Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fred Jr: Bull 36 -Pennsylvania's Most Famous Bull

I first filmed "Fred Jr." in 1997 when he was already a beautiful young rack bull and followed his progress throughout the years. For a time he was an extremely impressive animal. Now the effects of old age are taking their toll and his rack size is declining.

I did not see him during my winter visit to Elk County, but I finally found him in the parking lot of the maintenance building in Benezette on Thursday morning of last week.

In The Parking Lot

He walked behind the building and I got in position with the 70-200mm lens and took several photographs.

Feeding Behind The Building

In the following photograph one can see how old age has damaged his knees. He has had this problem for a few years and walks with a shuffle, but it was amazing to see him running like a young bull during the rut last fall.

Knobby Knees

In time he walked to a shrub to browse. I zoomed in to eliminate man-made objects and then removed the ugly collar in Photoshop. Yes, this is a legitimate use of photo alteration because the collar should not have been put on the bull in the first place.

Fred As He Should Look

Periodically someone tries to portray this animal as a wild elk that is a suitable candidate for a fair chase hunt. The following is a post that I originally made in December of 2007.

It's A Disease!
I noticed recently that I am getting several hits from people searching Google images. I must admit that I was not aware of the Google Image search feature before . I typed in Pennsylvania Elk" and came across a link to King's Outdoor World, the particular page features two still pictures and a video clip titled "What Does This Elk Score?" The following is a quote from that page:

"This bull is a herd bull that is a result of transplanted elk to the east to help build up the herd years ago and therefore has a radio collar on its neck as wildlife authorities keep a close eye on the herd. Don’t let that make you think that it is a high fenced bull. This is a fair chase bull that a lucky hunter could very well get this year through their lottery draw."

Of course it is not a high fenced bull, but it is completely tame and trusting to humans. This is bull number 36 or "Fred" as most call him. He has survived to date by remaining in the No Hunting Zone. This animal's tolerance range of humans can be measured in mere feet. "Fair Chase", I think not!

It totally gripes me, why people cannot enjoy seeing an impressive animal such as this without thinking about killing him. The video clip starts with a shot of another bull and then there is Fred chasing a cow. You can hear someone say," I think I could even hit him from here" Some one else says ,"Oh I could probably get one in him"

Bull Number 36-"Fred"

Above is a photograph of "Fred" in 2005 when he had a more perfect and perhaps larger rack. It would simply be murder to shoot this bull. I featured him in a previous post where he was shown with the rack that he had this fall and with his collar showing. In the picture above it was removed in Photoshop.

It would seem to me that even dedicated hunters would want to preserve at least a few of these monsters so that they could drive to the viewing areas and see what a true large bull looks like, but evidently some are not that far sighted. All they can think about is pulling the trigger or releasing the arrow.

I have been assured by a person who is on good terms with many of the elk guides that many of them have no interest in guiding a hunter to "Fred". In her words, "The person who kills Fred will be totally ostracized." I hope that is the case.

Since 1997 I have had him in numerous circumstances where I could have "put one in him", but I never had the slightest desire or thought of it. Instead I enjoyed observing this magnificent animal and obtaining photographs of him.

My experience is not unique. Most serious visitors to Winslow Hill have gotten close enough to him to"put one in him" on numerous occasions! Many specifically look for him when they travel to the elk range and are concerned about his welfare.

I think many would enjoy the outdoors and wildlife more if they could drop this total absorption with killing. They carry the obsession to the stage that it becomes a disease!

I must repeat that I have no quarrel with the person who hunts legally and ethically, but hunting an animal such as this IS NOT ETHICAL!


Leedra said...

Very good post. I don't think any of them should be killed until the population is running over us, and then definitely NOT any of the tame ones like you describe. Cades Cove is the same way with White Tailed Deer, but that is all.

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Shelley said...

He is a magnificent bull and I hope he remains safe! So much better to view him in the wild than to have him hanging on the wall like some pathetic trophy.

Anonymous said...

Of course I appreciate the photos you have posted of our buddy, but I appreciate your words even more. I hope that Fred will always stay in town (no hunt zone) or around people who want to protect him. Fred is such a wonderful animal that should be cared for and viewed in awe of the shape he is in for his age.
I totally agree with everything you said. Thank you for stating it so well.
Fred brings many people into Benezette, so he helps the town businesses. Also, he brings the town closer together, because everyone talks about him. Everyone knows the last place they saw him, when he lost his antlers, when he went up on the hill (rut), etc..
I think there should be a tribute to him at the new visitor's center. He is so tolerant of people like me who want to take hundreds of photos of him, so he deserves a tribute! We love Fred!

Brad Myers said...

Willard, I could not agree with your post any more, you are spot on. It is sad to see a beautiful animal grow old and frail, but like Number 6 he has brought many hours of pleasure to many people.

imac said...

The Hunters who shoot - should be hunted and shot.

Nature is there to enjoy to be seen alive.

Ken Conger Photography said...

Profound post. Enjoyed the read and share your philosophy. Blue Skies.

Stacey Olson said...

Willard.. I agree with you Honor and Ethics seem to get lost in peoples desire to impress other humans.. well said my friend.. and I hope Fred gets to find a quiet meadow someplace, when his time comes to pass with dignity.. he has already been too touched by human greed..

The Birdlady said...

What a magnificent animal! And I can relate - the effects of age do take their toll! LOL
Went to SNP today - saw a fawn already - I posted it.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Willard. You are certainly a champion of the wildlife in this Commonwealth.

Anya said...

Its Fantastic your shots :)

richard l coy said...

richardlcoyphotography, I have many photos of fred and enjoy going up 3 to 4 times a year just to check on him and see how he is doing. Those are some fine photos of him and I hope he hangs a round for many more days and years. See ya soon fred as Im planning a trip this month.