Just a warning before getting into this. Nature can be cruel. This post will show some of that cruelness that bull elk can have. There is nothing gory or bloody but it can be hard to watch. Just a warning.
Saturday, September 24th 2016 started out like most other late September fall mornings in Elk Country, listening to elk bugles and trying to get some good photos as the elk move about. U-bull (known from the PGC elk camera for his very wide antlers) had me up at 2:30am, bugling less than 100yds from where I tried to sleep. It's tough sometimes in Elk Country, lol. He was in early looking for cows and other bulls. Deer were in as well feeding on acorns that had dropped.
I was able to photograph this same bull a year ago, at basically the same location. This year he has his antlers all busted up.
A little bit later another, smaller bull came in with a cow.
As the sun came out with blue bird skies, the elk disappear into the hemlocks and darker forested areas. It is almost like they are vampires, staying out of the sun on the warmer days.
After lunch, after practicing shooting bow for the upcoming archery season, I walked out to where the elk had crossed and went into the woods, just trying to see what it looked like in the area. That is when I spotted a bull elk, standing in the woods. Back to the house I went to tell the others and to grab a camera. We all watched him standing there, not moving much at all. He did not seem right, as though he may have been injured in a fight. A good friend spotted what looked to be a hole in his side where may have been gored by another bull in a fight.
Photo of the bull standing, his eyes do not seem alert, his ears are drooped.
While looking him over with binoculars, trying to determine what was going on with him is when we heard it, another bull bugling and coming closer. I raced back to the house to get an external mic for my camera. The woods were thick and taking photos was tough to do. As I got to the house I heard a yell "Hurry!!!, he's here. I scrambled back, turned on the video for my camera and this is what I got.
Last Warning - Nature can be hard to watch at times.
The bull with the broken antler, pictured above, came back and fights with the injured bull. The injured bull is knocked down. This is the last time I would see him standing.
The following is more video and some photos from this encounter. Videos first, then photos. Photos were taken in between videos it is not all in order.
The attacking bull left and the injured bull remained on the ground.
After our hearts quit racing from being witness to all this we made some phone calls and in a very short time, we had Pennsylvania Game Commission Conservation Officers on site. We filled them on what we saw and showed where the bull was still laying. The Officer in charge evaluated the bull at a closer distance, taking his time and getting a good look all around the bull. The Officer said that the bull is scraped up but may just be tired from fighting. He said that he would wait until the next day to see what might happen with the bull. It may get up and move on once rested. There was no blood or anything coming from the bull's mouth. If anything were to drastically change, we were instructed to contact him and he would be back.
Later that evening, guess who shows up. He did not go after the bull during the rest of the day but we have no idea what may happen overnight.
The next morning, it was cool and it was foggy. Imagine that for those that have been up to see the elk. Fog is a common occurrence in the mornings there. A nice bull with white tines shows up in the morning.
I photographed him for a bit and then he heads into the woods as we all watched and said to ourselves "leave that bull alone". The next thing we heard was antlers crashing.
After the fog burned off and we had more daylight we were able to check on the injured bull. We found him laying about 20-25 yards from where we last saw him the night before.
About lunch time another bull had come in and fought with him. All he could do in these fights was swing his antlers a little bit. The last two fights that I heard were very short, 10-15 seconds.
Right around lunchtime the PGC WCO returned to evaluate the bull elk. It was quickly decided to put the elk down.
The bull was a 5 x 8 with a lot of mass to his antlers. A quick measurement around the antler bases showed them to be 14.5" around. I could not wrap my hands around the main beam for a good way up the length of it. The bull was extracted and the meat was divided up among those who helped perform that task. We found the bull was gored mid-spine, eliminating the use of his hind legs. He also had a deep flesh at the base of his antlers from a previous fight. This would smelled of rotting flesh. He also had some front teeth busted out.
These animals are amazing. Visitors typically see a very gentle side to them, just moving along like cattle. What many do not see are the intense battles that go on during the rut or mating season, with bulls challenging and fighting each other for the rights to breed. This is not the first time a bull has been fatally gored and it will not be the last.
This was difficult to watch, video, photograph. It is nature and nature can be cruel.