Friday, November 5, 2010

2010 Arkansas Elk Show Continues, Eagles Arriving Soon

I spend a lot of time in Boxley Valley, the unrivaled hot spot for elk viewing and photography in Arkansas. It ranks right up there in the US as an elk viewing destination because of its ideal habitat.  The geology of Boxley Valley pushes elk herds into the open, and close to roads for viewing and photography. Quite often when someone discovers Boxley Valley elk for the first time, they will mention to me that they had been going to Colorado to see elk, and likely would not do it again.

Whitetail Doe Crossing the Buffalo River
The reasons they cite for preferring Boxley Valley elk viewing are many. First, it is nearby and therefore very affordable. Second, few places in the US offer so many other free venues to explore and enjoy nature in the heart of the day when the elk are bedded down. Third, compared to more famous venues, visitors to this area do not fight crowds. Fourth, if they rent a room or cabin, it is very affordable. Fifth, the people they meet in Arkansas are welcoming and share old time values about civility and community. Visiting here is pleasant, and people will treat you right, mostly because they treat everyone right. It is a way of life.

But what to do now that the peak of the annual elk rut has passed? Well, actually elk viewing will be very good for months yet. Many of my very best elk photographs are from after the peak rut until the April 1 antler drop.  Generally I have the valley to myself during this period because everyone assumes that the best is over, there is no reason to visit. This is simply not true.

 Post-Rut Sparring Can Be a Good Show
Today was a pretty good example of post-peak rut photography. My shoot began with taking pictures of a very good sparring match between two medium sized bulls. They put on quite a show for about 10 minutes and provided some great action shots. After that I checked one of my favorite spots and caught the end of an elk crossing of the Buffalo River.  These late rutting animals are not as energetic as they seem during the peak rut, but any elk shot in the river will be pretty good. During that crossing, a whitetail doe decided to cross the river right in front of me, moving slowly across a reflecting pool illuminated by fall color along the river. When the crossing was over I had 400+ shots and was quite satified with the day. Driving out of Ponca I noticed two trumpeter swans on the Ponca Mill Pond and got some decent shots in filtered light.

Late Rut Still Provides Dramatic Photos
All the above happened in less than 2 hours. At the end of the day I had nearly 800 shots. Truly if I were not so busy now on other projects, I would have taken a couple of hundred more pictures before noon. There are too many good pictures to get right now. It is hard to make choices.

There is not a better time to be here. It is perfect hiking weather. Wildlife and elk viewing will be excellent for months. Later this month the bald eagles will arrive from the north to overwinter adding to the show. The river is quite low, but this means that it is easy to hike. Fall color shots in the reflecting pools of the Buffalo River are often quite dramatic. There is no shortage of choices for nature lovers.

18% of the population of the US live within two tanks of gas of this national treasure. The Buffalo National River was voted on the the top ten least known national parks that everyone should see. This is a great time to see it. There is literally plenty to see and do in every season. This time of year is prime time.

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