Saturday, December 1, 2012

Remembering The 2012 Elk Rut

With the whitetail rut effectively over because of the onset of rifle deer season in Pennsylvania, I find my thoughts turning once again to the Pennsylvania elk rut.  I was photographing one of the larger bulls on Winslow Hill on a rainy mid-September morning when I heard a bugle behind me and turned to find an impressive 6x6 staring at the other bull.  I had the 500mm lens mounted and could not get the entire elk in the composition so I decided to try for a dramatic close-up of the head.

Rainy Day 6x6: Canon 5D MKIII-500mm F4 ISO 640 1/200 f4
Rainy weather can yield some dramatic photo opportunities, and cameras such as the 5D MK III have sufficient weather sealing to make this type of photography possible without one having to be overly concerned about protecting the camera.  I do keep a garbage bag over the camera and lens when transporting it, but have no qualms at all about shooting with this camera and lenses such as the 500mm in moderate rainfall.

Excellent opportunities my also be found when the sky begins to clear, especially in late evening.  In this case a rainbow formed as the sun emerged after a shower and the late evening sun bathed a herd of elk in warm, dramatic light.

Rainbow Forms As Late Evening Sun Breaks Through:Canon 5D MKIII-24-105mm L @28nn   ISO 400 1/25 f 13
Bull and Harem In Late Evening Sun: Canon 5D MKIII-24-105mm@88nn L  ISO 400 1/80 f 4
With the the fall rut over for both species, it will soon be time to focus on other species as winter approaches and in about three months it will be time to photograph the spring waterfowl migration.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

PA Deer Season: Recalling The Past

Mature Whitetail Buck

 As Thanksgiving week comes to an end, the human population of Pennsylvania's rural areas reaches a yearly high with a large influx of deer hunters anticipating the opening of rifle deer season on Monday.  The air resounds with rifle shots, as hunters sight their rifles in and at night spotlights flicker in the air and across the fields and woodlands as hunters scout for whitetails by use of artificial light.  Persons may spotlight for deer until 11:00 p.m., but may not posses firearms while doing so, may not cast the rays of lights on buildings or livestock, and may not attempt to kill a deer in such a manner.  They are not allowed to spotlight during rifle deer season.The taking of wildlife by use of artificial light is commonly known as "jacklighting"and is a common violation.

Deer Killed by "Jacklighters"
PGC Officer With Rifle Seized From Jacklighters
 During my years as a Deputy Conservation Officer for the PGC, this was the "busy" period of the year and Thanksgiving week usually brought a lot of law enforcement work dealing with persons who couldn't wait until deer season to kill a deer.  There was seldom a year went by that several violators were not apprehended killing deer while spotlighting during Thanksgiving week.  Once deer season came in, the most common offenses were failure to tag a harvested animal as required by law, hunting over bait, hunting by use of motorized vehicle, and various safety related violations.

Violator Prepares To Shoot Deer From Vehicle With Modern Rifle In Blackpowder  Season
Things have really changed since I began hunting in the mid-1960s.  At that time there was two weeks of bucks only season, followed by two or three days of artlessness deer season.  By the time I quit hunting in 1997 or 1998, the taking of antlerless deer had been liberalized to a certain extent, with bonus tags being issued in many years.

2000 saw the introduction of a three day flintlock season for antlerless deer , which was increased to a full week the following year. In addition a three day rifle antlerless season was established for junior and senior hunters. disabled persons, and active duty military.

Things really changed with the implementation of concurrent buck and doe season in 2001 and antler restrictions in 2002. The early flintlock season was expanded to include the use of in-line muzzle loaders that year as well.   Since then deer numbers have plummeted in many parts of the state as has the number of hunters, but even with that the yearly deer kill is quite large.

While the "deer wars" had been going on to a certain extent for years, this marked the period that they accelerated to the heights of the recent past.  The controversy continues to this day with some claiming the herd is still out of control and damaging the environment, while others firmly believe that deer numbers are too low and the lack of deer is leading to the death of the sport of hunting.

Whatever the truth of the matter, it seems The Pennsylvania Game Commission has lost the hearts and minds of a significant portion of the hunting public.