Thursday, November 6, 2014

Iconic Pennsylavania Elk Killed In 2014 Elk Season

Today I received news that the most famous and likely the most photographed  mature bull elk in Pennsylvania was shot and killed on the second day of elk season by a young hunter from Erie.  This was the bull known as "Limpy" which I filmed and photographed  for the first time in 2009 when he was already a mature 7x7 bull. The 2014 elk season began on Monday November 3rd and will continue through Saturday November 8 with an extended season in certain areas on November 10--15th.

"Limpy" 2009
 He became known as "Limpy" in 2010 when he was injured and walked with a limp thereafter.  My Brother Coy of Country Captures photographed him silhouetted against a dramatic sunset that year and I used that for the cover photo on my documentary film, "Running Wild In Pennsylvania Elk Country", which was released in 2012.

"Limpy" 2010
He had a smaller rack in 2011.  This was probably because of the  effects of the injury.

"Limpy" 2011
 He rebounded from his injury in 2012, and grew an impressive rack.

Limpy: 2012

Through the years I filmed and photographed him and always expected that each year would be his last, but somehow he survived.  I suspected that he spent elk season on posted ground and likely quite close to someone's home or cabin as this bull was completely acclimated to humans and had no fear of them whatsoever.

Limpy: 2013
The Pennsylvania Game Commission Calendar has featured photos of  "Limpy"taken by my brother Coy in  the 2014 and 2015 Calendars.  One thing is certain, he will not be featured again unless photographs from the past are used.

Limpy: 2014 The Final Year
There are a lot of elk in Pennsylvania with many  bulls of respectable size out there. This should continue for the foreseeable future, but the death of this animal marks the passing of a time on Winslow Hill when one could follow the life and development  of a bull through the years and brings a final conclusion to a definitive era of elk watching and photography on Winslow Hill and we are the worse for its' passing

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Fall Color and The Whitetail Rut

It is hard to believe that two weeks have past since I last posted here. I still maintain a heavy shooting schedule on mornings and evenings, but have been involved in other projects in mid-day and evenings, which has made it difficult to keep up with the posting and video editing.

Even though I have spent a lot of time outdoors I took very little photos or video of the fall color this year.  Fall color was a bit late in arriving and I held off shooting a lot in hopes that it would intensity, but then a rainy period arrived. When it was over many of the leaves that had bright scarlet and yellow colors such as maple were gone, so we never had a period in which most of the leaves were at their peak and the weather was ideal for capturing them in their glory.  In spite of this, I was able to capture a bit of fall color on the evening of October 19th.

Autumn Stream: Panasonic GH4-LUMIX- 14-140/F4.0-5.8@ 17mm-ISO 200-1/60 Sec. f 10

Autumn Color: Panasonic GH4-LUMIX- 14-140/F4.0-5.8@ 17mm/F4.0-5.8 -ISO 200-1/320 Sec. f 10
Throughout the summer one usually sees the same family groups of does and  fawns with the one-year old bucks still usually traveling with them. Occasionally a two-year old buck is still with the extended family group too, but this situation usually changes sometime after the velvet is shed and the pre-rut begins.  At this point many of the yearling bucks and most, if not all, of the remaining two-year old bucks disperse . The mature bucks spend the summers alone or in bachelor groups and they ordinarily travel over a  large area searching for food, while the extended family groups usually remain in the same general area throughout the year. With the onset of the pre-rut and the rut, the bachelor groups fragment, and the bucks become much more visible as they travel about looking for does in heat.

Where I usually hang out is not the best spot for seeing bachelor groups in the summer, but it has a good population of does, fawns and young bucks. Buck sightings usually increase dramatically once the pre-rut begins and especially once the full-blown rut gets underway.  Some of the bucks only visit once or twice, while others are seen with varying degrees of frequency throughout the rut.

This year the first strange bucks arrived on October 9th and one peered from the edge of the meadow while another checked out the resident doe herd.

First Strange Buck: Canon 5D MK III-Canon EF600mm f/4L IS -ISO 400-1/200 Sec. f  4.5
 Buck Checks Out Family Group: Canon 5D MK III-Canon EF600mm f/4L IS -ISO 400-1/400 Sec. f  4.5
Many who write about deer would say that the above bucks are "nice" or even perhaps "small" 1 year old animals, but I feel confident in saying that both are 2 years old.  Bucks may grow larger, sooner in other areas, but in the area I am familiar with the average first year buck's antlers  usually range from small spikes to four and six-points. Over the years I have observed many buck's development from the time that they were fawns through their first year with antlers and I have seen several that remained until they were two years old and I got to see what rack they had at that age.  In one case a buck did not disperse until he was three years old.  The bottom line is that I am talking about deer that I am absolutely certain were the same deer and I knew exactly what rack they grew each year and how old they were when they grew it.

At any rate some of the visiting bucks will be seen only a time or two, while others remain in the general area with some being seen almost every day while others will only swing by once or twice a week looking for hot does.   The small three-point buck below is a non-resident buck that abruptly appeared and began spending most of his time with the resident doe herd.

Young Buck Chasing Does: Canon 5D MK III-Canon EF600mm f/4L IS  -ISO 800-1/200 Sec. f  5.0
The buck below is either an exceptional yearling or more likely a two year old.  He is not a daily visitor, but rather is usually seen once or twice a week.

8 Point: Canon 5D MK III-Canon EF600mm f/4L IS  -ISO 800-1/200 Sec. f  4.5
I have noticed in the past few years  that it is fairly common to see a certain buck for a week or so and then he vanishes, where in the not too distant past this was seldom the case. In an instance like this, it is likely that the buck has either been legally taken with a bow, hit by a vehicle, or killed by poachers.  In most cases it is likely because of  the upswing in bow-hunting hunting pressure brouth about by a longer bow season that coincides with the peak of the rut and the legalization of the cross bow.

With the full-blown rut getting underway, I should have more and more opportunities to photograph the bucks in the next few weeks, but only time will tell if any impressive ones will appear.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.