From my own perspective, the Pennsylvania elk rut this year seemed a bit off and I'm not sure I can put my finger on the exact reason I feel this way. Yes, there was bugling, bulls sparring and fighting, and everything that goes along with the rut, but somehow it all seemed to be on a lesser scale. Last year I took a little over 2,000 photos from early September to mid-October and as it stands now after one month I am at less than half that amount for this year. Perhaps I'm just getting more particular about when I press the shutter button but I don't think that is it.
The dry weather towards the end of summer had many popular food plots in the elk range looking less than lush and this, along with warm temperatures, was most certainly a factor to the apparent lack of activity. Most evenings elk did not come out of the timber until it was nearly dark, too dark for good photography. One of the biggest surprises this year was the areas that always have elk activity, and I mean always, sitting empty and quiet even during ideal conditions. At times it was a surreal experience.
I was able to photograph several bulls that I have photographed in the past and it is always interesting to see how their antlers have increased in size or regressed and to witness how their position in the dynamic of the elk herd has changed.
As usual, the last week or so of September found cows coming into heat and there was an uptick in activity, though not to the degree I have seen in the past. As the calendar turned to October the intensity of the rut seemed to be waning a bit already.
It was still enjoyable 'chasing' the elk rut this year even if it didn't seem to live up to expectations for the most part. Being out in the wilds of PA observing these amazing animals is never a disappointment no matter what time of year and I am thankful for every opportunity I get to do it.