Monday, August 26, 2013

8/24/13 Elk Herd Location Map

The map below shows the location of 5 different elk herds in Boxley Valley. This will vary from day to day, but it is enough to say that there are a lot of elk in the valley now.  

Watch out for roadside elk, noted in red bulls below. The number of elk near the road is now very high probably due to the heavy morning fog.  Be very careful. 

The buildup to the rut continues.  Start your countdown.  Every year recently I have heard the first bugle (only one) around September 1.  The BIG DANCE is around September 15. 

I will be publishing a few tutorials on elk viewing.  Most will be interested on tips for witnessing bull fights.  The first fundamental is to just be there around the middle of September as much as you can.  

The bulls are now scraping velvet and soon will be pulling in close to the cow herds. The stage is being set. 

August 24 2013 Elk Herd Map

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bulls in Velvet in Boxley Valley Fog

2013 will no doubt be the year of some odd looking bulls. I caught these guys in early morning in pretty dense fog. Not much of an image, but you get the idea.

Bull Elk in Velvet 2013
August Bulls in Velvet

Friday, August 23, 2013

2013 Elk Rut Season Timetable

I have been watching the elk rut a long time in Arkansas. The following bullet points lay out the rough timetable for the remainder of this year:

  • Bulls Scrape Velvet -- Yes this is not the rut, but it is the sure sign it is just around the corner. Velvet scraping starts roughly about mid August and continues up to the rut starting rougly in mid September.
  • Early Rut -- Very late August to about the second week in September. Remember the rut is a bell shaped curve. The first in can be outliers, way out on the lip of the curve. Twinforks is an early rut bull.
  • Peak Rut -- Biologists object to this term, but there is a time when the rut really heats up, and the prospects for seeing a great bull fight is good. The first bull fights are generally the most violent because they are setting the pecking order.  These fights begin late in the second week in September and extend to about the second week in October.
  • Arrival of Huge Bulls -- Around October 1.  Just about the time you think you are seeing all the big bulls, the really big bulls arrive. Look at their bodies, as well as their antlers. When two of them square off, it is epic.
  • Late Rut -- After about mid-October until around the end of December rutting continues, but the intensity gradually tapers off. Elk viewing remains very good, and the big bulls are evident, but fights are less likely. The latest fight I have ever filmed was around November 9. 
If you want to see a bull fight you will need to visit Boxley Valley often. If you plan to stay or camp, the best percentages are from the 3rd week in September through the second week in October.  If you see a bull fight, you will never forget it.

Introducing Two 2013 Bull Elk

People who read my blog know I name bull elk, something that some object to, but I get way more positive feedback than negative. Visitors like to ID the bulls as a sort of "bucket list".

The most interesting and eccentric bull for 2013 I call "Droopy". His left antler swoops down more than any bull I have seen.  Last I saw Droopy he was still scraping velvet. He will be in the fight this year for a harem.  I wonder how he will fare with that left antler. (Look at those flared nostrils -- he was tracking.)

Below is Twinforks. Look for his forked tine on the left side and a tipped eye guard. He is an easy ID. First rutting bull of 2013, waaay early. 

Butterfly Shooting is Very Good Now

If you visit to photograph the elk herds, you will definitely want to have a secondary target in mind.  Summer heat is back and the elk will be gone by 8 or 9AM.  My favorite second subject at this time of year are butterflies.  Early rains have created strong summer wildflower blooms. For some reason hummingbird moths are thick this year in many places.

Below is my favorite hummingbird moth picture so far. I call it "pollen puss". My standard strategy for this sort of photo is to pick a flower composition I like and just wait, often for hours. I would say this photo took me 6 hours to get.  As always, there is plenty of luck in getting a decent photo.  I chose a top lit flower in this case for an out of the ordinary compo.

First Rutting Bull for 2013 -- Rut a Month Off

The real action for the 2013 elk rut is weeks off, but as has been the case for now the 3rd year running, Twinforks is the first rutting bull, and he is at least 2-3 weeks early. This year he is bigger and his antlers are larger.  He has a distinctive forked tine on his left antler. Last year his antlers were smaller and he had 2 forks.

This morning he was down by the old sawmill across from the Boxley Church. Fog makes photography difficult. I shot him today at ISO 2,000.