back roads and quickly found that there was little hunting pressure, but closer consideration made me realize that with 40 hunters out there and some of them assigned to other areas, that one was unlikely to see a large number of hunters in any given area. It may have looked like nothing was happening, but this was far from the truth. In fact the process was quite deadly.

Most hunters hire a guide although the law does not require their services. It is a problem if one kills an elk and has no method to retrieve it from far back in the woods. A guide solves this problem quite nicely. Also, if one is not familiar with the area it may be difficult to locate the elk. The better guides are deadly at finding large bulls, locating where they feed and sleep, and putting them in the sights of the hunter’s rifle, and that is exactly what happened in many cases.

Hunters must report their kill to Game Commission authorities and must mark the site of the kill and a path leading to it. Each kill sight is numbered. I do not know for sure, but I assume it is the elk license number. I found a kill site marking along Dent’s Run Road where the Elk Trail leads to a complex of meadows known as Bear Hollow.
A Game Commission vehicle was there and the officers were most likely checking the site when I took these photographs. The check includes making sure that the animal was not killed over bait, which is illegal in Pennsylvania, and biological samples are obtained from the entrails, which are usually left at the kill site.

Note tag on post-a trail of orange ribbons leads from there to kill site

PGC Vehicle

It didn’t seem that a lot happened in the past two days, but I was to find out on Wednesday that this was not the case. Stay tuned for more reporting.


Anonymous said...

Impressive photography and the elk is magnificent. I hope he makes it.

Kerri Farley said...

Your photography is amazing.... and I really like your storytelling. That elk is magnificent.... but I really love the shot of the road with the trees on either side and the car. There's just something about a road leading through the forest that i Love!

Tom said...

The 7x6 is a stunner.. this is riveting stuff Willard.. I feel like a trout that as took the bait... I'm being played now and need to be reeled in for the next installment.. don't forget to throw me back.... I'm far to fatty to eat. :o)