Friday, December 14, 2007

Dr. Perk-The Story Continues

I knew about Perk before I first went to Elk County, and had seen one of his videos, but I was not certain where he lived. On the first evening of my late September trip that year, I drove down Dewey Road intending to park and walk through nearby meadows in the hopes of finding elk.

There was a house in a hollow to my left. To my amazement I saw a woman sitting at a picnic table leaning slightly backward with an apple in her hand. A spike bull was standing between her legs and eating the apple. I noticed a large bull and some cows lying in the lawn, but it wasn’t until I talked to an elk watcher of many years, that I realized that this was Perk’s house. The spike was to become famous among elk watching circles as “Nicholas”.

I walked into the backcountry each evening with my camcorder while my wife sat in the car along Dewey Road, which was where, many parked and looked for elk. This was also Dr. Perk’s favorite spot to approach tourists. They struck up a conversation, which resulted in him inviting her to his house to videotape elk. She was using a Sharp VHS camcorder, which I had retired when I bought a Panasonic AG-455MUP S/VHS camcorder. (The Panasonic was my first semi-professional video camera.)

When I returned from my excursion at dark she was waiting for me in a high state of excitement. The highlights of the evening included her videotaping “Nicholas” when he took an apple from a window sill (the window was open and Perk fed him by placing apples there), and the great monster bull “Jake”. “Jake” is legendary among old time elk watchers. He was a tremendous bull. It turned out that Perk had invited us to visit him that night.

" Jake"

" Eating Apples"

"At Rest"

This was truly a night to remember. Other elk were there, but “Jake” was the main attraction. He was tired from the rutting activity and spent a lot of time sleeping near the front door to the house. Perk and Tom Murphy threw apples to him at times and he fed on them. One of the major topics of conversation was about a proposed ban on the feeding of elk.

Perk named every elk that he could identify and this was a tremendous irritant to some. Rawland Cogan, the elk biologist allegedly expressed the sentiment that naming a magnificent big game animal was demeaning to it. I personally heard this sentiment voiced by a prominent PGC official although not in those exact words. His comments on the situation at Perk’s were laced with ridicule and disgust.

To each his own, but I cannot see how naming is as demeaning as fitting the animals with bright yellow collars with large black numbers. When conversing with other tourists and photographers one can go through a convoluted description of an animal they have seen, but if it has a name one knows instantly which animal is being discussed. If they have a numbered collar it is really simple, but then the animal is not photogenic, nor is it pleasing to look at.

It was of course impossible to outlaw the naming of elk, but feeding could be addressed and it was in October of 1995 when the PGC Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a ban on the activity. (58 Pa. Code S137.32.)

Be sure to come back for the next installment when the question of “why was feeding outlawed ?” is addressed.


Sharon said...

Very interesting post and great pictures of "Jake." He is a beautiful animal. I'll be back to read more about this. Can't wait for my husband to get home to show him your pictures!

Kerri Farley said...

Willard, your pictures are stunning....but your storytelling is even better! I think you should write a book!! I'd buy it!!

I can't wait for the next post!!!

Anonymous said...

Amazing photographs, Willard. I like all of your work.

carl in ga said...

Willard, Kerri has a point. You need to write a book .... of course it would be a multi-volumn set!

Awesome picture of Jake ...then again I know what you and Coy are capable of. What came to mind was Johnnie. Could you imagine what this animal would have done to you if he reared his head up! We'd be calling the coroner for you.


Tina Leigh said...

Oh this is a great story! I'm hooked! Hurry up & tell me the rest of the story or I'm coming to PA!! I can see where it could be dangerous...feeding them. BUT you said Jake was in the rut? Usually thats when they are dangerous. But he was laying in the yard right...aint that the picture you've got? Yeah you need to write a book. Waiting.......

Tom said...

I along with other are now hanging on every word Willard.. You have fantastic tales which need tell, and like other need putting into prints. Even if it's just to pass down in the family. I eagerly await the follow ups.

You friend from over the pond.

DeeMom said...

Jake is most handsome

Great pictures

Willard said...

To all,
Thanks for all of the kind comments.
I'll try to post the next segment tomorrow.

They are more dangerous during the rut and I have seen two of the habituated bulls that I wouldn't let my guard down around. Perk wouldn't go into the lawn with Jake, but you could get to the vehicle by going out the back door and without ever exposing yourself to a dangerous situation.

I never knew this bull to be aggressive with people, but it's always best not to take chances.