Elk Rut beginning, Photographers delight …

Bull Elk, The Look
Bull Elk, The Look

It’s close to the time of the Rut, for Elk and Deer world wide. If you have an opportunity, it’s a great time to shoot some real action. Here in the mountains of NC we have herds of deer in Cades Cove at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and on the North Carolina side of the park Elk put on a show in Cataloochee Valley.

Bull Elk sparing for herd dominance, Cataloochee Valley
Bull Elk sparing for herd dominance, Cataloochee Valley

We use a long lens as well as a wide angle in the event the activity gets in close. One of the 18-200 lenses is a good bet, as sometimes changing lenses takes too much time. Another option is to have two bodies – one with a long lens on Tripod and the other housing a wide angle.

Here is an excerpt from a recently published article in the AAA Go Magazine http://carolinas.aaa.com/sites/GoMagazine/articles/archive/2014/12/29/elk-of-cataloochee-valley.aspx?zip=28721&stateprov=nc&city=clyde&devicecd=PC

It’s 7:30AM and an eerie bugling sound echoes through the valley. Mist hovers overs the open fields, hardwoods rise sharply toward the first light just edging over the mountain peaks. My heart is racing. More bugling, then another off in the distance. We’re here to catch a glimpse of these wild creatures, racks 4-5 feet across, towering over the massive chestnut body of the Eastern Elk…

Fifty years ago these wild creatures roamed unabated in these areas of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park near Waynesville, NC. Indians hunted them, settlers came and hunted them to extinction. About ten years ago, they were reintroduced to the Cataloochee Valley, once a prosperous proud settlement of the 1860s. The test to return Elk to the park and a more natural balance is working.

Bull elk in Waiting
Bull elk in Waiting

Today a thriving herd of Elk live among the restored homes, the old church, school and outbuildings. And they are a photographers’ delight – especially in the fall, the time of the Rut. The velvet on the antlers is gone, replaced by smooth implements of battle. Battle for dominance of  harems – the female Elk. A time of breeding. A time of growing the herd, and survival… Facing off with the older dominant bulls, young bulls challenge the right to the herd — but, in skirmishes the dominant bulls do not go quietly. Throughout the valley their bugle echoes the sound of battle, and warning off — ‘this is my territory and my girls – approach only with caution. Don’t test me!’ This is the rut.

For information on trips to photograph the elk or just watching them contact the Grytten at bobgry@aol.com or 828.627.0245

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