Why did the elk cross the road?

To get to the other side where the acorns were!

I watched this small bull cross the road, debark a tree, and then eat one acorn after the other. If you’ve been out in the woods lately, you know there is a banner crop of acorns this year. They are all over the forest floor! Well, this bull wasted no time and devoured as many acorns as he could find. Then, once he had his fill, he laid down and chewed his cud. Ahhh, the life of a bull elk in the rut!

This bull put on a show for me after he crossed the road. Yep, he crossed the road to get to the other side where the acorns were located!

Eat Up!

Female cows are getting ready for the upcoming rut, too. This results in a tremendous amount of eating!

Last week we saw a cow feeding right alongside the road. She was content to keep eating even as we slowed down and brought our truck to a stop. Remembering how Lennie Rue talks about using your vehicle as a blind, we stayed in our truck. The cow was on my driver’s side, so all I had to do was roll my window down and start shooting. My  son, James, rolled his window down and slowly sat up on top of the window opening and shot over the roof of the truck. And all the while, the cow just kept on eating. These two photographs show in detail the eating process and the content of what she was eating, too!

Cows and bulls both are getting ready for the rut. They will expend a lot of energy during the breeding season so they need to eat up now! They are eating and will be ready for the rut. Will you be ready to photograph them?

Yeah, We’re Friends Now

These two bulls were posing side-by-side for us last week in the middle of August. They seem to be good friends as they stand there in the field. Next month it will be a different story!

These two boys will go from friends to foe as they will be competing for breeding rights. I cannot wait for the rut! I generally like fall anyway–in fact, it is my most favorite time of the year. But when the elk activity at this time of year is added in, this time of year is simply magical! Bulls will be bugling and getting very excited, which makes any wildlife photographer excited as well! The rut is just around the corner and I definitely plan to be on the elk range for this wonderful and wild experience!

Yep, they might  look like good friends now, but just wait until next month!

Velvet Be Gone!

This is an interesting time of the year for bull elk. Antler growth has occurred for some time now. The antlers, coated in velvet to provide nutrition for growth, are nearly done growing. The velvet that was so vital to their growth is now just in the way. It is starting to peel and fall off the antler. From what I witnessed last week, it seemed to me that the bull’s experience some form of itchiness and some low-level but annoying experiences now with this velvet. They rub their antlers on trees and bushes, shake their head from side to side, and even try to use their back hoofs to scratch the velvet off their antlers!

The breeding season is only about a month away, so eating and gaining strength and energy are critical if a bull expects to be in the running for a harem. Yes, this certainly is an interesting time of the year for the bulls.

Last week I captured two shots of bulls in this velvet shed. The first is a better photo in my opinion, but the bull is wearing a collar. This is not uncommon and the Pennsylvania Game Commission often uses collar transmitters to track elk and learn more about their behavior. It is a great tool for the biologists, but not so attractive in a photograph. My son has a great perspective on this that I definitely agree with. He says, get over it dad, it’s part of the story of the elk, so let the collar be seen. Okay, but it could have been such a great, breath-taking photograph…. okay, calm down, listen to my son’s logic. This is part of the elk story. Get over it.

I am so glad that we have elk in Pennsylvania. I am witness to the habitat improvement that not only supports the elk in our state, but many other wildlife species as well! On our property up on Winslow Hill we routinely and regularly see deer, rabbits, turkey, and grouse. We also see an occasional black bear or coyote, and much more! This careful and calculated protection of the land is vital for the survival of the elk herd and also supports all kinds of wildlife.

The elk are amazing animals. I can literally sit and watch an elk, even a cow, for hours. Some people only get excited about the big bulls, but I don’t care if it’s a bull, a calf, or a cow; they’re all fascinating and beautiful to me!

Here are two photos of the elk as they are beginning to shed their velvet. Look at the antler growth of these tremendous bulls and notice the velvet hanging down from their antlers. The first one is wearing a collar, but remember, this is part of the elk story. The second one looks a little more wild, and he was the one who I watched as he tried to scratch his antler with his hind hoof. I imagined it was an itchy experience and the big ole’ bull was thinking, “Velvet be gone!”

The Small Ones Attract Attention

I was fortunate last week to spend some time in the mountains photographing the Pennsylvania elk with my son, James. We had a limited time and it rained much of the time. I took 1,122 photos and was pleased with 72 of them. Not too bad considering the lousy weather conditions. We got lucky getting onto elk early and often. By all standards it was a great trip!

I returned home and created a slide show of my 10 best photos to share on the website. I put that link in my previous blog entry 3 days ago. I received many encouraging and positive comments about these photos, but the amazing thing to me was just how much attention the photos of the elk calves received. It was truly amazing to me! Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the little ones, too, but I just didn’t expect these photos to draw so much attention over the others. There seems to be something special about these small ones.

Similar to our human experience, these little elk grow up fast! They still have their spots in August, but that will change rather quickly and they are already much bigger than when they were first-born two months ago. Time definitely has a way of marching on quickly!

Here are three photos of elk calves that I was able to capture last week. I can already hear some folk saying, “Ahhh, aren’t they so cute?” Yep, the small ones do attract attention!

Why I Love Photographing Wildlife

The subjects don’t talk back! While this is true about wildlife I am being facetious of course. Although there are some days after dealing with difficult people when I do prefer being alone with wildlife! Seriously, I can think of nothing better than spending several days out on a mountain photographing wildlife. It does not matter to me if the subjects are elk, deer, turkey, rabbits, grouse, squirrels, birds, or chipmunks. The thrill of capturing their interesting and fascinating movement with a camera is a thrill to me!

This past week I was with my son, James, which come to think of it, is another excellent reason to photograph wildlife! We spent parts of three days on the elk range in Pennsylvania near our vacation property. The bulls are beginning to shed their velvet and we located a number of bulls on our trip. I can stand there all day photographing and watching the elk and think nothing of it. In fact, it is in these moments when all else is shut out that I most love. Life is far too fast-paced these days and I am definitely guilty of trying my version of running the rat race. But up there in the mountains life seems to take on a different and fuller meaning. If I could photograph wildlife for a living I would definitely do it!

One of the things that amazes me about wildlife photography is that I always seem to learn something new about the animal or bird I am shooting. I have been a hunter since I was twelve years old. That is many years of spending time in the mountains and fields! Yet, no matter how much time I spend afield, I always learn something new. Watch an animal, even a bird, for any length of time and I certain you will begin to see things you did not notice before. Observation is an incredible learning tool. My grandmother used to enjoy sitting in a crowded area and watching people. As a kid I could never imagine how watching people could be so exciting and pleasurable for her. Now that I am older and wiser, I think I am beginning to see her point.

I also thoroughly enjoy the challenge of trying to share the beauty of nature with others who cannot experience it firsthand. To capture the beauty of the wild takes a great deal of effort. We have to weather the elements, locate the wildlife, be at the right the exact right place at the right time, use our photo skills, and hope that we got lucky! Plenty of things can go wrong and often do. Perseverance and patience are critical and I am slowly, albeit slowly, learning these important skills necessary for wildlife photographers.

Being out in the wilderness is another side benefit. What can rival spending time in the beauty of God’s creation? Walking through the woods in itself is enjoyable to me. And then when wildlife suddenly appears it can almost take our breath away. I often wonder, how many deer, elk, or other wild animals did I walk by without seeing? These creatures have learned the art of camouflage and stealth out of necessity. Their very life depends on it! When we get a little wet or uncomfortable, we can hightail it back to camp and warm up. These wild animals do not have that luxury.

This week I enjoyed myself as my son and I spent time on the elk range behind our cameras. I love photographing wildlife!

Pennsylvania Elk

I am just back from a week of vacation and another short trip away to the beautiful mountains of Elk County, Pennsylvania. Man, I love the mountains! There is no other placed I’d rather go.

My son, James, and I had a few days to get away since he is in-between baseball seasons. I tease my friends and relatives that I am a glorified taxi driver who doesn’t even get tips! Yes, we are busy, busy, busy, but I’d be bored otherwise, so I only complain in jest. Anyway, we had a few days to get away and it rained about half the time! This didn’t deter us though. We photographed two nice bulls in a steady rain. The bulls didn’t seem to mind us or the rain!

Here are some photos from our trip this week. You can see more of the photos I captured of the PA Elk here.

I hope you enjoy the elk photos because I sure had fun this week!


Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience

Just today a newspaper article in The Morning Call featured our Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience. You can read the article here. This article includes some photographs of the elk taken by my colleague and friend, Dick McCreight.

We enjoy leading these photography experiences and always enjoy being out with our cameras and teaching. There is still time to sign up so consider joining us on an upcoming trip. You can find more information here.

Changing Colors

Have you seen any deer lately?

Their shiny summer coats are giving way to a much darker color. I saw several deer today but did not have my camera with me. One doe in particular was getting much darker and you could see the change taking place right there on her back. It was amazing. The cooler weather signals the approaching fall season. The leaves will eventually change colors, too.

There is still some time before fall arrives, but it is coming. The elk rut should begin in a little over 10 days. Then all chaos will break loose. Bulls will be heard bugling and antlers will start clashing. It is the best time of year in my opinion. And part of the reason is the changing colors.

One of my photographs was published in the newspaper

One of the photographs I took of the bull which was rescued last Thursday appeared in the Endeavor News weekly newspaper. Here is the photograph they used.


I subtitled the photograph, “Free at last” in my blog last weekend.

Carol Mulvihill writes a bi-weekly outdoor column for the Endeavor News and her article this week includes my photograph. She told me earlier today that her article underwent some editorial cutting, so not all the original detail of her article appears in the published article. This is a shame because Carol did a good job of describing what we all witnessed and shared the story of the bull rescue in a beautiful way.

The Endeavor News serves Potter & Cameron Counties in northcentral Pennsylvania. If you subscribe to the online version of the paper, you can view Carol’s article and my accompanying photo. Otherwise, in two weeks the article can be viewed by anyone even without having a subscription.

I hope you enjoy Carol’s article. I was more than happy to share my photo with her to get this amazing story of the bull rescue out to more readers. It seems to me to be the least we can do to inform people of the many dangers to the elk herd in Pennsylvania. I still think about that bull elk and hope that he survives these next 30 critical days and has many more years of vibrant life ahead of him!