Photographing Elk in the Smokies Fall Rut


I had forgotten about the article I had submitted to the Asheville Citizen times. Here it is…

Photographing elk in the Smokies during the fall Rut

“It’s 7:30 a.m. 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.”—Bob Grytten, Go Magazine

September is prime time for The Rut, breeding season for elk and deer worldwide. That makes it a great time for photographers to shoot some real action.

In defense of their “harems” of cows and calves, the bulls (male elk) bugle and rub trees, shrubs and the ground with their antlers to intimidate other bulls, occasionally waging battle.

Here in the mountains of North Carolina, elk put on their annual show in the Cataloochee Valley in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, a site WNC photographer Bob Grytten knows well. Grytten is known for his nature photos and leads field photography workshops in the mountains. He’s also leader of the Lens Luggers, an informal group of graduates from his workshops and other photographers.

For photographing the elk, Grytten said, “We use a long lens as well as a wide angle in the event the activity gets in close. One of the 18-200 (zoom) 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.”

For information on tips to photograph the elk or deer — or just to watch them — contact Grytten at or 828-627-0245.


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