Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fred Jr. "Bull No. 36" Pennsylvania's Most Famous Elk

It is amazing how many Pennsylvania elk enthusiasts have become fans s of the famous Benezette town bull, which was known as "Fred Jr." until 2004 when he was fitted with a numbered radio collar by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.  Since that time he is often called Bull No. 36, but still most refer to him as "Fred" or "Freddie", while some call him "Dogrope" because he got entangled with a dog leash in his early years and wore it in his antlers for some time. It should also be noted that he was seen more often on Winslow Hill during his early years and did not become famous as the town bull until somewhat later in life-or at least that is my impression.

I first encountered him during the rut of 1997 and at that time I was shooting only video. In fact I did not begin to use 35mm cameras to a great degree in Pennsylvania Elk Country until 1999. As a result I have no quality stills of those early encounters, but since he is such a fascinating animal, I will post some "frame grabs" taken from video footage.

The first shot comes from an encounter on Winslow Hill where several mature bulls were chasing a hot cow. Fred was there, milling around the edges of the action.  I had no name for him until the following year, but only know that he was an outstanding young bull.  Someone later told me while looking at the video from this encounter that this was Fred.
Fred: 1997-video still by W.Hill

The following frame grab comes from a lengthy encounter on a foggy, frosty morning in 1998 when Billie Cromwell and I were both in the same spot.  At the time he was shooting footage for the Pennsylvania Game Commission elk video, "Pennsylvania Elk: Reclaiming the Alleghenies", PGC videographer and video producer, Harold Korber used a portion of Billie's footage from this encounter in the video, while I later used a segment that I took at this time In "The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd".  So while the still doesn't do the situation justice at all, it was somewhat of a historic moment.  At the time Fred was still a "satellite" bull and the largest bull was with most of the cows a short distance away, but they were mostly obscured by fog.  The herd bull in this case was the "Test Hill Bull", which Fred would defeat in a lengthy fight in 2001.
Fred: 1998-video still by W.Hill

By 1999, Fred was an impressive young bull with a promising future and was well on his way to becoming Pennsylvania's most famous elk.

Fred: 1999-photo by W. Hill Canon Rebel X 35mm-Canon 75-300 IS
Fred almost met his end in 2000 when he was gored in a fight with another bull. He had a puncture wound in the right flank, but it missed any vital organs and I found him on a hillside in the backcountry on a late September morning and spent over an hour with him. By this time I had an Elan II and  Canon Rebel X film cameras, which I usually carried in addition to the camcorder.

Fred: 2000 photo by W.Hill Canon Rebel Elan II 35mm-Canon 75-300mmIS

Fred's Wound From Being Gored: photo by W.Hill Canon Elan II  35mm-Canon 75-300mm IS
By 2001 Fred had a large beautiful rack and did not have any broken points.  He had not broken any in 1997 either, but the 1998 and 2000 racks were both marred by broken points.

Fred 2001: photo by W.Hill Canon Elan II 35mm-Sigma 170-500mm
Fred has to be nearing the end of his career, but what a run he has had.  He has given countless hours of enjoyment to thousands of people.

I hope to continue this post at some point and show how his rack developed in the latter portion of his life.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


V.L. Locey said...

What stunning imagery! Thanks so much for sharing Willard!

Anonymous said...

Hi Willard. I don't believe I've ever shown you this photograph. This is the best elk photograph I've ever taken. I took this photograph in December 2003 along Gray Hill Road. The elk was so close to the side of the road that I didn't even need to use the zoom feature of my camera to capture a close-up picture.

Brad Myers said...

Great post Willard and I am looking forward to additional post on Fred. Some bulls like the late Yellowstone No. 6 deserve and earned their own post and will be remembered by all that came in contact with them. I hope we see him later this month.

Luuuuuua said...

superbe fotografii,bravo

Camconative said...

Wonderful shots as always. I noticed that, at the time, you were using the Sigma 170-500mm. What a good old rugged and inexpensive lens! Thats the very same lens that I started photographing wildlife with. I still have it, and I have lent it to a budding young photographer to get started with. I guess its time to take her into the elk range and let her try to get some similar shots for herself.
Keep up the great work!

Peggy said...

Fascinating story of Fred. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post about our great elk friend. Very nice photos as well. I will add this to my list of your "Fred posts" on my blog.

forHuntersbyHunters said...

Do you happen to have a recent photo of Fred before he died?
I put a small blurb on my site today ( and wanted to Post a recent photo.
Nice blog by the way.

Unknown said...

Any idea how old Fred was?

forHuntersbyHunters said...

We don't know but we understad that he was over 15- do you know more? Care to shed any light on this, if you know?

Willard said...

I hear a lot of different things about this. Some are saying twenty years, but I don't think this can be so. Based on his rack size in 1997 and 1998 and then working back, I think 1994 is a good guess as to when he was born, but one local who knows the elk well is saying he was born in 1992, which would have made him over 18. When I get back to Benezette, I am going to ask for more input on this.

It is only a theory but if he was only that big in 1997 and he was born in 1992, then he was not an exceptionally large bull for a five year old, yet he did become an exceptionally large bull within a few years. I can't think he had the genetics to get as large as he did, but had only an average size rack at five and six years of age.

forHuntersbyHunters said...

If you ever find out more about how old he was could you drop us a line at ? We would like to complete a sotory on his age...
Thanks and great photography!