Head-to-Head in Elk County

Bull elk sparring (photo by Paul Staniszewski)

Looking for some excitement?  Want to see large animals go head to head this fall?

This week Paul Staniszewski of Elk County reminded me that the elk rut has begun.  He wrote:

Labor Day usually marks the end of summer. For the Pennsylvania elk herd the shortening length of daylight hours each day triggers an annual event known as the “rut”. The rut usually lasts from late August until mid-October.  ... A lot of sparring between bulls takes place that makes for dramatic photographing opportunities.

Male elk bugle and spar to establish dominance in the mating hierarchy.  They're so preoccupied that Paul has captured some great photos, especially near the Visitor Center on Winslow Hill Rd in Benezette.

Benezette is a 2.65-hour drive from Pittsburgh so you might want to make a weekend of it.  Plan your trip and learn more about the elk here.

(bull elk sparring by Paul Staniszewski)

17 thoughts on “Head-to-Head in Elk County

  1. What a fantastic photo! We are fortunate to have such a place to view these magnificent animals! It is worth the drive! I really enjoy Paul’s photographic skill!

  2. We were in Benezette at the end of this past March. We didn’t see any elk near the visitor center, but we saw them all over town! They were walking through people’s yards, eating the shrubbery (it was a cold snowy winter last year), and ruminating on the lawns. It looked like they were domesticated but I’m sure they were just the local wild herd trying to survive Winter’s last gasp. We’ve been hiking in the PA Wilds in the summer, but you rarely see the elk then…we saw more elk in that one day than we’ve seen in our entire lives.

  3. Beautiful Picture! Paul does a great job at capturing these images. This photo convinces me to make the trip to Benezette. Maybe a trip on the Goldwing next month sounds good.

  4. This is an amazing opportunity to see these beautiful creatures and perhaps hear the males mating call. I saw and heard the male in a nearby field as I stood in a neighborhood yard with many females and it was a powerful experiance. Paul Staniszewski’s wonderful photography brings these beautiful animals to life and I recommend this not to be missed adventure.

  5. Paul’s picture of these very large and beautiful elk is most outstanding. I have had the opportunity to have a second home in the range of these magnificent animals and watched them all though the winter months. Then in late February we went horn hunting to no avail. I certainly do recommend a trip to the Elk viewing center in Benezette, PA It’s a special exciting time for these animals at this time.

  6. Paul Staniszewski’s Elk photography (and macro photos of wild flowers, by the way) is one of a kind. Paul has photographed a bull elk from 10 feet away from him. This one of elks sparing is an action shot that draws the viewer’s eyes, checking out the detail that is one of Paul’s specialties. WQED educational television reporters, all of us reader viewers, would do well following Paul’s photography of wild outdoor wonders.

  7. Staniszewski’s photo’s help to remind those of us who can’t get to the area very often just how remarkable and important it is for us to have and to preserve the elk in PA. Such magnificent animals, a true treasure.

  8. Great article…I started going to the Benexette area 25yrs. ago to see and try to photograph the elk. With some luck getting a good photo but nothing to compare to the breath taking photos Paul Staniszewsti is able to capture, from these two sparing bulls to a new born calf in the grass. We all need to do all we can to support the preservation of these beautiful creatures…Thank you for sharing…

  9. Great Article…Paul Stanszewski’s photos of these magnificent animals are breath taking from these sparing bulls to a new born calf lying in the grass. Photos like these show us the beauty of these creatures who were gone from this area for years. Now we have them back and we all should do everything we can to preserve the Elk herd in PA…

  10. The photography I have seen has brought the Elk into my life and an appreciation for the beauty and grandeur of the animal I have never known. I have not been able to go see the creatures and cannot at this time, but very much appreciate the opportunity Paul has given me through his photography. Many people I know have never seen the Elk, so near to home…..they are missing a fantastic part of their world.

  11. Paul’s photography is just awesome! He captures nature at its finest with exquisite detail. Looking at his beautiful photographs makes me feel like I am present in the place where they are taken, and helps me appreciate the splendor of the elk which I have never seen in person. Florida is nice, but it cannot compare to the changing seasons of the year that Paul captures so eloquently with his photography skills! It makes me realize how much I truly miss living up North.
    I only hope that these amazing creatures can remain in the Benzette area for many years to come.

  12. Mary Ann’s comment above reminds me of the times I spent in Benezette 20+ years ago – a friend had a hunting camp and then built a log cabin up off 555 on the west side of town. I saw many elk and even heard one bugle in July (on a foggy early Saturday morning)!

    The description of the elk in yards and eating shrubbery only brings to mind one thing – that the people in Benezette call them “NUISANCES”!

  13. This is a fantastic shot! Paul does an outstanding job, not only in capturing these majestic animals in great poses, but the quality of his photography is excellent! Thanks for sharing!

  14. It is good to see Paul’s excellent work on this blog. Pennsylvania Elk Country is a fine place to visit and experience these magnificent animals without traveling to the western states.

    Mary Ann’s experience is not unusual with Winslow Hill elk. I have traveled to the area frequently since 1995 and spent substantial amounts of time documenting the Winslow Hill herd which has resulted in the release of two documentary films on Pennsylvania elk, “The Truth About Pennsylvania’s Elk Herd” and “Running Wild In Pennsylvania Elk Country”. Based on my experiences in making these films I have found that the Winslow Hill and Benezette elk populations are wild in that they are free to travel where they desire, but most of them are completely acclimated to humans and have little to no fear of them.

    While filming the section on elk management for the “Running Wild Film”, I have seen hunters fire into herds of elk near the Winslow Hill/Porcupine Run viewing area and the elk paid little to no attention to the shooting. (when I say fire into herds I mean they were shooting at a specific animal they had picked out and were not firing indiscriminately into the herd) In one case it was 45 minutes after the hunters killed a cow from a large herd before the animals left the hillside where they were grazing and went into the no hunt zone. In another instance two elk were shot soon after dawn and the rest of the herd continued feeding in the area until another hunter killed a cow a substantial amount of time later.

    I have noticed the elk seem to be more spooky this summer, but I expect that to change with the onset of the rut. It is good for animals to have a healthy respect for humans, but there cannot be satisfactory elk related tourism if the animals flee at the sight of humans.

    As for the Benezette residents, if they derive money from tourism it seems they are more tolerant of the elk and are less tolerant in many cases if they do not.

    Willard Hill
    Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *