"You are so lucky to live so close"....... These are words that we have muttered dozens of times for various reasons. I recall muttering these words as we biked a beautiful trail. We have muttered these words as we kayaked a beautiful stretch of desolate backwoods water. We have also said it as we sat with fellow photographers overlooking a family of nesting Bald Eagles on a mountain side. Now don't get me wrong I'm certain many people have muttered these same words to us because of the beautiful area we live in. Early this morning I was set up next to a small field watching as the fog lifted exposing a small group of bulls feeding on some tasty grass. I thought to myself, "I sure am lucky to live so close". This morning was once again an "in your face" reminder of the beauty that surrounds our home in Elk County.
Every time of the year holds it's own charm and excitement for a devout elk fanatic. Mid July does provide a bit of a challenge when photographing elk. The hot afternoons aren't times that you are apt to find groups of elk gathered in fields. While it's true you may find a straggler here and there crossing a road or grazing in a field but these will be rare sightings. Now if you care to crawl out of bed before the big light introduces a new day you could be in for a treat. Same goes for the evening as you are most likely to see groups out in the fields grazing just before dark. This also means you will be shooting in low light so a fast lens and tripod are essential.
Mid July also means that you'll most likely find large bulls grazing together but separate from the groups of cows and calves. These large bulls seem to be best of buddies in mid summer. Mid July also means the bulls are reaching the peak of their antler growth. At this point the velvet is thick and plush and fully intact and the tines are still somewhat rounded. Mid July is a wildlife photographers dream because of the beauty of the antlers and at this time of the year the coats are absolutely beautiful.
Friday evening we photographed 4 nice bulls in a nearby field. One of the bulls was particularly interesting to us. Earlier in the spring we had photographed a bull only a couple miles from here. This particular bull had a very unusual new antler growth and we had hoped to track his growth throughout the year but we could never locate him after that evening. After spotting this bull Friday evening we are convinced this was him. He still has a rather unusual rack but it ended up much better than we had expected.
This is how he looked in April
Here he is in July
Definitely a strange looking rack
Saturday morning I was up before light and headed out for some early morning shots. I first checked out the field where we had shot some bulls the night before and sure enough there were some beautiful bulls grazing. I shot many frames of these elk and then moved on.
Captured minutes before total darkness
Curly sure has a beautiful rack
He's really enjoying breakfast
Now that's a bunch of Bull!!!
My next stop was on Dewey Road. As I conversed with a few folks from Juniata we watched a group of elk out in front of us. There were 2 or 3 calves in this group of cows. As we glassed the next hill over we we saw maybe 50 more cows and a handful of calves. What I found especially interesting is how vocal these elk were this morning. I honestly have never heard so much barking, yelping and bugling outside of the rut season. I was zoomed in on a cow when she let loose with a bugle that would rival a large bull except for the deep belly grunting at the end. What an amazing morning! We are so lucky to live so close to this magical place!