This morning I got up bright and early – 4:30am – to head over to the Boxley Valley near the Buffalo River. A friend and I decided to make a run over to see if we could get a look at some elk. We arrived at the valley right before sunrise and began to scout out locations. We saw a pair grazing in a roadside ditch. It was still just a bit to dark to get any good photos so I parked my jeep about a 100 feet away and hiked towards the pair of young bulls. As cars passed by, I just hoped they would stay close until the sun came up. One at a time they wandered across the road, over a fence, and down into a meadow. I thought for sure that we had missed out, but hiked over towards the spot where I had seen them leap over. From the roadbed I was actually above the meadow and got a chance to see them both clearly visible above the wall of foliage along the fence.
The most amazing thing happened next. They carefully, even gently, began to spar with each other. There was no crash of antlers or huffed snorts, it was more of a quiet ballet.
Occasionally the pair would stop, and look our way. Then they would look back at each other and continue the dance.
Dodge, thrust, parry, block – and then another glance, perhaps to see if we were still watching.
Back and forth, round and round, stop and glance – this went on for about 20 minutes.
Then they were finished, the show was over, time to take a bow.
They both headed off towards the cover of the woods.
The first bull went on through, the second lingered, almost like taking a curtain call.
I photographed lots of elk today, but I was most enchanted by the young bulls I spotted before sunrise. I’m not sure what they were doing, were they practicing for a future rut? Were they raised together in a nursery group? Did they see my camera and decide to put on a show? Either way it was worth it, now I think I’ll go take a nap.
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Fun! Thank you for getting up so early and doing the work so we can experience your wonderful photos and stories.
Haha – I went to bed almost before dark that night – I want to go back over again in a couple of weeks. I’m not a morning person – but they buys are worth it!
Wow, wow, wow! Amazing dance those two are doing. You captured it all so beautifully. 🙂
Thanks – I had never seen this type of dance before so I was pretty excited to get to be a witness. Thanks for your visit!
Great photos, Lorri.
Amazing detail. I think it was just a case of Boys will be Boys.
Don’t you just love it when you capture wonderful chance encounters with the camera lens. You’re able to look at the photos & experience the action all over again.
Thanks Vicki – it’s so true about capturing a moment – I do love that. These guys were definitely interacting with us – that’s the thing I love about shooting wildlife – when they look you in the eye:)
story telling 🙂
These photos are wonderful! I guess they were playing?
Thanks – I think you are right 🙂
Fantastic! We just saw a group of three young male deer a few hours ago and wondered what they were up to. Practicing, I guess.
LOL – thanks! I guess the deer and the antelope are playing:)
Amazing photo! You never disappoint. Hope you enjoyed your nap too. 😉
Thanks – somehow my nap time got away from me – I’ll sleep like a baby tonight:)
Spectacular creatures. You are one lucky chick!
They really are – I got some shots of older males – amazing – about 8 feet long. These guys were just a treat to watch.
Well guess they have to practice some how, and you know how boys are. Any chance to show off. Great pics.
Thanks – I guess you’re right. War games, boys stuff:)
These are fantastic – what a treat to see! It looks as if they are helping each other scrape off the velvet from their antlers. Wonder if it itches? Wonderful – K
Thanks! I wonder if that could be the case. I checked in with the Elk Center ant Ponca and they said they use trees to rub off the velvet. It was almost in slow motion.
Looks like an exciting adventure! Reminded me of when I was in Oklahoma and saw male buffalo going head to head! Thanks for sharing!
My guess: sparring for a rut when they have a chance of pursuing the ladies. They may be feeling the hormones now but the elder bulls will run them off.
I thought that might be it – they were so careful with each other and seemed almost affectionate.
Lovely pictures…so much to see when you get up early!
Thank you! I went over one time last year and arrived at a leisurely 10:00am – just in time to watch all the other photogs head home:)
I love all of the photos and the story too