Elk Photography by the Season

This workshop covers photography by example photos from every season, some seasonal issues, and some strategies and solutions.

Elk River Crossing November 2010
Elk Pawing for Food in Boxley Valley

Taken February 9th, 2010

Taken November 9th, 2010

Fall -- The Rut

Winter -- Post Rut

Spring -- Antler Drop (April 1) & Calving (June 1)

Summer-- Bulls in Velvet,

Late Calving & Pre-Rut / Early Rut
Herd-class bull elk in late velvet

Shot July 4th, 2010

Everyone assumes the elk rut is a late September to mid-October event, in reality the rut extends from early September to the Thanksgiving, and some years there are bull elk "running" cows after Christmas.

As a photographer, I would rate November and December as great months for great elk photography -- as good as September and October. As the rut nears its end, big bull elk form bull-only herds offering

multi-bull photo opportunities

. The bull herds last well past the antler drop in April.

Winter begins December 21 or 22 depending on the year, the annual antler drop is not until early spring.

There are rare rutting bulls with herds until the January 1.

Bull elk form herds generally organized by the size of the elk. It is common to see 4 or 5 huge elk in a single group, or a larger group of somewhat smaller elk in a group.

These are great photo opportunities. I have pictures of very good sparring after the rut.

Mother elk with 4 day old calf elk

Early spring antlered bull photos are still possible, but by about the first week in April, the antler drop is complete. (Yes, taking sheds is illegal on federal lands.)

Around the first week in June is the peak period for elk calving, but births continue for a couple of months later. Cow elk return to estrous until they are mated successfully in the fall, and in turn, calf births extend into the summer.

Getting a cow elk picture with a newborn calf is difficult. It is also dangerous.

Summer is a time of transition. Bull elk finish being in velvet, and in mid-August begin scraping it off.

Freshly scraped antlers will look ivory white until they air dry to a deep brown. Around the first week in September the very early rut begins. At that time the elk herds begin to blend back together.

Early rutting bulls are seldom the final herd bulls. That will be established in early fall when the biggest bulls traditionally arrive.

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