Photographer's Journal (September 24, 2021):
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is famous for its large populations of various fauna minus one. However, this once extinct species to the southern Appalachian Mountains is making a steady recovery thanks to conservation groups and the National Park Service. Hunted to extinction in the late 1800’s elk were lost to the Smokies for over a century until a new population was reintroduced from other national forests and parks.
This bold effort to reestablish the herds has found a solid footing in the Smokies and produced several growing populations who call the mountains home. You can view these animals in their natural habitat as with any national park. This makes the Smokies a wildlife photographer’s playground, giving them ample opportunities to photograph their subjects easily.
That was the case as my fellow photography friends Carson Fox, Chris Bainbridge, and I headed into the park to photograph elk in early October 2021. We didn’t have to go too far before we found two large bull elk tangling in an open field for the right to command a harem. While most of the other photographers were focused on the clash of the titans, my attention was drawn to a younger bull who was taking full advantage of the distraction to make his move on a few grazing cows.
I found this tenacity rather appealing as he kept a close eye on the ensuing battle knowing once it was over, he would have to make a hasty exit; for the larger bulls outweighed him greatly, similar to a Ford Escort versus a Sherman Tank. However, he remained undeterred as after each retreat, he would slowly advance again on the large battle-ready bull’s cows.
During one of his recesses from his sly advances, I captured his image of taking shelter in the nearby treeline, longing for the day that he could have his harem of cows. As I snapped the shutter, I wondered if he would ever think back on this day after collecting his cows and give a future adolescent bull a chance for romance.