Monday, September 3, 2012

Pennsylvania Elk Rut Gets Underway

Elk Rut Peaks Last 2 Weeks Of September: Canon 7D-Canon 300mm f2.8
According to reports coming in from Pennsylvania elk country, the rut is now underway, but activity is very spotty and sporadic.  Things should improve once a strong cool front comes through, but I never  go north until the middle of September and if I had to pick one week, it would be the last week of the month.

For those not familiar with the area, there are almost always a lot of cows and calves on Winslow Hill, but bull sightings can be spotty at certain times of year.  Winslow Hill is the traditional breeding grounds and bulls travel from far and wide to visit the hill during the rut, so the chances of seeing bulls increases exponentially.

Activity is usually best as soon as you can see to photograph in the morning and usually slacks off somewhere between 8:00 and 10:00.  Fog is often a problem in the early morning, although a certain amount of it adds wonderful atmosphere to photographs.

Late Evening In Elk Country: Canon 7D-300mm F2.8
Activity usually resumes in late afternoon.  The elk stay out later in the morning and  emerge to feed earlier in the evening in cool or unsettled weather.  In addition to being the best times to see elk, early morning and late evening usually present the best photographic light.

In a change from previous year, there is now a no parking sign along the right side of Dewey Road, shortly after one comes off of Winslow Hill Road.  I assume one is required to park only in the parking lot.  In recent years a lot of people parked there at peak times.  Also you are not permitted to walk down the bank there and watch the meadow where the pond and the green water treatment tower is.  In past years the restricted zone ended at the end of the Gilbert Meadow and it was permissible to do so, but now the restricted signs go toward Winslow Hill the entire way to the Game Commission Boundary.  It had been freshly posted when I was there in August and I assume it has remained that way.

Restricted Zone Signs Along Dewey Road
There are many more signs than usual across from the ponds on Dewey Road also.  It is not quite clear how this is to be interpreted as the signs line both sides of the dirt and gravel road going back through the meadow to the tree line, and they are posted quite thickly.  As usual there is a restricted sign on the gate when it is closed. It has never been clear if one is permitted to walk the road or not, but some do so.  I have heard conflicting answers from PGC officials, so it is best to stay off of the road.  At least one full time resident lives back that road and they and any other property owners and guests may drive this, but elk watchers may not and it seems that each year several people have to try  this if the gate is open.  If you do be aware that you can catch grief either from the landowner or the PGC.

Originally Posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard C. Hill.