Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ronald Saffer's Last Portrait of Fred-Bull 36

After learning of Bull 36's death over the weekend, Ronald "Buckwheat" Saffer, Pennsylvania's premier elk photographer, called to discuss his death and his relationship with this animal over the years.  He was one of Saffer's favorite subjects until later in his life, when he began spending most of his time in Benezette and achieved lasting fame as the Benezette town bull.  Buckwheat specializes in photographing exceptional bulls in natural environments and after Fred moved to town so as to speak, he did not encounter him nearly as often, although he still photographed him if he found him on Winslow Hill in a natural setting.  He has graciously agreed to share the last professional portrait that he took of him during the rut this autumn.

Bull 36 At Dudley Property-Along Winslow Hill Road: Photo courtesy of Ronald Saffer
Many were concerned that Fred would be shot during the first few years of the hunt, as he was often found in Hunt Zone 2 during the rut and it seemed possible that he could linger too long in that area and be caught by the opening of elk season.  Also there were rumors of plots to drive him from the No Hunt Zone into the Hunt Zone, but  that never happened.

Some were still talking about shooting him as late as 2007, when he was featured on King's Outdoor World, The article 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."

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"

As it turned out, no one "got one in him" and he lived a long life , bringing pleasure to thousands upon thousands of people. Sadly, unless the current system changes, there is not likely to be another that can survive to attain his status, as his most likely heir apparent was killed during season this year, and it seems that most bulls are now killed within a year or so of attaining trophy status.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fred-Bull 36, Dies As Result Of Accident

Fred In 2002-His Largest Classic Rack: Courtesy of Ronald Saffer
Today I am sorry to report that Bull 36, know to most as "Fred" or "Fred Jr." had to be put down by PGC officials on Friday January, 7th, 2011, after he fell down on the ice and was unable to regain his footing. The fall causes a bone or bones to be broken and this along with his age and the condition of the knee joints, made any chance of recovery impossible.

Reports have been circulating all weekend on Facebook about this unfortunate circumstance, but I have been hesitant to make a definitive post about the matter until this point.  I wish to thank noted elk columnist for Endeavor News, Carol Mulvihill, and Benezett Store Manager, Beth Hoffman,  for confirming that initial reports are true.

Estimates of his age range as high as 20 years, but an analysis of his rack size in in 1997, 1998 makes it seem likely he was born no later than 1994 and it is possible he was born somewhat earlier, with 1992 being the earliest likely year..  This was when Claude Nye, more commonly know as "Dr. Perk" was heavily involved with the elk on Winslow Hill and he, Tom Murphy, and Ron Rishel would be most likely to know the true age of the animal.

According to Pennsylvania"s leading elk photographer,  Ron "Buckwheat" Saffer, he first heard people using the name "Fred, Jr". in 1998. That year, Saffer photographed him in mid-August, with a dog leash tangled in his antlers and he and his circle of friends name him "Dogrope", a name which he has used to this day.

Fred or Dogrope  In 1998 With Dog Leash In Antlers: Courtesy Ronald Saffer
I too did not hear the name, Fred Jr. until 1998, when it came into wide usage among the elk watchers and I specifically recall Dr. Perk using that name.   Since I mostly shot video during my early years in Elk County, I have no still images from that period other than frame captures from video.  I am reasonably certain that I did record Fred, Jr. in 1997 and have written about an encounter with him in the saddle that year and used footage from this in "The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd".

Bull 36 is gone now, but he will be talked about for years to come.

Marci Geise has established a page on Facebook as a tribute to Fred, where persons may share photographs and stories of their experiences with the Icon of Pennsylvania's elk herd.  If the link doesn't work, do a search of Facebook for Fred Jr.#36  and you should be able to find it.  Also visit Marci on Facebook at Elk Scenic Drive for lots of elk photographs and discussions.

Originally posted on Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.