Thursday, January 5, 2012

Looking Back

This blog was originally developed as a venue to present my wildlife photography and videos to the public, with a special emphasis on Pennsylvania's elk herd.  The first post was made on October 1, 2007.  It was titled "The Shedding Of The Velvet" and featured four photos of whitetail bucks.  Since that time, a variety of wildlife species have been covered, but I would assume that elk and deer have been the most discussed species by far.

Elk Have Been A Major Focus Of Blog Since The Beginning

The launching of the blog also coincided with the beginning of serious post-production work on "The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd", which was released in September of 2008. "The Truth" is a 2 hour 42 minute film that deals briefly with the overall history of Pennsylvania Elk, goes into an in depth history of the herd from 1995 until 2008, covers the life cycle of the elk with a special emphasis on the rut, and concludes with a look at elk management issues.

The film differs from most mainstream press coverage of Pennsylvania elk and from other films on the subject in that it takes at critical look at Pennsylvania's elk management policy.  The concept for the film actually began years ago when I was an employee of the PGC Food And Cover Corps, and Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer.  At that time Billie Cromwell was a Food And Cover Corps foreman and as such was my supervisor.  On his own time, Billie shot video footage of the elk herd, which he then turned over to PGC videographer, Hal Korber, who incorporated a great deal of it in The Pennsylvania Game Commission video, "Pennsylvania Elk: Reclaiming The Alleghenies".  Billie had been going to elk country since the 1980s and had been around the elk a lot.  He was an avid hunter and shooter, but soon recognized that the elk herd was something special and as such he was the first one who exposed me to the view that the elk were "best utilized as a viewable resource"  I must add that this was and is a commonly held view among many who are part of the "elk culture" on Winslow Hill.   Most of these people are, or were, avid hunters who recognize the need to control the elk population at some point, but based on the PGC's past track record, and some of the statements we were hearing and reading, it was easy to be alarmed at what direction an elk hunt might take.

Billie Cromwell With Canon L2 Filming Near Saddle, Sept. 1998: video still capture  Canon L2 by W.Hill
 Fulton County Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer, Andy Carbaugh was gracious enough to take me to Elk County on President's Day in 1995, and I returned for a day trip that August and then spent 4-5 days during the last week of September that year recording the rut.  This marked the beginning of years of collecting video footage of the elk herd and my experiences with the elk served to convince me that Billie was right in his thoughts about the elk herd. Along with this came the desire to make a film, which would not only enable me to share many of the unique experiences I captured, but to present a different point of view to the public than that which was officially promoted.

This became possible when I retired from the agency in 2007 and was free to express my personal viewpoints in both writing and film.  Billie and well known elk photographer, Ron "Buckwheat" Saffer, both gave me tremendous aid in preparing the script for the film, contributing video footage and still photographs, and providing support and inspiration along the way.

At a meeting shortly before "The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd" was released, Billie and others were reminiscing about the making of the PGC video and Billie remarked that had he known how that "Reclaiming the Alleghenies" would be used to advance the agenda for an elk hunt, and even tourism to the extent that it was, that he would not have participated in the project.  He was  especially bitter that his name was mentioned only once in the closing credits of the film and he believed that some did not even want it listed there.  It was not listed anywhere on the jacket of the video, although the name of every other person involved to a major extent was listed, along with credit for what they did, and Billie was involved to a major extent as a significant portion of the rut footage was filmed by him.

A major concern that began when talk of a hunt first surfaced and continues to this day is that restraint would go out the window once the hunt started, with larger and larger license allocations and an undue focus on shooting the large acclimated bulls.

The point of all of this is that the blog has always been issue driven to a certain extent. During the past year I have moved it more in that direction and hope to continue to pursue this course.  I do plan to continue writing about  the natural history of wildlife, and photography/video equipment and techniques also.

In addition I wish to thank everyone who purchased the film, or supported the blog.  I have met many of you in elk country as a result and truly appreciate your support.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


Marci Geise said...

It sure has been nice meeting you and keeping in touch through email. We appreciate all of the knowledge you share. Over the years, I have sent you questions about computers, blogs, cameras and wildlife, and you are always there with a complete and thoughtful answer.
Thank you for all that you do in support of our deer and elk. They need someone to stand up for them, and you do a great job.
We enjoy your blog and your dvds, and we look forward to what the future holds.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your blog, Willard, and seeing your photographs. It is obvious that you know your subject well, be it elk or deer or photography. I look forward to reading more about the elk and deer in Benezette and seeing more of your beautiful photographs.

paulstan said...

Willard... You are to be commended for all your effort to promote the elk in Pennsylvania. I always look forward to reading the well written and timely articles that you post on this blog. Thanks!

V.L. Locey said...

I love coming to your blog and seeing all the glorious images of our Pennsylvania wildlife. Thanks for sharing with us, Willard!

PaWingers said...

Sounds like an enjoyable and interesting journey through the years. I'm honored to have met you.

Ritchie said...

Hi Dude,

Very good information, you share here! Elk are susceptible to a number of infectious diseases, some of which can be transmitted to livestock. Thanks a lot.....

Wildlife Photography