Thursday, October 23, 2014

10/23/14 2 elk herds now visible

In spite of cattle grazing in the north end of Boxley Valley, a second herd has moved north to just south of the elk pullout in the first pasture. This makes 2 herds visible in the North end of Boxley Valley. Heavy morning fog makes evening viewing best. The northernmost elk herd is very close to the Ponca Access. Elk viewing is pretty good and there is occasional bugling when satellite bulls are nearby.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

10/21/14 Elk Herd Location Map

Elk viewing remains best near the Ponca Access due to cattle grazing in the other fields on the north end of Boxley Valley. This morning there were quite a few elk watchers and photographers from many states. Relatively heavy fog made photography difficult. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

10/19/20 Elk Remain in the North End of Boxley Valley

Elk viewing was not good this morning in the heavy fog. The best prospects for viewing remain in the Ponca Fields, espeiially closest to the Ponca Access. Evenings will be best for photographers. It will take a couple of days for the elk to re-establish normal movements since the cattle entered the Ponca fields. Until then things remain pretty unpredictable. Fall color is a couple of weeks off to peak, if it can be predicted. This is the sweetspot of the year for hikers and horsemen due to moderate temperatures for as far out as it forecast. The trail-heads are very busy now.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

10/18/14 Elk in Ponca Field Closest to the Ponca Access

Cattle grazing in north Boxley Valley have pushed the elk herd to the very north end of the valley closest to the Ponca Access. Heavy fog this morning made viewing difficult. They are bedding down on the north end and should return to the same field tonight. Until the cattle move, this will likely be their location.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Cows moved to Ponca Fields, Elk Will Move

Grazing cattle are now in the Ponca Fields, so the elk herd will move elsewhere. Possible destinations could be the northernmost Ponca field, and possibly Lost Valley fields, or some other place up river. Steel Creek could be in play. I will have a look tomorrow morning and report back. Elk hate cattle, this will change their pattern.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Good Ponca Elk Viewing for Weekend near Ponca

Elk Remain in Ponca fields for now over a week. They show up mornings and evenings. This is a mature herd with a herd bull and many satellite bulls. The river remains up, some are floating from Ponca. Weather is to turn cooler Saturday and Sunday, this will only make elk viewing better.  The NPS Old Mill Tours continue 10 to 1 all weekend down by the Mill Pond. Friday and Saturday is the Ponce Elk Education Center's Color fest from 10 to 4:30 each day. I will be doing free workshops on elk photography at 2PM each day. Please call the center to register, seating is limited. Color Fest Brochure is below the map. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

10/15/14 After Storms, Elk Returning to more normal Pattern

This morning the elk were in the Ponca Fields. Last night a good sized herd bedded down near the access road to the Ponca Access. I saw them about 7AM when I went through the area. If you like to float we now have a rare fall opportunity in the upper river, contact one of the outfitters listed at for more information. Elk viewing in the Ponca Fields should be good all weekend. There are 2 bulls with that herd, they are close in size so they could fight anytime. The weather is ideal, after a couple of warmer days temperatures are turning down to the 60's beginning Sunday through Friday the 24th. 

This weekend the 17th and 18th  from 10AM to 4:30 each day is theColor Fest at the Ponca Elk Education Center. After taking a year off, I am doing a free photography workshop at 2PM both days. Please call the Center to reserve your seat. See the flyer below. The timing for Color Fest is ideal, 10AM is about the time that elk viewing ends most days. 870-861-2432. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Elk Viewing Good in the Morning by Ponca before 10AM

Cold weather and no rain has the elk moving again. I think elk viewing will be good tomorrow morning until about 10AM in the Ponca Fields. There was evidence this afternoon that the elk were holed up behind the Bible Camp. They probably moved down this evening, or will tonight.

Monday, October 13, 2014

10/13/14 Elk by Ponca Access Road after Storm, River High

Mandy and I got back from LR late this afternoon and drove through Boxley Valley. The main Ponca Elk herd was just coming out when we arrived at 3PM.  No doubt they holed up during the big rain storm. Not sure how much rain fell, but the river is running quite hard now.  All the waterfalls will be running well for days. Another half inch of rain is predicted for today and perhaps a half inch tomorrow. Our land is saturated I assume it is about the same everywhere. Shooting should be good tomorrow.  The elk will be out if there are no thunderstorms.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

10/10/14 Elk Herd Location Map

Elk Viewing and bugling this morning was good. This maps shows the elk herd locations this morning. 

10/11/14 Elk Bugling Strong this Morning by Ponca

There are 2 rutting bulls with abou 40 cows total near the Ponca Access at the north end of Boxley Valley. In addition, there were 3 or 4 large satellite  bulls hanging around. All 6 bulls were bugling and fussing over the cow elk. The bugling was over by 10AM. I am certain this evening and tomorrow morning will be good for elk viewing and bugling. With all those bulls there is a good chance for a bull elk fight. The Smith Creek field on the south end was empty this morning. On high river levels sometimes herds seem to be blocked from visiting the fields where they can be seen.  This might be true in the south end of Boxley Valley.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

When I don't Post

I think some imagine if I don't post a new map every day they would be flying blind visiting Boxley Valley and could come up empty. Let me say just this, the elk during the rut settle into pretty stable patterns that you can rely on. Right now the Ponca fields north of the elk pullout are quite good. On the south end of the valley the field North of Smith Creek is reliable. These two fields have been best for almost 2 weeks now. Will the elk ever leave them?  Sure, but they don't go far as a rule. Why is this so reliable?  Habitat.  Both areas have outstanding habitat with food, water and large bedding areas nearby. They are an elk paradise. This pattern will hold until it doesn't. When you visit, drive the whole length of the valley and check the fields. Percentages favor the elk being in one of these 2 areas. If they are not, look nearby. Typically elk don't move very far, but they might. Drive carefully, the bulls are still running everywhere. T'is the season.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

10/4/14 Elk Herd Locaoins & Report

The rutting bulls in Boxley Valley have established the herd positions for late September and Early October. The most interesting of these are the 2 herds in the Ponca fields. The bulls for these 2 herds are very well matched up, and should fight often. This size match-up is one of the key factors that increases the likelihood of fights, Little bulls don't fight bigger bulls,  Big diffeences in size is enough to intimidate them. The 2 bulls in question are probably the same age. It was clear last night that a fight was coming. It was setup when a handful of cows wandered off between the two herds.  Bulls work to keep their herds compact, so when a few cows drift off, it is like bait to a competing bull who will run to meet them and this gets him close to the original herd bull. Once the 2 bulls get close together it fires off the instinct to fight. The bulls will walk along beside one another sizing each other up before squaring up to fight. It is very interesting to observe. The fight was of short duration last night. I think these 2 have already fought many times this year. In this cool weather conditions are perfect for the herds to be in the pastures most of the day. Viewing will be best at the ends of the day. Remember that elk don't like heat and sunlight very much. Maverick bulls near the fence seem more common in the morning. There are still a number of these big guys coming into the rut.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Saturday Evening 10/4 Report

Elk viewing this evening was  outstanding.  I witnessed my first bull fight of 2014 in the Ponca Field just north of the pullout. It was brief, but one I had predicted. These 2 bulls are about equally matched and will fight again. Their herds are fairly close together so that guarantees there will be more fights. The valley was full of cars and some bikers.  They heard a lot of bugling and had great opportunities for photos. NPS rangers ticketed people for illegal parking. I have a video of the fight that I will post, I don't think it lasted a minute, but it was the real deal. Sunday morning should be great end-to-end in Boxley Valley. Best in the Ponca Fields.  Got a reliable report on an otter shoot at the Low Water Bridge today.  Be there at 10AM to have good chances to see them.

Herd Bull "Son of the Beast"

This big bull is down by the Buffalo River at the South end of Boxley Valley. He reminds me of the Boxley Beast, a bull I photographed for many years. His antlers are quite similar and he seems to not be too timid and has a gentle nature. The Beast was always easy to ID because he had tall Tines just like this big guy. I got within 30 yards of him this morning. In full size I can see the pores on his nose. Note his irregular eye guards with extra points and a double point on one.

Otter Active Yesterday at Ponca Low Water Bridge

River Otter have been active a lot in the last month just below the Ponca Low Water Bridge (downstream) and yesterday was no exception. Looking downstream from the bridge there is a den on the left bank. The most reliable time is about 10AM.  River otter are a bit hard to spot, but look for wakes and unexpected ripples in the river. Usually as they feed they will work their way up river feeding along the bluffs.  Photographing river otter is an athletic event requiring fast reactions and a fast shutter speed. Expect them to stop and look back at you as in the photo below. There are at least 2 families of otter one with much smaller juveniles. Altogether there are 8 otter I think. Many photographers have shot them recently as a result of my postings about them and conversations.

River Otter Buffalo National River
River Otter by Ponca Low Water Bridge

Friday, October 3, 2014

As October kicks off, there are more elk in Boxley Valley, and many more bulls showing up. 3 herds were visible this morning, but the 2 main herds are at opposite ends of Boxley Valley.  If you want to hear bugling I would rate the north herd the best, if you hope to catch a bull fight, I would say both herds offer great prospect for a fight as new bulls arrive. This weekend the NPS has the old mill open for tours, it is a worthwhile visit. The Boxley Mill is a turbine mill rather than a water wheel. It is an interesting tour. It is located just north of the mill pond and is open 10AM to 1PM each Friday, Saturday and Sunday in October. The mill dates from the 1870s. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Free Wildlife Photography Workshop During Color Fest

This year I will resume doing free wildlife photography workshops at Color Fest on the 17th and 18th of October. This year the topic will be about how to think like a wildlife photographer. This workshop will cover the thought process a wildlife photographer uses to figure out how to photograph a certain species. Elk will be used to illustrate the thought process of working with any species.  This free workshop should be useful to everyone who wants to take better wildlife photos. I will illustrate the talk with pictures and mind maps. There will be a powerpoint that eventually will be posted online. We need to manage demand for this free 2PM workshop, so if you plan to attend, please call the Ponca Elk Education Center ASAP to reserve your seat at (870) 861-2432. If the class  
gets too large I will do a second session. Be sure to leave your phone number so 
we can contact you if necessary about an overflow session. 
October is kicking off with great elk viewing this year. There are 2 rutting herds in Boxley Valley, one on each end of the valley. Both herds have extra bulls hanging around so there is a lot of bugling. In both locations, there is the possibility of a bull fight. See the map below for the locations as noted by the dates. Tonight and tomorrow the weather is predicted to turn colder. The low Friday night will be 39 degrees or less. This cold snap should really kick the rut into another gear. This weekend viewing should be very good.