Friday, November 30, 2012

11/30/12 Elk Herd Locations

Elk herd locations remain pretty steady at the close of the month. Patterns for the recent week or so remain constant. My guess is that the available grazing is pretty narrow this year due to the drought and the army worms and there are not as many field choices. 

Expect great viewing to continue. Bald eagles are now starting to arrive so keep an eye out in Boxley Valley, especially on the tree lines along the old mill pond. 

11/30/12 Elk Herd Location Map

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

11/27/12 Elk Herd Locations Unchanged

The herd locations near Ponca, and at the 43/21 intersection fields are unchanged. In this cold weather viewing is all day long in most cases, but best at the ends of the day when the animals are more active.

The bull herd that is about a mile north of the mill pond is also pretty stable, but the bulls do not hang around long after the sun hits the fields. If the all bull herd is your priority you should visit early.

The updated elk map is below:

11/26/12 Elk Herd Location Map

Sunday, November 25, 2012

11/25/12 Picture of the Day -- The Boxley Stud

This is the big bull hanging around the 43/21 intersection. He is the "Boxley Stud", and he is the biggest bull in the valley this year. In this picture, I was fortunate to get him quite close to the road. He, the cow, and the calf in the background sense an intrudcr so they paused their grazing to have a look.

Trophy Bull, Cow and Calf 11/20/12
 This Big Bull, the "Boxley Stud" is VERY viewable at the 43/21 intersection

11/24/12 Elk Herd Location Update

After a few day break for Thanksgiving I am posting the herd location map.

Viewing is VERY good. The biggest bull in Boxley Valley is at the 43/21 intersection field and last night at least he was very close to the fence. This is a rare treat to see a legitimate 9x8 bull up close.

A small herd has shown up in the Ponca Fields again.

I believe there is still a herd in the back fields in the south end. It is worth checking to see if they show up around Smith Creek one of these days.

See the 11/24 elk herd location map below.

11/24/12 Elk Herd Location Map

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

11/21/12 Map & Holiday Outlook

As promised, here is today's up-to-date elk herd location map.

These herd locations are pretty reliable through Thanksgiving. I expect to see another herd pop up farther south -- I could not locate it this morning so I think it is moving or on a back field for now.

All visitors should check all the way down to the south trailhead with any visit. There are 2 herds jammed into the area near the 43/21 intersection. Expect them to spread out, and my guess is one will head further south. Time will tell.

Today's herd locations are below:

November 21, 2012 Elk Herd Locations

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

11/20/12 Picture of the Day #2

When you are given great cross light you know it. It is definitely something given. This little guy was part of the herd moving south today. The RAW image was so sharp it could hardly be improved on, a pretty rare event. This little guy is from the 2012 crop of calves.

Calf Elk, Boxley Valley 2012 Rut

11/20/12 Elk Herd Locations

So what is going on with the elk? Today is moving day. I have seen it dozens of times and it is pretty hard to predict how it will all turn out.

First, the huge herd that has been in the Ponca fields has moved (at least) to down by Beech Creek, just north of Cave Mountain Road. That is a big move basically from one end of the valley to the other, about 5 miles south. I am sure it is that herd because the dominant bull is "Little Fork", a bull I have been chasing all year. Given the size of that herd, I expect it ultimately to end up in the Smith Creek field. BUT, they are not there yet, and they don't work for me. It could take another day or two to complete the move. Not likely they will turn around and head back 5 miles north.

Second, the smaller herd run by the "Boxley Stud" has also moved south about 3/4 of a mile. He (they) could stay in the field bordered by Moore Creek (near the 43/21 intersection), but it is not clear. This herd is on the south end of the fields they have been rotating through, so they could go back north.  While herd #1 above has moved 5 miles, this herd is only about half a mile away from its normal hangouts.

The bull herd that has been in the middle valley is now just north of the mill pond. They have been ranging around that area for a while now.

So that is it for now. I will have an updated map and a Thanksgiving weekend forecast tomorrow. For today, we just need to sit back and see what happens. I do expect viewing this weekend to be very good, but it will probably be concentrated in the south end after having been more in the north end for a few weeks. This change will baffle people who don't follow my blog and maps.

If you come before I get the next map published, be sure to visit the south end of the valley all the way down to the south trailhead. It sure looks like that is where at least one herd is headed. For the time being the reliable Ponca viewing is done.

More later.

11/20/12 Image of the Day

Today is moving day. No point to do a map because it is already wrong. The herds that were in the north end of Boxley Valley are heading south. I caught them moving from one area to the other this morning, and along the way got real close to the Boxley Stud, this year's big bull. Here he is "winding" me as I lay on the ground in front of him about 30 yards away.

I expect the herds to move to the south fields today or tonight. They are outstanding for elk viewing. Only tomorrow will tell for sure. They have been in the north fields for a long time, they were overdue for a move south.

Trophy Bull Elk, the "Boxley Stud"
The "Boxley Stud" Winding Me

Friday, November 16, 2012

11/16/12 Picture of the Day -- All Bull Herd

There are still 3 or 4 bulls rutting with cow elk harems, but the same gender herds are forming in Boxley Valley. This is a picture of part of one of the all bull herds. There are now two. 

This morning the herd positions remained unchanged. If you want to see or photograph the herds, there is nothing quite like the early morning. I was back home today before 8AM. The elk were still out, but they slowly move away from the road.

All Bull Herd, Boxley Valley November 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

11/15/12 Picture of the Day

This was take a few days back. This monster bull elk is sniffing the air for an estrous female. The cow elk on the right is keeping her eye on him.

He remains in the rutting pattern, while some other bulls have transitioned to a post-rut pattern. These  seasonal patterns always blend like this. This bull, the Boxley Stud, is a 9x8, is a monster, and you can see him around the 43/21 intersection.

There is now a pretty large all-bull herd in the middle valley. Early visitors to the valley will often see these big guys grazing right along the road. This is a definitely a great wildlife watching and photographic opportunity.

The Boxley Stud in November
November and December Elk Viewing is Outstanding

11/15/12 Weekend Outlook & Elk Herd Locations

Elk viewing remains very good, easily on par with the peak of the 2012 elk rut. Bugling is fairly common and there are plenty of elk to see in Boxley Valley.  This weekend should be outstanding, the herd locations have been very stable for some time. Cool weather has really extended viewing.

The herds remain at the Highway 43/21 intersection and points north. Lost Valley remains in play.

Modern gun deer season is underway so the elk are pushed forward a bit by deer hunters along the river. This actually can improve elk viewing. If you hike in, "orange up" and watch for hunters.

When you visit, expect skittish deer all along your route regardless of the time of day. Remember one deer may be trailed by another, especially a leading doe with a trailing fawn. Slow down when you see deer crossing and give them a chance.

The 11/5 map is below:

11/15/12 Elk Herd Locations

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

11/14/12 Picture of the Day

I don't take too many of this sort of picture, but this big guy is just a beast. This is the Boxley Stud up close and personal. 9x8, a true trophy elk for a photographer. He proves that the best photography is still out there. I heard him bugle this morning a dozen times. Nobody told him the rut was over. He has me in his cross-hairs.

I am publishing the map less often now, about 3 times a week. Today the elk were in the same location they have been recently. Look at yesterday's map for details. Plenty of great opportunities for amazing photos.

The Boxley Stud Up Close and Personal

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

11/13/12 Picture of the Day

The biggest bull in Boxley Valley is the Boxley Stud. He remains an active rutting bull along with 3 others at different locations in the valley. To get close to this animal you need to get to the valley early. He may be out with his herd later in the day, but generally he will be far away from the road later in the day. This is a great 9x8 bull elk.

11/13/12 Elk Viewing Remains Excellent

While everyone imagines the elk season is over, that is far from the truth. As I have written many times, this is prime time for photographers and elk watchers. The only thing that has tailed off is bugling, but viewing is very good.

Modern gun season is underway for whitetail deer, so if you visit be on the lookout for deer that are running everywhere now and all day long.

The elk herd map is below. 5 herds are active in the valley below. All bull herds are beginning to emerge and these are a real treat for antler fans. There are still rutting herds finishing up the second estrous period.

11/13/12 Elk Herd Locations

Friday, November 9, 2012

11/9/12 Moving Day

A big herd showed up this morning in the north-most Ponca field, and a second next to the Buffalo River on the south end. Today was a change day and I think there is more to come. There are at least 2 herds I cannot account for.

The 11/9/12 elk herd map is below:

11/9/12 Elk Herd Locations

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Today's Picture 11/8/12

This bull elk, "Little Fork", was the herd bull in the Ponca Fields herd. This picture is of him crossing the Buffalo National River moving his herd far south in an uncommon move through multiple zones in a single day. 

The bull is always last when they move. The lagging cow elk and her calf  are at the end of the line with a few shag bulls. The herd is heading for the south end fields, time will tell where they end up. 

11/8/12 Major Elk Herd Shift, Ponca Fields Abandoned

This morning marked a significant change in the elk herd locations in Boxley Valley. The elk herd in the Ponca field that has been very reliable has left due to grazing cattle. This morning I filmed a dry river crossing near beech creek and the herd was headed south. I expect them to show up down by the river at the south end of the valley, and possibly to end up in the Smith Creek field that has been kind of dead lately.

This herd is moving between zone 4 and 5 as shown on the map. The exact timing is a bit hard to predict, but it should be complete by the weekend at the latest.

The Smith Creek field has been cut for haying. I would guess that will happen today after things dry out. This will have an impact on where the elk finally relocate. They could go farther south down by the Upper Wilderness Trailhead to avoid the haying.

Otherwise elk viewing locations remain the same. Dates and locations are on the map below.

Elk Herd Locations 10/8/12

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

11/7/12 Elk Herd Locations & Notes

Elk locations remain stable for November with 3 herds visible in the valley. Viewing is now nearly all day long with some exceptions. The best herd to view is in the Ponca Fields, and second best is down by Moore Creek on the south end.

Remember to check Lost Valley. With the elk located at the south end of the Ponca Fields, Lost Valley becomes part of the normal field rotation.

Specific locations are listed below.

Monday, November 5, 2012

11/5/12 Elk Herd Location Report

The pattern of the last few days, and in some cases weeks, continues to be stable. Elk viewing is very good with 3 herds, and a small bull herd staying out pretty much all day long. Today's rainy weather will extend viewing probably to all day. Elk love rain and cool weather.

All three herds are pretty good sized. It appears that some consolidation has taken place. There are perhaps over 100 elk now in the valley in view, about 25% of the Arkansas elk herd.

11/5/12 Elk Herd Locations in Boxley Valley

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Picture of the Day 11/4/12

There are many ways to take pictures of elk. Context is important, but there is also telling the story of a day in the life of an elk. Here the biggest elk in Boxley Valley, the Boxley Stud is bedded down for the morning with two cow elk, each with a calf.

This is a snapshot of bedding down after the morning grazing has stopped for the most part around 10 AM today. These elk will be pretty inactive until the evening grazing begins around 4 PM. This is a pretty standard pattern in the late fall. Just one month ago this bedding down was done out of sight at remote bedding areas.

Big elk and harem bedding down in Boxley Valley
The Boxley Stud & Harem Bedded Down 11/4/12

11/4/12 Elk Herd Locations & Notes

Lots of elk this morning between the entrance to Lost Valley and the Ponca Access. Many bulls and lots of bugling. The setting seems ripe for a bull fight today or tomorrow, but only time will tell. A second nice herd is just north of the the old sawmill on the south end.

Perfect weather has many visiting the valley today. Be careful to park off the road and watch for pedestrians.

Whitetail deer are running everywhere due to the hunt. I had deer run in front of my car both to and from the valley today. Watch for deer and drive a bit slower.

Elk Herd Locations 11/4/12

Saturday, November 3, 2012

11/3/12 Elk Viewing Remains Very Good

Elk were out pretty much all day long today. The herd in the field up close to the Ponca Access continues to be the star of the show.  This has been a stable pattern now for a couple of weeks.

I will have an updated map tomorrow.  Rest assured, if you come to see elk you will see them. The mild weather has extended viewing times. Morning and evening viewing remains the best -- they are very active at those times.

There were huge crowds in Boxley Valley today taking advantage of great elk viewing and perfect hiking weather.

Friday, November 2, 2012

11/2/12 Elk Herd Location Report

Elk herd locations remain pretty stable. Outstanding cool weather has led to longer viewing hours, but reliable viewing is still at the ends of the day.

4 herds were active in Boxley Valley this morning. Viewing remains mostly from the 43/21 intersection to the Ponca Access. Lost Valley remains possible and it worth checking.

The 11/2/12 map is below:

Elk Herd Location Map 11/2/12

Elk Herd Locations 11/2/12 in Boxley Valley near Ponca

Thursday, November 1, 2012

11/1/12 Elk Rut Continues Strong

The Boxley Stud at Sunrise
The Boxley Stud at Sunrise 11/1/12
Elk viewing and photography remains very good heading into November. This is not that unusual because the elk rut slows down very gradually. There will be rutting behavior for at least another month, and it generally extends into December. I have many good photographs for this period. As I mentioned in another post, if you like big bull elk photos we are entering prime time.

There will be bugling and the occasional bull fight all through November. One of the best bull fights I ever photographed was taken in the second week of November. My point is that there is plenty of action ahead.

Today elk were located all across the valley. There were 5 herds active and scattered elk elsewhere, many of them bull elk.

As the rut slowly winds down, more maverick elk are evident as they disconnect from herds and begin to form all-bull herds. This is a gradual process over a couple of months and it generally completed in mid-December.

The November 1, 2012 elk herd location map is below:

Elk Herd Locations 11/1/12

11/1/12 Elk Herd Locations in Boxley Valley

11/1/12 The Late Rut & What's Ahead

Where Are We At Now?
At the beginning of November the rut is slowing down, but it is far from over. There will be big bulls "running cows" until after Thanksgiving, and there is usually a bull or two that will still be rutting in December. This means that the rut actually stretches out to 3 months, even though it peaks in October

Bull in Rut in Lost Valley in Heavy Frost -- 11/25
The annual fall elk show lasts longer than most believe. Cow elk return to being "in heat" until they are successfully bred on 30 day cycles . So there are multiple overlapping cycles until the rut is done. October is the peak, but the second smaller estrous cycle is in November, and there is a much smaller one in December. The handful of very small calf elk you see in the valley now are 3rd estrous calves and were probably born in August. 

I photographed a bull fight in mid-November, and I have seen bull fights at the end of November. Bugling continues, but it is less common. 

Late rut elk watching is in cold weather and it often lasts all day long. I still prefer early and late elk viewing because the elk are more likely to be close to the roads and active. As a photographer I also prefer the light early and late. 

Bull Elk Photography Gets Better
Bull elk photography actually improves as the rut slows down, and it continues to be very good until the antler drop in April. The reason is that post-rut, cow and bull elk split into sex-based herds. This means that all-bull herds begin to form from the end of the rut, and they last until the next rut. For serious bull elk photographers, this is a bonanza of big bull photo opportunities that don't even exist during the rut. 

Big Bulls Sparring in March (Big Bull Herd)
All-bull elk herds tend to further break down by the size of the bulls. There is generally a big bull herd, basically 5x5's and bigger that will form. I consider getting pictures of these bulls to be trophy shots. If you are an antler fan, there is nothing better. 

Another part of post-rut elk watching and photography is snow and frost. In snow, elk are illuminated by reflected light from below. It is true that snow makes a scene more contrasty and a challenge to get, but opening up the dark areas on an elk's neck is always a challenge and snow or thick frost can actually help with fill light. 

Post-rut bull shots should be on everyone's "bucket list" for viewing or photography. Pictures of big bulls in groups happen at no other time.