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.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bugling Time In Pennsylvania's Elk Country

There have been two definitive video documentaries of Pennsylvania Elk to date. The first was "Pennsylvania Elk: Reclaiming The Alleghenies", which was produced by The Pennsylvania Game Commission, and presented the natural history of the elk in Pennsylvania, along with an in-depth discussion of the elk management program and goals. In 2008 I released a 2-DVD set "The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd", which documents the herd from 1995 until 2008 and focused on the herd from the perspective of the, eco-tourist, taking a close look at the "elk culture" on Winslow Hill and the "political" issues involving the elk hunt. Most of the information in this video is still current, although at least one of the most glaring problems with license allocations and combined hunt zones were addressed to a considerable extent since that time. It also features a year in the life of the elk herd with a lengthy section on the rut. The film is chock full of high-impact, stunning footage of the elk herd. The film is currently available for purchase at Benezett Store, in Benezette, Pa. If it is not playing on the wide-screen monitor in the store when you visit, ask store workers to play a sample for you. You may also click the link above or the one in the top right of the sidebar to go to a page with further information on the film.

Today we feature a short film or video if you will that packs a lot of action into 3min. and 45 seconds. Most of the footage was taken during the past two years, but a short clip of the famous character bull "Fred Jr." or Bull#36 fighting another large bull is incorporated At the time of the fight in 2001, he was in his prime and squared off with another monster known as "the Test Hill Bull. This clip was recorded with a Canon L2 Hi-8 camcorder fitted with a 35-350mm Canon L lens.

Bugling Time In Pennsylvania's Elk Country from Willard C. Hill on Vimeo.

Photographers are warned to not approach elk closely in an attempt to duplicate some of the clips in this video or "The Truth About Pennsylvania"s Elk Herd", if they are using fixed lens camcorders or point and shoot still cameras, as the high impact shots were taken with extremely powerful telephoto lenses from a safe distance. Approaching elk may result in serious injury or death to you!