Pennsylvania Elk Country

April 18, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

With the abundant amount of wildlife in the Benezette, PA area it is a lure for anyone who enjoys the wild outdoors or photographs wildlife.  I find that with the exception of Elk, the wildlife is a little more "wild" than more populated communities.  A few times a year my friend Bob Davis and I visit Elk County Pennsylvania to photograph Elk, visit nearby Sinnemahoning State Park, enjoy a good meal at the Benezette Hotel and simply enjoy the day.  Of course some good photo opportunities don't hurt either.

September and October is the most popular time to visit Benezette because of the Elk rut.  The bugling runs eerily through the mountains.  However, Elk are impressive any time of the year.  We make the typical stops at the designated Elk viewing areas.  The view below is near the popular Winslow Hill.

Benezette, PA - Windslow Hill area

Elk Country (Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon 24-70 2.8L, f/9 @ 38mm, 1/400, ISO 400)

 

It seems every time I see a White-tailed Deer in this wild country it only lasts a couple seconds and all you see is the white tail as they flee.  This time, shortly after sunrise, I got a photo from alongside my vehicle.  It was the first time a Whitetail stood still long enough for a photo.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer (Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, f/2.8 @ 300mm, 1/60, ISO 400)

 

As we made stops around the Winslow Hill area we saw several Elk.  To see more photos from this day look at the end of my Elk gallery.

PA Elk (Apr 2013)

Pennsylvania Elk (Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, f/2.8 @ 300mm, 1/2000, ISO 400)

 

This young bull still has last year's antler growth.  It is my understanding that antlers are shed by mid-April but I'm expecting the weight might have something to do with how quickly they fall off.  Notice the unclean look as the elk begin to shed their winter coat.

PA Elk (Apr 2013)

Pennsylvania Elk (Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, f/6.3 @ 300mm, 1/400, ISO 400)

 

 This Elk has new antler growth.  It is important to have a sturdy tripod and a tripod head such as a Wimberley to hold the heavy camera equipment.  It is evident in this photo as it was taken deep inside a hemlock forest and shot at 1/50 of a second.

PA Elk (Apr 2013)

Pennsylvania Elk (Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, 1.4X EF Extender III, f/4 @ 420mm, 1/50, ISO 400)

 

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to shoot a little video to capture the peacefulness of the setting with the sound of a nearby flowing creek.

American Elk

Pennsylvania Elk (Video: Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, 1.4X EF Extender III, @ 420mm)

 

PA Elk (Apr 2013)

Pennsylvania Elk (Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, f/4.5 @ 300mm, 1/640, ISO 400)

 

PA Elk (Apr 2013)

Pennsylvania Elk (Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, f/6.3 @ 300mm, 1/320, ISO 400)

 

The next planned stop was Stevenson Dam at Sinnemahoning State Park. There have been Bald Eagles seen at the dam and we were hoping to see an active nest. We didn't see any eagles this time. Although quite smaller, we got a glimpse of Northern Flickers hunting for insects.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker (Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, 1.4X EF Extender III, f/4 @ 420mm, 1/640, ISO 400)

 

I don't know if it's unusual or not but I have seen many Turkey Vultures this year. After a brief downpour we saw about 30 Turkey Vultures sitting in trees on a hillside. Many were holding their wings out to help dry off.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture (Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, f/2.8 @ 300mm, 1/500, ISO 400)

 

The Turkey Vulture feeds mainly on animal carcasses.  It's red featherless head helps keep it relatively clean while feeding on a messy carcass.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture (Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, f/2.8 @ 300mm, 1/500, ISO 400)

 

The Sinnemahoning Creek was running very fast with all the rain we've been getting lately.  I was able to photograph these Common Merganser before they quickly swam away with the current.

Common Merganser

Common Merganser (Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, f/2.8 @ 300mm, 1/400, ISO 400)

 

Our final waterfowl spotting of the day was this Mute Swan as it dipped its head for plants.

Mute Swan

Mute swan (Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, f/2.8 @ 300mm, 1/2500, ISO 400)

 

After a late lunch at the Benezette Hotel we headed for home.  This all started as an annual trip to watch and listen to Elk during the rut but is quickly turning into a quarterly outing for Bob and I.  It's a 12 hour day for us and it goes by too quickly. 

If you would like to learn more about the Pennsylvania Elk visit a blog by Willard Hill http://pawildlifephotographer.blogspot.com/ for great photography and education.

Dan


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