Friday, April 1, 2011

Pennsylvania Bull Elk Now Shedding Antlers

 Bull Elk With Antlers: March 30, 2011
 Rapidly advancing technology is both a blessing and a curse.  One is  glad to see a greatly improved final product whether it be either still photographs or video, but the never ending changes make it very hard to maintain an up to date inventory of video footage or still images of wildlife and its' behavior.  In my opinion video is impacted the most as only a few years ago everything was shot in standard definition (SD) and at a 4:3 aspect ration (the shape of the old tube type TVs), but now everything is high definition (HD), which of course is shot to fit the wide-screen format of the HD TVs.  While the modern DSLRs do make better images than the earlier models, it is not nearly as significant of a difference as with the video, because SD video was very low resolution to begin with and manipulating it to fit a wide-screen production, even one which is delivered on a standard DVD, results in a certain amount of image degradation.  Some animal behavior is not all that hard to document, while other things can be a once in a lifetime occurrence.  It is not especially hard to document the shedding of the bull's antlers and the growth of the new ones, but it does require either spending a lot of time in the elk range or just happening to be there at the right time.  I like to concentrate on photographing turkeys from mid-March until early May, so I am usually not in the elk range during this period.

The bottom line was that although I have been shooting HD since 2007, I had no HD footage of this particular event, so I traveled to elk country this past week with two major goals in mind.  First I wanted to film bulls that had already shed their antlers and started growing new ones, and secondly I wanted to film either a bull with two pedicels showing no growth, or one with one antler shed and one still present.  Still photography was to be secondary and attempted only after the video footage was taken. On Wednesday morning I finally succeeded in filming both, but only bulls with both antlers still intact lingered long enough for still photos, so the ones depicting the shedding are still captures from the XL-H1 video camera.

One Antler Shed: Video still capture Canon XL-H1
Right Antler Has Been Shed At Least A Day Or More: Note Scab: Video still capture Canon XL-H1
Bull With New Antler Growth: Video still capture Canon XL-H1
In most cases, the mature bulls shed first and that can occur in late February, but it is much more likely to happen in March.  I was actually surprised to find that most of the bulls that I saw still had antlers, but a seasoned elk photographer pointed out that this was because most of them were young bulls.  Even the first bull shown, which had not yet shed,  is not a top-tier bull and is likely not all that old, but I did expect that most bulls of this size would have lost their antlers by now.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill