Saturday, July 14, 2012

Countdown to the 2012 Rut

This Big Bull Could Rule
Boxley Valley in 2012 
2 Months and Counting Down
The annual elk rut is now just 2 months off. Big bulls in velvet are staging in Boxley Valley. Most days visitors can see the big guys at daybreak.

About mid-September early bugling begins. Most years I hear the first bugle around September 1, but that is very early, and only once. The rut is a bell-shaped curve and there are always elk that start early, and some that persist in the rut through a few estrous cycles.

This year I will start covering the rut in depth about mid-September and follow it until around November 15, at least 3 days a week, and from late September to the end of October I will be there at least 5 days a week.

What to Do Now
Speaking personally, I like to start covering the rut when the bulls are in late velvet -- right about now. This gives me a pretty good idea about the "players" for the upcoming season. Traditionally we have about 5 big bulls that rule Boxley after the initial shakeout.

Cow Elk with Calf "Nursery" at
the Ponca Access Road, July 5 2012
I like to shoot the life cycle too. Cow elk are now bringing out this year's crop of calves about a month after birth. Lately some have been hanging around the Ponca Access providing unusual shots and potential river reflection shots.

Remember to give cow elk room. Note in the left picture. That cow elk is watching me and making sure I don't get too close to the little ones. Get too close and she will attack.

Other Subjects
Doe and Fawn Crossing the Buffalo River at Ponca Access
This years drought has the Buffalo River at nearly record low levels. That is bad for floaters, but it is outstanding for photogrpahers. Low water concentrates the wildlife. If you post yourself at a river pool you can catch animals when they cross the river. Many of my very best animal pictures have come during low water.

This year, for the first time in many years, the Boxley Beast will not be around. He was arguably the biggest bull elk in Arkansas history and provided many with hours of entertainment across many years. Last fall he provided one hunter with a day of entertainment.

The bull pictured above will definitely be in the hunt. I need to watch him a bit more to ID him, but I think this is his first year as a major bull. He has distinctive small points behind his eye guards, I think he will be at least a 7x7.

Prince (left) at the 43/21 Intersection in Fog
Prince survived last year's hunt and is back sporting double drop tines with double points. He will not be as perfect as last year -- one of his eye guards is tipped down. He is larger. He remains a national-class trophy elk, the one who should be pictured on every elk brochure. At 8x8 (so far), it appears that he will be at least the point leader, but there is always the mystery of who might arrive, usually around October 1.

If you visit to see elk, they are at both ends of the valley and there are bulls around the 43/21 intersection. If you make it at daybreak, drive slowly. Elk graze on the roadsides and could bolt in front of you. Give them and yourself a break.

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