Arkansas Wildlife Blog and Gallery
Buffalo National River and NW Arkansas
Elk In Transition Period, Fall Color Done
About this time every year I take a deep breath and begin to feel relaxed about returning to a relatively normal pace. There is a huge backlog of work from the last 6 weeks or so that I have barely touched. I would estimate that in those days I have taken something like 15,000 photos, of both fall color and the elk rut. Whew. I have mixed feeling about moving to printing and organization, but that is part of the business. (I realize most reading this would like to have my problems taking pictures all the time and all.) I promise not to write too much about myself, I think mostly that is boring and not why anyone visits this site. So anyway, I am backing off, and catching my breath.
Elk Entering Late Fall Winter Pattern
In November we transition from late rut into the late fall and winter pattern for the Boxley Valley elk herds. Fans of antlers (most photographers) can rest easy that the bulls will be keeping their antlers for about 4 months. The antler drop is in March (or so), meaning, you can get great bull elk photos for many months yet. If that is what moves you, in many ways, this is the very best time to see lots of bulls because they herd up, and are not fighting all the time.
The late rutting herds can extend past the first of the year, but it is in sharp decline now. If you look closely at the Boxley herds you will see a handful of very small calves. Calving typically happens in June, but obviously it extends well into late summer. The biggest calves are twice as large as the smallest calves.
Post Rut is Prime Time for Bull Elk Photos (except fights)
This time of year the bull elk will form at least two herds in Boxley Valley, one of very large bulls, and another of all other smaller bull elk, usually including animals up to 4x4s or 4x5s. The trophy picture is of the big bull herd. I have a handful of these, and they are the big, old dogs, 5x6s and up. One bull this year is just huge. I never saw him rut, so maybe he is just too old. But he is a stately animal and a great photo. His body is huge, another clue that he probably didn't rut. This actually makes him more photogenic.
It bears repeating that the bachelor bull herds don't hang around in the daylight as long as other elk herds. Your only chance is from daybreak to about 8AM. They just retreat to cover. There may be exceptions, but you are hunting big game now, and you will have to work hard to get the shot. If you get the shot, it may be of 5 or 6 huge bulls all in a group. You just can't beat that.
Location of the Bachelor Herds
The bachelor bull herds are seldom north of the intersection of 43 and 21. The counsel I have offered to cruise the entire valley definitely holds. My best and only bachelor bull herd shots have been from the 43/21 intersection south to the trailhead to the Upper Wilderness. There will be elk in the north end of the valley, but the bachelor herds are not interested in cow elk except during the rut. They head back north in the valley in August and September as part of the pre-rut pattern.
Expect these bulls often to be tucked away along tree lines and in the corners of fields. Unless you are very alert, you can drive right by them. Drive slowly and be observant. Remember it's daybreak to 8AM.
Boxley Valley Photography Post Rut Fall and Winter
Medium sized bull elk in winter pattern down by Boxley Church. This was taken from the road, nearly laying down, hand-held, with manual focus.
Small bull elk in the small bull elk herd.
Biggest bull elk of 2006. I had to creep along a fence line to shoot him at 150 yards. This was in the very small field just south of the Boxley Bridge. I stalked this animal for weeks.
Rare December bull elk fight during bachelor bull period. I guess it was temporary insanity, but this fight went on for 20 minutes and it was not sparring. There were no cow elk around, usually required.
The big prize. I shot these in the second to last field down by the south trailhead at over 200 years. This is the picture of your dreams if you are an antler fan.
2008's monster bull, he probably didn't rut. Huge body, great coat, superb antlers. Definitely a must get photo. Field near church.
Spike elk in winter down by Moore Creek
Early light crossing this fine bull provided me one of the best shots of my year during leaf off (and the back cover of Arkanas Wildlife Magazine). Look for interesting light, try something different. Wildlife photos can be artistic with a little imagination.
One of the huge elk of Boxley Valley in winter 2006. This was down by the south trail head. Obviously it had to be manual focus. A beautiful animal, the river right behind him.