After taking a week away from photographing the elk herd in Benezette, I was getting anxious to go back. I decided one more trip was in order and after seeing a lot of activity the previous weekend, I knew exactly what I wanted to capture on this day. On Monday, 10/3/2016, I awoke at 3:00 a.m. in order to make it to Benezete before daybreak. I ran into some fog on the way but once again, the valley in Benezette was clear.
October is when the elk rut slows to a stop and the bulls are magically friends again but it hasn't reached that point as of October 3rd. Bulls were still gathering small herds and bugling back and forth. In this final photo blog of the 2016 Pennsylvania elk rut, I'd like to show how the bull controls his herd when it's time to leave the meadow and enter the woods for the day.
In the last three blogs I talked about photographing the animals until they went into the woods. My goal on this day was to document that process. There were two bulls and two separate herds for me to photograph in the meadow this morning. The bull in the next photo had a small herd of nine elk cows and calves.
However, the bull in the next photo felt that his herd wasn't large enough and promptly came in and stole the other bull's cows. Remember, it is October 3rd and these bulls are probably tired and sore from the action of the last few weeks. Team that with malnourishment and you will have bulls that aren't interested in fighting.
The first bull left the meadow only to return later and gather a portion of his herd back. That leads me into this first video lasting about eight minutes. It begins with a couple young bulls calmly crossing the creek. Afterwards, I watched the bull with the large herd chase some cows around while answering bugles from the bull that ran about 1/4 mile away to the other end of the meadows. You will see the bull across the field attempt to corner a cow but she runs back to her herd. Turn your volume up to listen to the calves talking in the crowd. One calf in particular is very vocal and at one point, it sounds like it is mimicking the large bull's bugle. I have to smile when I hear it. Then, you get to see how the bull moves his herd in the direction he wants them to go. Obeying every command, they eventually cross the creek and enter Elk State Forest. I personally think this is one of the better compilations I made so I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
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Now that you've seen the video here are a few stills of that herd.
I was positioned in the creek 80 to 100 yards downstream from the crossing site. Even at that distance, a look like this makes a person wonder about your safety.
One look is all I got before he paused for a drink and then attended to his herd.
These two cows and a calf paused in the middle of the creek to take some time to groom the calf.
So, remember the bull that ran to the other side of the field? He returned and picked up a couple cows and a young spike on the way. This short video shows him taking his herd in the same direction as the previous bull.
One of his cows was the piebald that we watched the previous weekend.
Here she is in the Goldenrod on her way to the creek.
It is typical to find a young spike in a bull's herd. They aren't a threat and are basically ignored.
Finally, the big guy slowly crossed before heading into the forest.
This was the fifth and final photo blog documenting my experiences during the 2016 elk rut in Pennsylvania. I hope you enjoyed them and felt the thrill of the bugle through my lens.
In case you missed any of the previous four, here is a link to view them.
9/15/2016 - Sights and Sounds of the PA Elk Rut
9/24/2016 - The Beginning of an Elk Country Weekend
9/25/2016 - Dominant Bull and Frustrated Wannabes
9/26/2016 - The Meadows Are Full of Elk
Until next time,