Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Keystone Elk Country Alliance-A New Partnership

We recently linked to a press release dated Dec. 21, 2009 by The Rocky Mountain Elk "Foundation regarding a new PA chapter in Elk Conservation. This was concerning the founding of a Bloomsburg/Danville chapter.

It is no secret that there has been much discord among Pennsylvania RMEF members, with some regarding the RMEF's withdrawal from the Winslow Hill Visitor's Center as a positive thing, while other members have been very displeased.

We recently received information pertaining to the founding of another new organization, Keystone Elk Country Alliance, which is not affiliated with The RMEF.
Read More:

Monday, December 28, 2009

SPE and Elk County Outfitters Engage In Debate

Recently several members of SupportPaElk engaged Jack Manack, Jr. of Elk County Outfitters in an extended discussion of the issues surrounding our elk herd, and elk management.

Read More:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Winter In Pennsylvania's Elk Range

Visit SupportPAElk For Discussion Of Pennsylvania Elk Issues.

Cow Elk At Gilbert Viewing Area

Yesterday fellow SupportPA"Elk team member Coy Hill and I traveled to Benezette, Pennsylvania, where we met with noted Pennsylvania Elk photographer Ronald J. "Buckwheat" Saffer.

Coy Hill And Ron Saffer Discuss Elk Photography And Issues

A large herd of cows, calves, and young bulls were at the Gilbert Viewing Area and we spent much of the day with them.

A Portion Of Herd At Gilbert Viewing Area

By now most mature bulls are banded together in bachelor groups, but there was one fairly impressive 7x7 bull still with this herd.

7x7 With Cows And Young Bull At Gilbert Viewing Area

Look for more elk photographs and analysis of conditions and issues in Pennsylvania's elk range in the near future.

Be sure to visit SupportPAElk for information about elk and elk management from the perspective of the non-consumptive user.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wildlife Faces Winter

Even though it is not officialy winter, the temperatures are quite frigid and until recently there was a light covering of snow in our area. As winter arrives, wildlife faces a struggle to survive.
In severe instances there may be a large amount of winter mortality in the whitetail deer herd, but most recent winters have been relatively mild.

Whitetail Buck Crosses A Winter Meadow

Dove Basks In Warm Rays Of Afternoon Sun

Birds and animals make the most of situations which make survival easier and spend as much time as possible in sunlit areas that are sheltered from the wind.

For more Camera Critters Photos, click Here!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Another Guide Responds:

EJM has responded by posting a comment to My Profile On You Tube:

After one brothers offensive rants and threats, the other brother now has a message to deliver. These gentlemen are the ultimate goodwill ambassadors for the hunting community.

Here is the comment in its :entirety:

"Mr Hill, You have brother number 2 here. We were just laughing at your blogs. I only have one comment for you sir, If the elk hunt is a joke to you and we are a joke as guides, and we shoot tame barnyard elk. Then how can you possibley sell a video that features tame barnyard elk. Are you a wildlife photographer or a livestock videographer. Anyone could do that. So, to you sir, if we are a joke, then you and your time scouting and your movie is a joke to us. By the way I have personaly witnessed a camp full of hunters fall asleep to your joke. Maybe you would like to see the perfect 200 yard first shot on that 9x8 bull and thats no joke. By the way sir how close did you get to that elk? When you filmed him, may be he was stunned by your camera flash. I think he was acclimated two people trying to feed him, cameramen, and barnyard videographers."

Happy Hunting EJM

We thank EJM for his response. It is most enlightening.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

An Elk Guide Responds To Elk Hunt Critics

"Whatever bro! You klnow who I am. Who are you? I'd love to debate you further. You know why we take zone two hunters. Because we can take the verbal abuse from people like you & because we have nothing to lose. Don't mess with somone who has nothing to lose. Get it! I never did anything to you, don't slam me. If I can find elk,bear,deer,& wild Turkey I can also find you. "
Verbatim quote by someone posting as Jpg207 on You-Tube. According to the profile This person is Jarrad McCarthy of Elk County Outfitters. This was in response to a comment by me concerning the shooting of the 9x8 bull on the first day of season.

Read More:

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Shooting Of the 9x8 On You Tube

The Famous 9x8 In Woods At Close Range

One of our readers just notified us that The McCarthy Brothers, Eric and Jarrad, who are elk guides affiliated with Elk County Outfitters, have recently posted a video to You Tube, of the shooting of the 9x8 that we have been discussing. The elk was killed on the first day of the season by Gary Kolenski.

Read More:

For more discussion of the issues surrounding Pennsylvania's Elk Herd Visit, Support PA Elk

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Computer Disaster-I Would Rather Be Photographing Than Dealing With This!

During the past week there were some very beautiful, dramatic lighting conditions interspersed with the mostly gray, overcast skies. I used the Canon 3-D with 17-40mm lens and a circular polarizer on both of these scenic shots.

Late Evening After A Brief Shower

Dramatic Clouds As Cold Front Passes

Unfortunately my experience with the hardware side of video production and photography has been a lot like the weather lately with a lot of problems interspersed with the few periods that things work as expected.

I was editing video last evening and left to do something else for a period of time, so I put the computer in sleep mode. I could recover from sleep mode with my Windows XP editing computer, but this was a new Dell XPS 9000 with the Windows 7 operating system. Two of the external drives were powered up. When I returned the computer would not awaken from sleep mode, so I had to do a hard shut-down by depressing and holding the power switch in.

When the computer rebooted, I tried to open a project, but got a message that the media could not be found. Long story short-both drives were hopelessly corrupted and could not be accessed (each were 2 terabyte drives about with one being 50% full and the other about 75% so there was a tremendous data loss) I tried drive rescue software to no avail. The drives had to be reformatted and all of the material must be recaptured. This is a daunting task as it involves somewhere around 100 tapes to get back to a minimal acceptable level of operation, and one must be there to start and stop the process of capturing each tape.

I love to edit video, but it is hard work and I sometimes wonder if it is worth the hassle. I am still shooting tape and each one must be captured to a hard drive. This is real time capture. It takes one hour to capture a one hour tape, with other time needed to set up the capture process. I had all of the wildlife footage I have taken since the beginning of 2007 on three external hard drives, which are always attached to the computer. Luckily one of the drives was not attached and a portion of another was backed up to another drive, but still it is a mind boggling amount of work to face.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

PA Elk: Two Compelling Reasons To Expand The No Kill Zone

Acclimated 9x8 Bull: Killed In 2008 Season A Short Distance From This Spot
Protecting Acclimated animals is a must, but there is at least one more compelling reason to expand the No Kill Zone

A careful analysis of the ongoing controversy surrounding the Pennsylvania Elk Season as it is currently implemented brings forth at least two compelling reasons to expand the No Kill Zone.

Read More:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pennsylvania Deer Season

The first week of Pennsylvania Deer season is rapidly drawing to a close, and it has been an eventful week. It seems likely that one of the whitetail bucks which has frequently graced these pages was killed on Monday afternoon, when he strayed across the boundary of posted ground and onto the property of a hunting club.

I was watching for roadhunters, when I heard a tremendous muzzle blast nearby. An investigation revealed that the shot was on the neighboring property. I saw hunters driving from the area and found blood by the side of the road where a deer was loaded. I later found where the entrails were removed. The testicles were lying there also proving that it was a buck. This animal was seen both in the morning and afternoon and was within 100 yards of the area of the shot when last seen. He has not been seen since, so it is 99.9% certain that he was the deer that was taken.

While this was likely legal hunting activity, much illegal activity does take place. Since this area has a large deer population and the ground is posted, it is a favorite spot for roadhunting. Road hunting is illegal under the Pennsylvania Game and Wildlife Code. Hunters must alight from the vehicle and get more than 25 yards from the roadway before firing at game. It is also a violation if they use the vehicle to locate the game in the first place.

It was raining on Wednesday afternoon, when a vehicle arrived in the area and stopped to observe a herd of deer in the nearby field.

Possible Roadhunter

Two persons are involved in this particular incident. A close look reveals that one is pointing a rifle out the window of the vehicle at the deer.

Hunter Pointing Rifle At Deer

This is not a violation if the rifle is not loaded and they do not fire at the deer , but it does create a very bad public image. It is possible they were only looking to see if any of the animals were bucks, but binoculars are the correct tool to use in that case. Many will not risk arrest to shoot a doe, but will take the chance to get a nice buck. Did they intend to shoot? I do not know, but
I was not taking any chances so I commanded them not to shoot and to get the rifle back in the window. They quickly left the area.

Young Whitetail Surveys The Countryside, Searching For Danger

During my past law enforcement career I charged well over twenty individuals for committing this violation in this same small area.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Whitetail Deer-The Rut Ends As Rifle Deer Season Arrrives

Whitetail Buck Poses In Rays Of Evening Sun

Many Pennsylvanians anxiously await the arrival of Monday morning, which is the first day of rifle deer season. In many areas, deer of any sex will be legal game as long as one has the proper licenses and follows the laws and and regulations. In other areas, the first week of season will be for antlered deer only. In all cases there are some type of antler restrictions. One should read the Hunting Digest carefully before going afield.

Sadly, many will not obey the rules and regulations, or hunt by ethical standards. Many of these persons will encounter Pennsylvania Game Commission Officers and their misconduct will result in charges being filed against them.

PGC Officials Arrest Game Law Violator: Photo Courtesy of C.Hill- Country Captures

The rut will effectively end on Monday as many of the bucks will soon be taken, and those that remain will become wary and difficult to see. I will not be hunting as I have not participated in the sport since 1997 or 1998, but I hope to be out there with my cameras documenting the wildlife and any crimes against wildlife that occur in my presence.

For more Camera Critters Photos from around the world, click Here!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Pennsylvania Elk Team Blog: Support PA Elk

Bull 40 And Calf-September 2009

Pennsylvania elk enthusiasts, Marci, and Heather recently conceived the idea of developing a blog dedicated to the enhanced protection of the elk that frequent the center of elk tourism on Winslow Hill. Many if not most of these animals are acclimated to humans and hunting them cannot be considered fair chase.

Read More

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cades Cove Wildlife: The Past Revisited

Fog Rises From The Smokies

Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the premier destinations for the serious wildlife photographer. This is a large valley with an 11 mile long loop road that runs through an area of mountainous woodlands , and meadows that are often alive with whitetail deer.

I visited the park each November during the years that my daughter attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Today's photos were taken during the 2004 trip. At that point I was shooting a Canon 10D Dslr and my most powerful lens was the 100-400mm Canon L.

Whitetail photography in the park can be extremely frustrating at as the animals are often found in short mowed grass, which does not provide a truly natural or wild looking background.

8-Point Buck In Lawn Type Grass-Near Hay Barn Lower End Of Cove

Other areas have been planted in native, grasses that provide perfect backdrops if the grass is not too tall, but in many areas it is so tall that it obscures the animals. These stands of grass are maintained by prescribed burning in the spring.

Buck In Ideal Habitat-Hyatt Lane

Other species of wildlife are also frequently seen. I saw a lot of bears some years, but this was not one of them. I did get my first eastern coyote photographs that fall, when I found a young one hunting for rodents in the meadow near the hay barn.

Young Eastern Coyote

Even though I was very happy with the performance of the 100-400mm, this trip was an important factor in deciding to get the Canon 500mm F4 for the added long range capabilities.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Coy Hill Of Country Captures Speaks Out

Mature Pennsylvania Bull In Winter

Coy Hill of "Country Captures" has posted a tremendous article about the need for a larger No Kill Zone to protect the mature bulls that draw thousands of tourists to Pennsylvania's Elk Range each year. Thanks to measures taken by the Pennsylvania Game Commission in recent years, many of the most flagrant abuses that ocurred in the early years of the hunt have been addressed, but there is still more work to be done.

It seems that many view the magnificent mature bulls as just another trophy to hang on the wall, rather than considering the fact that one person can kill the animal but once, while thousands can view it time and time again. Hunting is still permitted too close to the viewing areas. We need to protect more of the elk that visit the viewing areas, not just the viewing areas and a small buffer zone around them.

The post may be found on the new team blog dedicated to promoting the responsible viewing and photography of Pennsylvania's elk herd, Support PA Elk.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pennsylvania Elk Kill Statistics: A Different Perspective

Antlerless Or "Cow" Success Ratio Was 61%

Based on the kill statistics from the recent Pennsylvania elk season, some are insisting that killing an elk is far from a sure thing, and that Pennsylvania elk do offer a challenging hunt.

60 licenses were issued for the 2009 season. 21 bull tags and 39 cow tags were issued. 20 bulls and 24 antlerless elk were harvested for a total of 44 animals. These figures include the special conservation bull tag that was auctioned off by the National Wild Turkey Federation. (that individual did take a bull during mid-October).

In an article in the November 14, 2009 edition of Endeavor News, "Elk Hunter Success Rate Down, Huge Bull Taken", author Carol Mulvihill quotes elk biologist aide Mark Gritzer as saying, "The abundant protein-rich acorns this year lured elk into forested areas,”

Writing in PGC News Release #116-09 , PGC Executive Director, Carl Roe said, "This year's overall success rate was 73 percent, which is down slightly from the past year, which I believe that this can be attributed to the improved food conditions this year throughout the elk range."
Source: News Release #116-09

Did An Excellent Mast Crop Reduce The Success Rate ?

Here is the breakdown:
Bull success rate:-------95%
Antlerless success rate-61%
Overall success rate: ---73%

It may not be immediately obvious, but a 95% success rate on bulls is only one animal away from a 100% success rate. The much lower antlerless success rate brings the overall average down to 73%, but it raises an important consideration.

If the relatively low antlerless success rate can be explained by a more abundant mast crop causing the animals to spend more time in wooded areas instead of the open and edge areas where they are ordinarily found and resulted in them being spread over a wider area, then we must ask why the bull kill was not impacted nearly as much by these same conditions and instead was just one animal shy of 100%.

There are likely several contributing factors:
  1. Many, if not most, will hire a guide when the stakes involve a chance to kill a large bull, but some are hesitant to spend the money for a guide when they are looking for a "cow".
  2. Unlike deer, elk are large animals, and some may not want to expend the effort required to retrieve them under difficult circumstances, and so would not venture far from a road while hunting.
  3. Many will not expend as much effort in trying to kill a cow versus a bull as it may not be as exciting or prestigious to them.
  4. Elk may not be present in the zone that a hunter is assigned to.
It may be possible to have a fair chase hunt in the more remote areas, but the statistics and explanations as presented do not prove that all or even most Pennsylvania elk are "as wild as any" or that the hunt is difficult and challenging. Many claim that the elk season is mostly about population control, but it seems obvious that many, if not most persons who participate in the elk season, are primarily interested in killing the large bulls.

Mature Bull-A State Treasure!

A mature bull elk is one of our state's natural treasures. It takes six or seven years for a bull with the right genetic makeup to reach the stage where it is truly impressive and all too often they are killed at that stage. Remember, One person can kill him, but once, while thousands may enjoy viewing him time and time again.

We need a larger No Kill Zone, possibly surrounded by a population control only zone, with no bull tags issued for that area. This should not be viewed as a threat by the hunting industry, but should be a win-win situation for both factions, as the majority of the elk range would still be open to elk hunting, but more if not most of the bulls that frequent the tourist areas during the rut would be protected.

Some will counter that this is not the case as bulls may travel long distances to visit the breeding grounds on Winslow Hill and then return after the rut is over, but that is a subject for another day along with a more definitive look at what an expanded No Kill Zone should entail.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Canon 7D and HD Video: Wildlife Clips

I acquired a Canon 7D in late October with a view toward using it primarily as a still camera, but since my primary focus is filming wildlife, I was intrigued by the possibilities that the HD video option on this camera offered. I pre-ordered the camera from B&H at the end of September and while waiting for it to arrive, it seemed that I did more reading about the camera's video capabilities than the still aspect of it.

After owning it for a few weeks I must say I find it much more difficult to use for filming wildlife than the Canon XL-H1. Most noticeable is that the 7D is not as effective at long range as it has a 1.6X crop factor while the XL-H1 has a 7.2X. For example the 500mmF4 has an effective focal length of 3,600mm in 35mm terms, while it is only 800mm on the 7D.

I have been working on a short film to demonstrate the video capabilities of this camera, but have not completed it yet and some want to see some samples so I am posting three clips today.

I admit that I am a poor record keeper. With still photos I depend on reading the meta-data to tell what settings I used, but as best as I can tell this function does not work with video clips. If anyone knows a way other than writing it down, please let me know.

The first clip was taken at moderate range with two different lenses. The first portion is with the 500mm F4, and the second with the 300mm F4. I cannot recall if the ISO was 100 or 200, but I am certain it was not over 200. Shutter speed was 1/60 sec. with the appropriate f stop.

Canon 7D With 300mmF4

I replaced the natural sound with a sound track of crows and bluejays as there was no good natural sound at the time of the filming and the camera only recorded the thumps and bumps of me operating the tripod. (You really didn't want to hear that, did You?)

Eastern Wild Turkey Feeding-Canon 7D demo clip from Willard C. Hill on Vimeo.

Canon 7D With 500mmF4, Wimberley Head, Gitzo 1348 Tripod

The Next two clips are with the 500mm F4 at fairly close range. I prefer to use the camera on a video tripod when shooting video, but a video tripod is less than ideal for still shooting so I used the Gitzo with Wimberley head in all of the clips today. The Wimberley head actually works well if one can avoid panning and even then does fairly well with the shorter telephotos, but there is too much jerking and wiggle if one must follow motion with the 500mm.

If I recall correctly I set the ISO at 400 for this clip as it was taken late in the evening, but there was still a decent amount of light.

Whitetail Does Grooming: Canon 7D Demo Clip from Willard C. Hill on Vimeo.

I am certain that the last clip was taken at ISO 1600 and 1/60 F4. It was growing very late in the evening by this time and the light had a warm afterglow.

Whitetail Doe In Late Evening: Canon 7D Demo Clip from Willard C. Hill on Vimeo.

I look forward to exploring the video potential of this camera in more depth, but find that it is much more difficult to use for filming than the XL-H1. I previously mentioned the limited long range ability, but the LCD viewfinder is even more of a liability in bright conditions, although it works reasonably well in subdued light. It seems that one would need one of the finders such as the Zacuto Z-Finder, or IDC Viewfinder before they could realize its full potential for filming.

I also have an issue with editing. I am using an older machine that handles HDV quite well with Vegas 9.0b editing software, but it crashes once I add a few of the native MOV files to the timeline. I also have Cineform Neo Scene installed on the machine and it is much more usable than the raw files, but there is still an occasional crash. The clips shown today are Cineform files, edited to remove camera movement and then rendered to Sony AVC with the Internet 16:9 HD 30P template.

In spite of some of the issues, I think the integration of HD video in DSLRs is a revolutionary change that will alter our expectations from still and video cameras alike.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Shenandoah Bucks

Buck On The Skyline: Canon 7D-500mm F4

Billie Cromwell and I were at Shenandoah National Park from dawn on Monday November 9th, through mid-morning on November 11th. Overall it was a somewhat disappointing trip. Whitetail activity was good on Monday, but most of the bucks were small.

We did see a large eight-point on Monday evening. There was a large herd of does in Big Meadows along with some smaller bucks. Suddenly the large eight-point pictured below came running across the drive from the nearby woodland and into the meadow. This is the same animal that was photographed by my brother Coy of Country Captures in 2007. One of the photos from that session was featured for the month of December in the Pennsylvania Game Commission 2008 Calendar. The animal was a ten-point in 2007, but while only an eight-point now, he has retained his antler mass.

Canon 7D: 100-400mm F5.6 L

Canon 7D: 70--200mm F2.8 L

While the buck was in the meadow most of the time, the best still photos were taken while he was in or near a small island of reverting meadow between the meadow proper and the main parking lot.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hunters Harvest 44 Elk In 2009:PGC News Release 116-09

9x8 Winslow Hill: Photo W.Hill
Yesterday The Pennsylvania Game Commission released information on the recent elk hunt.  Please visit the PGC website for more information about elk and other wildlife in Pennsylvania.

Release #116-0 Source: The Pennsylvania Game Commission

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe today announced that 44 of the 60 licensed elk hunters were successful during the 2009 elk season. Of that total, 20 were antlered elk and 24 were antlerless 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.

“This year’s overall success rate was 73 percent, which is down slightly from the past year, which I believe that this can be attributed to the improved food conditions this year throughout the elk range, thanks in large part to the decline in gypsy moth defoliation.”

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 Reed Bamburger, of Graysville, Greene County. He took a 652-pound (dressed weight), 8x9 on Nov. 2, in Covington Township, Clearfield County.

Those hunters rounding out the top five heaviest antlered elk harvested, were: Lisa Banasick, of Connellsville, Fayette County, took a 643-pound, 9x11 on Nov. 5, in Gibson Township, Cameron County; Ronald Werkheiser Jr., of Hellertown, Northampton County, took a 617-pound, 7x7 on Nov. 4, in Karthaus Township, Clearfield County; Kenneth E. Hunter, of Muncy, Lycoming County, took a 604-pound, 8x8 on Nov. 3, in Jay Township, Elk County; and Alvin Hubler, of Munson, Clearfield County, took a 589-pound, 6x7 on Nov. 3, in Benezette Township, Elk County.

The heaviest antlerless elk was taken by Larry Davis, of Fairborn, Ohio, who harvested a 474-pound (dressed weight) antlerless elk on Nov. 3, in Benezette Township, Elk County.

Those hunters rounding out the top five heaviest antlerless elk harvested were: Gary Weikert, of Arendtsville, Adams County, who harvested a 444-pound antlerless elk on Nov. 4, in Covington Township, Clearfield County; Randolph Maus, of Halifax, Dauphin County, who harvested a 413-pound antlerless elk on Nov. 5, in Gibson Township, Cameron County; Ronald VanDyke, of Harrisville, Butler County, who harvested a 403-pound antlerless elk on Nov. 2, in Gibson Township, Cameron County; Scott Hite, of Port Republic, Maryland, who harvested a 398-pound antlerless elk on Nov. 5, in Gibson Township, Cameron County; and Adam Palyo, of Jefferson Hills, Allegheny County, who also harvested a 398-pound antlerless elk on Nov. 6 in Grove Township, Cameron County.

Roe also noted that Jim Nyce, of Green Lane, Montgomery County, who was the successful bidder for the first-ever Elk Conservation Tag, harvested an antlered elk, as well. Nyce harvested a 6x6 on Oct. 14, in Benezette Township, Elk County. Nyce purchased the Conservation Elk Tag during the National Wild Turkey Federation’s national conference in early 2009, and was able to hunt from Sept. 1-Nov. 7.

For more information on elk in Pennsylvania, visit the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), choose “Hunting,” and then click on the photograph of an elk.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pennsylvania Elk Hunting-A Letter From Jim Borden

9x8 Gilbert Viewing Area: Evening of September 27, 2009

I recently received a copy of a letter from Jim Borden of Borden Custom Rifles. Mr Borden wrote this letter to a Mr. Jacobs of WNEP PA Outdoor Life concerning a program which they broadcast last year.

Here is the letter published by permission of Mr. Borden:

Mr Jacobs

I am writing to express my concerns with any publication of the Pa Elk Hunt. I grew up in Pennsylvania as an outdoors man and hunter and hunted for 45 years. All of the game I hunted was done fair chase and for animals that were wary of humans. The elk hunt in Pennsylvania is a disgrace to hunting. The PA Elk are not wary of humans and can be easily approached at all times of the year. The video broadcast on WNEP PA Outdoor Life last year would leave hunters and non-hunters alike concerned about calling the Pa Elk hunt a "hunt". . It was easy to see the elk were not afraid and it was like shooting cattle on a farm. This type of publicity does hunters no favors and in fact harms the impression that the general public has of hunters. The Pa Elk Season is NOT fair chase hunting. Bull Elk #47 has been reported as being killed. He walked up to "hunters" and "guides". Furthermore, on Gray Hill on the first day it has been reported that a group of 20 hunters approached 10 bulls together. This is very sad and I hope that you no longer use Pa Outdoor Life to advertise, promote or report on the hunt as a hunt.

My wife and I enjoy traveling to the Benezett area to view and photograph the elk. In all of my visits there over the past two years it has been apparent that the elk do not have normal wild animal fear of humans. Many of my hunting friends and clients share the same views.

Lets keep hunting as hunting and shooting as shooting.


Jim Borden

My thoughts on the situation:
There are more aspects of this situation than can be discussed in one blog post or several. In fact this subject has been the basic reason for the existence of this blog and its primary focus, although of course I like to pursue the discussion of other species and subjects. I will concede that it is possible that a fair chase hunt may be possible in the areas well away from Winslow Hill, Gray Hill, etc. I do not know! I ordinarily do not go afield in these areas and at present do not have experience there, but I do have more experience than most with the elk in the areas we are primarily concerned with.

We will pursue this subject in more depth in the very near future, but for today's photographs I will post a series of photos of the 9x8 that was killed in the Devils Elbow area. This animal was shot in elk hunt zone 2 on the first day. It was only a short distance from the Dents Run Viewing Area.

In this case the animal was photographed during the peak of the rut and persons were able to walk about freely in front of him. All of the persons involved were seasoned outdoorsmen and did not intrude on the animals personal space so as to cause him to alter his behavior.

17-40mm lens at 17mm-Bull in Center of Photo

17-40mm at 40mm

70-200mm at 200mm: Note photographer's out of focus shoulder in lower left of photo

It would have been possible to kill this animal from long range with a rifle or to walk to within spear range of him. At that point in time, it would have been possible to walk to almost any distance one chose. * Did he turn into an elusive, cunning animal in a few short weeks?

It appears from reports and photographs that we have received that this animal spent a significant portion of the last few days of it's life lying in the lawn of a nearby Bed And Breakfast. One of the persons staying there photographed the animal extensively on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before elk season and noticed that two people spent a lot of time along the border of the property and appeared to be watching the elk closely. The animal did not appear on Monday and the person wondered why it did not. As I understand it, the bull was killed on State Game Lands quite close to the property on Monday morning, the first day of elk season. It seems likely that the persons seen observing the elk were the hunter and his guide.

We try to be fair and will permit persons of opposing viewpoints to comment or they may submit longer articles to be posted. The only requirement are that they must state their actual name, the tone of the article/comment must not be offensive, (no name calling), and must be an intelligent discussion of the issues.

In this vein, we especially invite a response from someone who can present a good ,valid reason that we should be shooting the trophy bulls that are acclimated to humans in the Winslow Hill, Gray Hill areas.

I am also interested in hearing a response from someone who was involved in the incident on Gray Hill on the first day, that can explain this incident in a manner that addresses the ethical and legal concerns that the situation seems to raise.

*Note: that I am not promoting or endorsing approaching these animals closely as the unexpected can always happen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Updated Elk Hunt Results: Courtesy Of Carol Mulvihill

It was cloudy with rain in the forecast as I drove up Winslow Hill on Friday morning October 2, 2009. This was the last morning of a nearly two week trip to document the Pennsylvania elk rut. The area around the Gilbert Viewing Area had been extremely active during the last few days, but much of the vegetation was freshly planted grasses or grain, which made excellent food for the elk, but somewhat less than ideal backgrounds for photographs.

Fellow outdoor blogger Brad Myers ,of Bradley Myers Photo Blog, and I found a solitary bull with a small group of cows in a portion of meadow that was reclaimed two years or more ago, and had more photogenic appeal than much of the surrounding area. It began raining lightly as we worked into position and settled in for an excellent photo session with these animals.

As best as Ronald "Buckwheat" Saffer and I have been able to determine, this animal is bull #40. I saw this animal a few years ago when he still had a collar, but the numbers were torn off. At that time Buckwheat identified him as #40, as he had seen him when the numbers were visible and thought it was the same bull. Since that time he lost the collar entirely. In short there is slight room for error in stating that this is in fact bull #40, but the preponderance of the evidence points to it being him. If anyone knows differently please let me know.

Bull 40: The Final Encounter

I ran into bull #40 almost everywhere I went this year, but it seems that this would prove to be the final encounter. Again this was an animal that had no fear of humans--at least when he was in the Winslow Hill area.

At any rate, noted outdoor writer and elk enthusiast Carol Mulvihill (the elklady) was kind enough to provide us with a summary of the results of the elk hunt as she knew them as of November 9th and included in the report is the fact that #40 was taken this year.

She spent the first three days of season at the check station and also interviewed elk biologist, Jon DiBerti on Thursday of that week. She received the final summary of the hunt from Mr. DiBerti early this week and will be reporting on this in this Saturday's edition of The Endeavor News, a newspaper which covers events in Potter and Cameron Counties and surrounding areas. Ms. Mulvihill is a regular columnist for the paper. After two weeks, stories are available to the general public to be read in their entirety online(only the beginning portion is initially available). One may purchase a subscription to the online edition of the paper and read the article immediately upon publication.

Here is the information that Ms. Mulvihill provided us:
There were 59 licenses for the regular season 6-day Nov. PA elk hunt 2009, 20 bull tags and 39 cow tags. A total of 43 elk were harvested in the regular Nov. season this year: 19 antlered and 24 antlerless.

This compares with 45 licenses for last year's (2008) hunt, when 40 tags were filled during the regular season, 17 bulls and 23 antlerless elk were taken, and 5 antlerless tags remained unfilled.

So even though there were more licenses issued for this year's elk hunt, the harvest was very similar to last year.

These are the collared animals taken:

Collared bulls harvested: 9B, 5C,13, 47, 23, 7B, and 40 (remember this big bull #40, Willard? He lost his collar in the rut a couple years ago, still had ear tags. He came from Quehanna to Winslow Hill ( a distance of 18 air miles) each year for the rut, and then returned home.

Bull 7B was the 10 x 11 bull from Sinnemahoning State Park. It was seen at Hicks Run Cemetery and near Grant, during and after the rut. This bull was killed by woman elk hunter Lisa Banesick late on Wed 11/05/09., guided by Cody Ball, Janet Colwell's daughter, of Hicks Run Outfitters. It was brought in to the check station on Thursday -- it's the one that Jeff Thomas told you about.

Collared cows harvested: 80, 28, 3C, 48, and 74.

According to DeBerti, the highest green-scored bull this year was taken on day-one (Monday) in Frenchville by Reed Bamberger, guided by Jack Manack. The antler net green score of his bull was 422 in the non-typical category. Lisa Banasick's bull, taken Thursday, was not green-scored at the check station.

PGC regional staff, Rick Macklem and Tony Ross did the green scoring at the check station on Mon-Wed, then had to return to the regional office Wed. afternoon. The scoring drew a big crowd and was fascinating to watch.

Anyway, the net green score of 422 for Bamberger's bull is significant. Remember John Shirk's bull from 2006 hunt, that is currently #1 Non-Typical record elk in Pennsylvania. Ultimately, after being challenged and rescored, it ranked 13th in the World, instead of 7th in the World.

After rescoring, the final net Boone and Crockett net score of Shirk's bull was 425 and 2/8. Since then, some of the world records have been broken, but Shirk's bull is still #1 Non-Typical bull elk in PA. I know this because I was at the PGC awards ceremony when he was honored in Sept. 2008.

Bamberger's bull will receive a final Boone & Crockett score after a 60-day drying period. Usually several inches fall of the score due to shrinkage that occurs.
Above Information courtesy of Carol Mulvihill

Coming Soon: Some thoughts on the elk hunt as expressed in a letter by a prominent member of the firearms and hunting community.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

This'n That-News From The Elk Range

9x8 That Was Killed On First Day

It has been confirmed that the 9x8 that frequented the Gilbert Viewing Area this fall was killed on the first morning of the Pennsylvania Elk Season. According to outdoor writer Carol Mulvihill writing in The Endeavor News, the animals was killed by Gary Kolenski of Schwenksville, who was guided by Eric McCarthy of Elk County Outfitters.

Jeff Thomas of Glen Rock, also confirms the killing of the 9x8, and reports that a large 10x12 was taken near Grant. He saw this animal on the scales at the check station on Thursday November 5th.

On a positive note, we wish to extend hearty congratulations to Ronald J. "Buckwheat" Saffer for having one of his photos selected for the front Cover of the November-December Issue of "Bugle Magazine", the official publication of The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. The issue features a stunning close-up photo of "The Spring Run Bull", an impressive animal that was later taken in the 2008 hunt.

"The Spring Run Bull-Gilbert Viewing Area " : W.Hill 2008

(Note: This shot is not nearly as dramatic as the one taken by Mr. Saffer, but is of the same bull. Buckwheat is known to mutter "Front Cover Shot" under his breath, as he depresses the shutter release on a bull in the right position and lighting).

Mr. Saffer, Pennsylvania's leading elk photographer, is known for his dedication to both the preservation of the Pennsylvania Elk herd and the pursuit of excellence in the field of wildlife photography. Mr Saffer is widely published. One of his photos, a superb portrait of the famous character bull, Fred Jr. is featured on the jacket of the 2 Hr.-42min. documentary film, "The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd".

Also, I was fortunate to have two photos published in the same issue. "They appeared as part of an article "Elvis Has Left The Building" by Scott McMillion, which deals with the life and death of a Yellowstone National Park Character Bull, Bull #6, which was famous for chasing tourists and damaging vehicles around park headquarters in Mammoth Hot Springs. I photographed him there during late August of 2008.

Bull#6-Mammoth Hot Springs: W.Hill

Bull#6-Ranger's Vehicle: W.Hill

He died in a freak accident in Gardiner, Montana in February, 2009. In many ways he was like our character bull Fred, in that he spent the winter living in the town. There the similarity ended as Bull #6 became a "holy terror" during the rut, but Fred Jr. has remained a " gentle giant" insofar as his relation with humans has been concerned, although during his prime he was certainly not found wanting in his response to challenges from other bulls.

A Morning At Shenandoah National Park

Few things are better for the photographer that is fascinated with the Whitetail deer, than a trip to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. My brother Coy and I traveled there Friday, for a morning photo shoot.

Dawn found a beautiful 8 point and a doe standing on the skyline in Big Meadows. A strong, cold wind was blowing and it was brutal out there, but what is a whitetail addict to do but face the elements and get into action.

Shenandoah Dawn: Canon 40D 70-200mm F2.8

It is best to not focus exclusively on the meadow, as many times one may find excellent opportunities while traveling on the Skyline Drive. In this case we spotted one of the largest bucks I have yet photographed as he was working the woods by the side of the drive in search of does.

Shenandoah Monster: Canon 40D 70-200mm F2.8

Later in the morning, we saw a buck breed a doe far away in the meadow with no chance to photograph the event. Later we found the deer had moved closer to the roadway and we parked the vehicle and spent some quality photographic time with them.

8 Point Buck And Doe At Big Meadows: Canon 40-D 70-200mm F2.8

8 Point Buck At Big Meadows: Canon 7D-500mm F4

For more Camera Critters Photos, Click Here!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Elk Hunt: The First Day-A Report From Elk County

Reports Indicate This Bull Was Taken

Here is a first hand report as it were, of some of the action on the first day of elk season.

I met a couple during my first year or so in Elk County. They are dedicated outdoors people who love watching and photographing the elk. They were kind enough to e-mail me a report about their experiences of the first day of the 2009 elk season as they got to see it first hand.

They started the day by checking the parking lot at the end of Dewey Road and found 16 vehicles there. From this point I will go to their exact words: "Went to Gray Hill on top where the camps start on the left side of the road (about half way to apple orchard) there were 10 Bulls together around the camps but about 20 hunters and guides (so it seemed) NOT GOOD. No 47 (brown collar) which was the biggest bull in group, was there and we took last live pictures of him. We had stopped but was getting in their way. Anyway we left so they could carry out game plan, put hunter in front, then bulls walk right to them. No 47 went down and next biggest one. Not sure what it was. "

As I understand the hunting digest, this is Elk Hunt Zone 8 and should be all of the bulls allocated for Zone 8. I have no current photographs of bull 47, but he was featured in a post by Steve Friel on October 7, 2009. To see this photo visit Photos by Steve.

Dominant 9x8 At Gilbert Viewing Area

They also had news as to the dominant 9x8 bull that was seen almost daily at The Gilbert Viewing Area this fall. They had seen hunters walking a road toward game lands as they (my correspondents) were heading out in the morning. When they returned to the area after being on Gray Hill, they saw the 9x8 being hauled out on the back of a truck. This is in Elk Hunt Zone 2.

They then went to the check station from 12:30 until 3:00. There were 6 cows and 6 bulls checked by that time.

It is important to note that this is the situation as I understand it and as it was reported to me. It will be interesting to hear or read the accounts of these hunts from the perspective of those that participated in them.

Something I do know is that during the period from September 20, through October 2,2009, the 9x8, had no fear of humans. Absolutely none!

No Fear

It is a difficult task for wildlife managers to arrive at a management policy that considers the concerns of hunters, tourists, property owners and other interested parties, while at the same time safeguarding the resource itself. Progress has been made in addressing some of the more critical problems, but it is time to strongly consider increasing the size of the No Hunt Zone to protect more of the large bulls.