It took me almost 5 months to collect this image from one of the 29 game trail cameras I keep running in the Wyotana backcountry. They usually take relatively crappy images, blurred, too dark or too light, or just off frame. Each and every image I get off a 150 dollar Game Trail Camera has a host of issues that a 3 thousand dollar camera doesn’t. Of course, I don’t have to leave a 3K dollar camera out in the elements either lololol. I have to fix each game camera image I post within the digital dark room. I literally have to look at 1000 or more images to get one that even has a prospect of making it into my portfolio. This is one such photos. This is very close to the camera for it to be in focus in this moderate light.
I’m thinking he heard the “Click/whir/sound of the camera. This particular camera has a 360 degree circle sensor. If it senses movement anywhere around it, the camera literally swings around inside of the gadget to take a photo in that direction. So it makes a little whirly noise and a click when it goes. I like them because they cover a HUGE area from all angles. I can put one 360 degree game camera out versus 3 or 4 regular game cameras. Humm, tough choice…
It’s really scary when your compositional mind works real time live in the camera….Got it… I had to adjust my position sufficiently to capture these Mule Deer Bucks (all) balancing on the tightrope all and positioned between the fence. Click…. I had forgotten about this image and it languished in my “To Do” folder. Found it!.
So this of course is the second leg of the annual Bliss Dinosaur Ranch All Ungulate Relay. The Deer here are in second place with the Pronghorn having lapped them a few minutes ago. The runners here are all grouped up drafting one another thinking they still have a chance. (their mothers read the the “Turtle and the Hair” as fawns). Persistent/valiant but the Pronghorn are hard to out run.
It seems there used to be some pretty fast Lions, tigers and other cats living in these hills. Those predators were obviously prolific during the last Ice Ace and before here in the Wyoming/Montana borderlands. The most most recent continental Ice sheet (5 glaciations in the last 500,000 years) stopped it’s advance about 20 miles up into Montana from my perspective here on the Bliss DInosaur Ranch. There were LOTS of critters hanging out below the glaciers. The Pleistocene Epoch is typically defined as the time period that began about 2.6 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago.
Paleontologist recognize that age as a time of geologically rapid Glaciations followed by warmer periods in between. A vast and diverse “Mega-fauna” was present within those variable ecosystems. About 11,700 years ago, things started warming up for the 5th time in a half a million years. (Warm periods between the ice sheet advances). BTW… The earth’s various climates (the earth has NO climate, it has ALL climates) were “Changing” every 100,000 years or so. The Term “Cycle” is thrown about loosely these days. I use it here in that I’m glad it’s warm because living here with an ice sheet 20 miles to our north….Might have experienced some “Climate Change” back then. Just saying 🤔 👀
Some tasty morsel in front of him, this velvet antlered Whitetail buck considers the possibilities. Boy I wish we had this grass now. Fully headed, green, what a concept. Not any of this around here now except the deer eating straw with few heads. Yuccas are still providing some flowers locally. My deer may move off their normal range because of the crushed grass from the 2-3 inch hail storm for 1/2 an hour we had a few weeks ago. That plus drought plus grasshoppers have changed the landscape a tad this summer. You can tell it’s a white tail buck as the facial patterns are all different than a mule deer and the ears don’t look like a hairy mules ears. Whitetail are way more gracile than Mule Deer.
This wash drains about 300 acres (1/2 square mile) of ranchland. I believe water has recently up to his knees running in this based on high water marks in the gully. Flash floods are a real thing with all these Mesocyclones lately floating around the high prairie lands. The Wyotana borderlands east of here get’s it worse than we do. After all, there is a map location called Lightning Flats. It got it’s name for a good reason. While Tampa Florida may hold the title for most Lightning ever, Lightning Flats will give it a run on a good day. 😄
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana) (Note: Game Trail Camera Capture)
Have you ever seen eyes looking back at you from the trail? Perhaps you just sensed it…. You know, a chill in the air, the light leaving you, it’s a long way home and your on foot. You shine a light and something is returning some of that light to you…. Humm.
I like images that tell stories. First of all this is a Game Trail Night Camera image. They are all grainy and noisy. I didn’t care because I thought that the story this tells is priceless. A moment the flash went off, the eyes of what ever is standing out there definitely got the attention of the two Mule Deer Bucks in velvet antlers. It’s something that is eyes forward so I’m not going to speculate on what happened next. Eye’s forward reflecting creatures tend to be cats. I wasn’t there to get the context of the shot though. Facts are this was taken with an automatic camera at 4am. I was just getting ready to work the sunrise barely at the start of my day, these guys were already doing adrenaline for breakfast.
I found no sign of a kill anywhere near that camera so likely this was just a harmless encounter. Deer Predation does occur up here by several creatures. I won’t make any speculation as to what it is but it sure got their attention for this particular moment in space and time lol.
Rare to put a B+W up on a Prime Time like Sunday Morning…. Holy Game Trail Camera capture batman. This nice young male deer who looks to me as my old friend “Goal Post”. He has for the last 4 years been a “buddy” of mine out in the backcountry. He is obvious by his lack of a brow tine on his right antler. (over his “left” eye as you see it). “Goal Post” has had his entire life documented in my portfolio. He is definitely a wild deer but is tolerant of me historically. So here he is sampling some tasty morsel at JUST the right distance from this automatic camera.
His body heat set off the camera. By standing fairly still he came in very clear. So of the 10K (yes 10,000) game trail images I looked through today, this is in the top 20 of the pile. The lighting, the textures, the windmill, the buck…. be still my heart. Of course the big problem with night (Infra-red flash) images is that they tend to be fairly grainy. This one is no exception. So I limited it to 18 inch square or smaller. This was a 2×3 aspect now a square. I collected Game Trail Camera Chips this AM waiting for the clouds to dissipate to the north at 4AM. Can’t take a photo of a comet you can’t see lolol. I kept busy. I serviced 15 cameras before dawn. (the easy ones lolol).
I look forward to seeing “Goal Post” during the day as I haven’t yet. I will figure out his current routine eventually before winter changes that again. He is likely to be a pretty nice deer this year. He is 4.5 years old now. Next year is his prime. Ignore the windmill, “Sneaky Pete” does a lot of photobombing around here. Any attention give him more reason to photobomb more.
You can always tell the setting versus the rising moon. Look at the three small bottom craters on the moon lower right. They are pointing to 3 or 4 o’clock. That is a setting moon. The rising moon will have those three craters pointing at 12 o’clock. Another way of knowing is that the “Man in the Moon” is going to sleep laying his head down to the right if so, it is the end of the night. If the “Man in the moon”s face is upright, then it’s a rising moon.
The Buck Moon here is colored by the effect the atmosphere has on the reflected sunlight. I pursue Full Moon still above the horizon with enough light to capture a close stand of Jack Pines for the close / far perspective aspect of this capture. Mostly you get silhouettes doing this with most gear. This particular image was my second of three chances I worked the July 2020 moon. By capture far this has the best color for the moon to wear out on the town for all to see. It is of course a major influence on human behavior, perhaps it’s operating in condition orange like the rest of us down here on earth ☹️ . Some are in Condition Red…..
The moon has been consistent in it’s behavior throughout all historic human issues here on Planet Earth. There are certainties in the universe. I suspect the moon is watching our silliness now with a tear in it’s eye. Regardless… It will be continue acting as it does long after we are gone. 👀 🤔 📷
Algonquin tribes of what is now the northeastern United States called this full Moon the Buck Moon. Also called the Thunder Moon because of early summer’s frequent thunderstorms. It lived up to the latter name as several thundershowers moved through the area during it’s time full this month. The Europeans call the July Moon the “Hay Moon” for the activities this time of year in the fields. Also coined the “Mead Moon” for the honey gathered in it’s making.
The Silhouette here is a result of a setting Moon settling behind a thick cloud back at the horizon. (Actually the earth is spinning, the horizon rising with the moon relatively stationary but don’t worry about the way things really are 😜 ). All occurring during early morning twilight with it’s dark western sky. Little light was available for the camera to see the cloud. Only a silhouette offered it presence to be known.
The moon being close to the horizon, the atmospheric lens effectively distorting it’s normally sharp edges. This was the color of the moon during this particular encounter with it. The moons color is all about the color of the light making it through the atmosphere to my lens. This weekend provided me 4 weather windows to the moon rise. A different color of disk appeared for each timeline. I have more files to download from this months limited opportunities to catch the full moon low to the horizon. I worked it every opportunity I was given.
I call this Moon/Tree Surfing. Actually it’s me riding the moons “Shadow line” on the opposite parallel ridge. The higher ridge between me and the moon gives me a 500 yard distant foreground with the moon somewhat further behind that. I will drive along these ridges looking for places where the moon thinks he’s not being seen. Unsuspecting…. So I catch him carefully resting on the local vegetation as here. He’s just lifting off as he saw me. He certainly doesn’t need some high plains paparazzi posting his photo in the “Post” sitting down on the job. I me he has a strict schedule to keep and many things rely on the Moon’s time keeper.
From a strictly technical viewpoint, I get to do this kind of daylight illuminated foreground and the moon behind only once a month on average.. Some months the window is closed entirely by weather. Clouds do a good job obscuring what I know is going on behind them. Fortunately this was a very clear evening of July 3rd. The moon appeared full for two sunsets (3rd and 4th) plus a sunrise between. It was definitely a weekend to photograph the moon if you have the gear and the inclination. The air has been clear lately to boot making the “Seeing” on the moon’s surface good enough maybe to get out my big lenses from storage. Humm… 🤔
This is a Whitetail buck that was going to our water tanks along with the rest of his herd of 6 other bucks. A boys club as it were. By the time I got position on them (light), they were in deep brush with this one being the only one cooperatively posing for me. He wasn’t too worried as he kept on chewing the tasty morsel he had in his mouth. That’s pretty good for this jumpy species. Spring here is a land of plenty with a lot of lush green vegetation. The cellulose equivalent of jet fuel. 😜
Velvet refers to the skin covering the growing stubs of antler bone growth. That covering is rich in blood vessels supplying nutrients to the dividing cells. I believe this a 2 year old based on his body size so he may start looking better by late August. He is still growing.
I haven’t seen that many Mule Deer around the Homestead this spring. It’s starting to make me wonder where they are. There are been a lot of Pronghorn about. I’ve heard when the Whitetail move in, the Mule Deer Pack up and leave. I point out Mule deer are much better hunting / bigger / less skiddish etc. Whitetails running are one of the most beautiful images to witness live. This guy was just hanging out when I wandered by. Even they will get used to me if they keep a schedule by the water tanks.
This is a Game Trail Camera capture from one of my favorite locations. Several game trails all lead to this choke point. Everybody has to climb the hill to get out of the wash / deep gully system here. The trail is well marked and well beaten for a backcountry path.
A young Whitetail deer Buck stopped to investigate a morsel just below him when he triggered the camera. He could have stepped about another two feet higher up on the slope though lol. His coat is shedding seriously with the suble lighter tan thick winter coat falling away. The leaves the more reddish tan undercoat. White tail have NO black on their tail. This is the easiest way to tell the from Mule Deer. They are entirely different animals. I know the difference well and occasionally mis-identify a species.
The knobs he is sprouting on his forehead will develop into full fledged antlers within the summer. The skin coating is termed “Velvet”. This supplies the growing bone of the antler a rich supply of blood to nourish such rapid growth. This was taken in Early May. I often go months without revisiting camera remote to anywhere lol. I occasionally find one I forgot about too but fortunately I usually think the same way twice about location. After all the only real control you have over your game trail automatic camera is WHERE you put it.
Taken closely within the group as it passed next to a well planted quality Game Trail Camera. I hadn’t checked this particular camera for a few months. Having said that, this capture is fairly recent in early June. The Whitetail here all have fat cheeks full of things to chew on in this timeline. There are other captures of course but this one best suited me. I like images looking over the shoulder of a close animal to others in the group. It’s very tricky to do with a telephoto but this Game trail camera did a great job of it for me lol. I love this shot
Whitetail are not easy to approach in my experience. I’ve never been able to penetrate a Whitetail herd with my rig. (work right in the middle of a deer herd surrounded by animals) I have been surrounded by a herd of Mule Deer Several times working them from all angles up close and personal with telephotos at 20 feet. So I’m happy to get inside this herd if only with an automatic camera. This is as close to a Whitetail deers Point of View (POV) as you can get I’m fairly sure.
This deep forested wash we find ourselves in here drains about 300 acres. It can get flashy floods rarely. Generally I would term this gully LUSH based on local standards. The soil is rich in the bottoms here. Mineral grains of sand from the Cretaceous River Deposits eroded down from the hills plus a bit of wind blown glacial Loess (Google word for the day).
Yes here you are looking at the Pronghorn Team for the Annual Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, All ungulate Triathalon Team Competition. I’ve already seen the Mule Deer working on their marching for the entrance to the venue as well. The Whitetail Deer, while ungulates too, tend to not show up on time as their clock is set differently. But the Pronghorn and the Mule deer will probably go head to head.
Now the Pronghorn can certainly Out run the deer on the overland part of the Triathalon. But they are less adept at swimming where Mule Deer Clearly have the edge based on past events. So it’s about even going into the Bicycle Phase. That’s usually where the event falls on it’s face, or sides, or head or ass….. We have never had a completed/finished triathalon here.
We have high expectations one of the guys will figure out the breaks. No opposing thumb was the grumble I heard. That is just a rumor though and you shouldn’t place much emphasis on it. Pronghorn are always rumor starters.
“Getting your Ducks in a row” is pretty tough I have heard. I have found getting Pronghorn in a row is somewhat less common. I have seen deer walking side by side much more. We will see how big the event is this year.
As I get eyebrow close to a lot of wild animals these days. My truck is accepted by many local inhabitants as just another Black Creature grazing on the prairie. It’s a wonderfully appointed mobile blind for me to work the creatures that haunt these prairie highlands and ridge country. Most of the local critters let me move around without changing their natural behavior resultant of my presence.
Animals don’t see much traffic out here. But they are usually aware of your presense. I caught this doe (those are ears not horns) looking back at me while looking the other way at the same time. Not to mention the left ear is strategically pointed my way to listen to the tunes one a Sirius XM channel I’m pretty sure. Good tunes are hard to ignore in the backcountry. But to be able to see behind your head would certainly be an evolutionary advantage. They have a 320 degree width of vision. This is super creature wide vision. Fish eye lens times two lolol.
This one is shedding as you can see a roll on it’s neck and the scruffy look along it’s back. Still early in the summer for this shot. These Pronghorn are quite the dressers when they get in top shape by the end of summer. The Fall outfits are smooth and properly covering for the cold months to come. Now it’s spreading to the wind lol.
This is an unusual capture of this Pronghorn Buck was relaxed so much. He bedded down as I was machine gunning his movements with a very fast camera. Rapid fire pictures are something I do from time to time. Picking and choosing shots is tricky and you do miss things now and then lol. I’d way prefer to “nuke em’ from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure”. (Classic Reference”). Rapid fire cameras that can take 50 high resolution photos in just a few seconds are miracles of technology. They do use up some disc space though lol.
Nice Horns ! This Young buck is still growing his horns larger even this late in the spring. Horn sheath growth in Pronghorns is a unique characteristic among ungulates in that they actually have horns. All others don’t lol. They shed that sheath yearly. I seldom find them… They don’t shed them here, they migrate south and drop them in the Thunder Basin National Grasslands.
While Horns are hollow, composed of keratin… basically the same as our fingernails.. Antlers are made of bone. Pronghorn have different headgear that most North American ungulates. . The horn composed of a slender/flattened blade of bone grows from the front of the skull forming the permanent core of the horn. Retained the core is. The pronghorn leaves only the sheath behind. I RARELY find them shed on my place. They usually shed after they migrate to the Thunderbasin National Grassland 30 miles south each winter.
Random opportunities occasionally side track me. The sun was going down in 15 minutes. I was JUST out my back gate still on ranch on my way to an overlook a few miles down the road. A “slight” detour occurred. When a small group of Pronghorn got my attention. They were scattered widely across one of our pastures. (We have a big back yard). This guy caught my eye. I was moving along on the gravel, continuing just past this gorgeous male Pronghorn. Presented with his shadowed side, I had a plan.
After sitting (clicking) for a few minutes on road, I then proceeded to move into the pasture. Down through the ditch, (open pasture) I slowly worked around this guy. Ariving on the sunny side of my subject with “Close” being a goal… ( I could have easily photographed him from the shadow side… nah…) A lot of sun shine is a good thing. Having said that, the sun had just disappeared behind a low cloud bank here.
Successfully working around a Pronghorn while in a vehicle is not common even for me whom they should be familiar with……… (It took over about 10 minutes to get around him). Then only 5 minutes to go before solar touchdown on the horizon, he decides to lay down!!!! 😵 He took his left front knee with the rest to follow. He rested there a good 10 minutes which took us into twilight. (I was 50 feet away at the most) . I have NEVER had a Pronghorn I was this close to, relax and bed down. ….. I’ve had them stand up dozens of times upon my approach though lolol.
He did finally stand back up and moved off bored I believe… I can’t believe how comfortable he was with “Clever Girl” idling on and off with a low throaty rumble on approach driving through high grass. (noisy) . Then boredom hit me…. Moving off to salvage the sunset (Twilight) I had ignored to take about 200 images like this. You have to chase the light you have lolol. Sort of a “Love the One your With” scenario …
I’ve seen a lot of various looks from Mule Deer before. Few this precious as from this doe. It is obvious her look was annoyance with me. I’m patient though and tend to wait out such attitude. It wasn’t long before she was back grazing with the group around her exhibiting normal deer behavior. They more or less are accepting my Black Ford Raptor as just another Big Smelly Black Angus moving across the Prairie. I seldom scare the local wildlife or push them intentionally. I have found that if you pressure wildlife, they will run from you next time you see them. So for me to get really close to the wild inhabitants of Wyotana, I have to be very respectful of personal space.
Most of the Does are VERY pregnant this time of year. The wheel of life is turning seemingly with a quickening in the late spring. The quantity of newborns born at one time assures a new generations. Deer have a few predators up here but human’s riding their machinations account for the majority of deer fatalities. In the two decades I’ve driven extensively in deer/pronghorn country, only a few over a dozen deer have been “hit” by our families cars. Less than one a year average. We have never filed an insurance claim from a deer impact.
Having discovered early on putting a custom made front bumper / crash bar/ deer bumper on any vehicle that will support it is necessary. Cars… no reason to put a 500+ pound chunk of steel on a Toyota lol. The pickups and SUV’s that we own are all graced with a significant steel front end. Hitting a deer at 60 mph or so is no fun certainly for the driver OR the deer. Bright bright bright headlights help too. Being able to see a 1300 pound Black Angus at night on a gravel road is a good thing if you are traveling. Cleaning a deer you hit at speed off your vehicle takes a while. Trust me on this. My son lost a passenger Mirror from swishing past a deer. They do hit you in the side sometimes ☺️
Textures are revealed within the grain of the 80+ year old weathered wood. The Old Buck wagon is holding a place of honor (in his mind) a mile out from our homestead in our “boneyard”. It shares residence there with a host of other ranch utilitarian items deemed too important a resource to bury. The custom of the early days of pioneering in this country was typically to toss broken / un-fixable things into a nearby gully and call it good. Cracked cast iron with a mix of glass bottles in the mix. Some of the latter I do find intact from a known 1930’s homestead long since gone.
I’ve found abandoned two track roads leading to collapsed dug out houses in this country. Many have come before us in this high harsh ridge line environment. Life is easier down in the river valleys. Land was relatively free far from the electric grid and telephone in this remote high ground in the backcountry of Wyotana. Wagons as this were a critical technology that provided a lifeline to civilization. Providing ultimately all the products broken and discarded into the aforementioned nearby gully.
These wheels turned until they didn’t. Existing parked here a decade of decades. Now cattle rub against it, eventually breaking each and every piece of this historic relic. Living on a ranch in a semi-arid “steppe” environment preserves wood. Living with cattle on the ranch, destroys wood. The steel fittings last on. Wood to dust, steel to rust is the way of things.
Oh the stories this old Buck Wagon would tell if it could only communicate. This ranch settled in 1906, apparently everyone stayed in tents for the first 3 years. So goes the lore. I wonder how many trips to “town” carrying freight this old truck of the day made.
History tells us settlers purchased sugar more often than any other single product. Sugar used in cooking and baking certainly, but large quantities of it were necessary for preserving fresh seasonal produce in the days before refrigeration. Salt too. Canned goods were certainly purchased in some quantity. Women who used canned goods were often looked down upon . Judged by those 90 percent of the others that did their own canning at home. Other complained cans gave the food a “tinny” taste. Salt, feed for the stock, fabrics for the gals and blue jeans for the men were all passengers on these worn wheels.
I understand that this particular region far away from the next closest “big town” That would be Gillette Wyoming. In 1891, Gillette was founded. The coming of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad was the start.. Called “Donkey City” or “RockPile” at the time, Gillette I’m sure was quite a place. Population of the 70 mile distant town in 1910 was 511 souls. A trip 70 miles by open wagon would take a few days with overnights on the trail. Meanwhile up in Wyotana, 2 “General” stores were located right at 15 miles distant. Facilitating the trip with a team of horses the rancher did. All strapped to the front of this old buck wagon. Certainly it would be a long day trip on the open wagon.
The Rain Shafts over the Barn on the Historic Parks Ranch in Northern Campbell County is classic. I used a telephoto shot about a mile out for the perspective across 40 miles of landscape with a 20 miles wide river valley between ridges here. The ridge in the shadows is only about 3 miles out . Weather over the far ridge. The ridge in the pink light is 40 miles out.
This is about 4 miles from our ranch. That direction is the closest drive I have to make to get to an asphalt road. The next closest paved highway is about 12 miles from here. These guys are my closest neighbor at around 4 miles from my homestead.. It’s 70 miles to the closest traffic 3 way light from here. The trip to those hills in the distance would take you an hour. I’ve had meeting I’ve driven to Casper to many time. (4 hours or so drive). Distances are big out here to go anywhere but where you are lol.
The Historic Parks Ranch is now part of a larger cattle association. It is managed under the Trail Creek Grazing Association. Old original buildings out here. In this remote backcountry were certainly built out of locally milled wood. The rough milled wood from cut from the local old grown pines. The original of homestead there is HUGE and finished around 1920 I understand. The 1950’s marked the last updates to the main house. Still utilized for hunters with year round caretakers living on site. That barn is classic.
Location: A few miles from The Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
With all the cold weather lately, this image came to mind that spring isn’t that far away. Spring 2019… Bedded Deer Bucks chewing what ever goodies they regurgitated. … yumm… The grass that time of year is a wonderful brown/green color, the deer have all new coats. Their rapidly growing antlers are covered with the capillary blood vessel rich “Velvet” covering the bone under supplying it with nutrients.
Sometime later in the year they antlers will stop growing. The velvet starts to itch and they will rub those antlers tearing the velvet to ribbons. They will rub on any bush or tree unlucky enough to be in their path. Deer rubs on trees are good signs of deer activity and you can usually tell how recent they were.
Reminder: Photographic Musings (memorize this)
Terms you need to know: (F-stop) is your aperture size. The size of the “pupil” inside your lens. Big pupils (low fstop numbers) lets in a lot of light but your depth of focus is thin and shallow. (the eye is in focus but your ears are not). With a high F-stop number, you get a very deep field of focus/depth of field. The whole face and the trees behind the face are all in focus. This is because a high f-stop number makes a very small pin hole for a “pupil” in your lens.
F-stop is one of three settings you adjust in Manual mode. It is a double edged sword, deeper focus field comes from having a small aperture “pupil” which means less light. Light is what your balancing here. The other two settings (ISO and Shutter Speed) compensate for what your doing with f -stop in this case.
These 5 were caught in early twilight. These deer were up watching the sun go down with me. They were ridge lined and I was able to maneuver way below them about 100 yards out and Click…. I know this this grouppretty well as they are seen almost every sunset walking between their grazing area and one of my water troughs. We keep that water available all year (for the last 20).
They are pretty used to me being around but are still quite wild. They don’t come down to greet me you might say but I can get pretty close if the conditions are right….. As long as I stay in my vehicle anyway.
There is a whole little deer melodrama playing out pretty much all year but you really have to watch and pay attention to see it happening.
Remember F-stop? It was very low light. To freeze them in space and time, you need at least 1/200th second for a walking deer. You either give up F-stop (depth of focus) or ISO (camera sensitivity) I gave up f-stop as the detail in the sky behind wasn’t critical….. Though it was sure impressively fully involved with the long wavelenths that made it through the atmosphere. Getting a longer depth of focus is what F-stop does along with either letting in more light or taking it away with higher F-stop numbers.
A little out of season but it helps me to keep the spring in perspective. This last winter was 6 months long. It started Oct 1, 2019 and is just ending here in early May. Green Grass is upon us.
Taken 2019, this image has been sitting around in a “To Do” folder for about 6 months. I’ve got older images than that to finish. Job security on those days when you don’t quite have enough newly taken images that are worthy of your or my time. There have been a lot of ‘clear sky’ days of late which I tend not to work very much. This particular day was an exception however.
The Grass was totally coated with Rime snow and frosted beyond my normal experience. The Buck was in rut thusly pursuing the doe scenting the air actively at the time. Generally the temperature was up among all the bucks hormones flowing freely in the air.
The fairy tail landscape was so bright that even the sparkles in the foreground appear muted by comparison. The “reflectivity” of the landscape was about as high as I’ve ever seen it that morning. The effect is not as obvious here in this capture but to call this a sunglasses moment would be appropriate. I was trying to capture the sparkles in the foreground and had to keep the exposure dark (ish) to show them off. They were phenomenal to me at the time.
A mere 10 months ago, this Mule Deer Buck was crossing the road “to get to the other side” (according to “Sneaky Pete” the windmill). The Sweet Clover was in bloom, the bees were filling their hives with honey from it. The 4 year old buck was just starting to grow his antlers which already have a 5×5 configuration.
I know this buck as “Tweeddle Dee” because I’ve seen him do a Tweedle Dumb thing or two over the last few years lol. He also has perfect ears meaning he’s a lover not a fighter. I’ve been watching this boy grow up for the forth year now. He’s almost respectable now, has grown and generally is very receptive to posing.
I’ve been “working around” this guy for several years now and he is pretty tolerant of me. I have to be slow in what I do with my vehicles as with any wild animal. IT’s all about getting your rig to act like a grazing animal. Stutter stop, start move 10 feet, “graze a while” move some more. You have to wait to move until their attention span lessens of their awareness of you. They go back to grazing. Wait a few seconds and move another 20 feet. Take your time.
I have worked my way into the middle of several different wild deer herds precisely doing the process above. You can’t just drive up in the middle of a group expecting them not to scatter like the wind. . They would misconstrue the quick approach as a hostile act. Only the other grazers can integrate into a deer herd. So there is an art to getting really close to any wild animal but I do stay in my rig. Getting out is a bad idea across the board. Making them used to the human form is counterproductive to their reproductive processes. I get them used to my vehicles. I never get out or push them ever. If I scared them routinely, it would be a hard thing to approach the next time.
This 18 inch square aspect capture is of the “Ideal” family of course. Papa behind his velvet covered antlers just starting to grow in the early spring. Momma next (with a bun in the oven). Last but not least is Junior, a yearling doe a splitting image of her mother but smaller. Yup, they see me but they went back to grazing in the fresh green rocket fuel (grass).. I had to make a noise to get them all to look up. After a few times, they ignore that lolol. By mid-late summer I’ll be working them from inside the herd. 📷📷
This small group and a few other spent the winter together near our homestead. They take advantage of the water troughs we keep open all year to stay up in this high ridge line ranch. It’s dry up here in the winter with little open or flowing water for their use. We keep 4 watering tanks open all winter up here for anyone that comes by.
All my deer encounters are random. They never know when I’m heading out and I don’t know where they are hanging out. They have a pretty good range this time of year. Quickly they can move a mile from where they were a mere 5 or 6 minutes before. Many of the deer that live around here recognize my vehicles. Certainly the vehicle is a mobile blind albeit a noisy/smelly one. No human form presents itself to the wildlife so by mid spring, they become accustomed to the black truck that moves like a Black Angus, appearing to be a grazer. If ever you decide to try to skirt deer or Pronghorn, you will figure out quickly that won’t work lol. Just approach like your eating grass, move a little, eat some more, rinse and repeat.
You will probably find where the Deer’s line in the sand is that way.
Merging together silhouettes will if the lighting is conducive for such. One of these guys is a “butt head” it seems…. Your choice as to which one 😜
The Alpenglow from the suspended Atmospheric Ice was the backdrop for this evenings stage play. As I move from one photographic opportunity to another working the light, I see many things. Some are worthy of your time so I point my photon capture boxes in that direction trapping a few.
I watched these guys watch the setting sun between my main job of taking snap shots of the actual sunset that night lol. Deer definitely check out the sunset. I’ve seen them do it. The evening progressed from blinding bright sunset to the right saturated tones of the twilight. The “boys” got back to the main business of finding tasty morsels on the hillside.
These two Spring antler growing bucks have their bony horns covered in “Velvet”. This time of year (about a month from now) is prime antler growth time. I actually have a smaller “Stag” buck up here that still has it’s antlers. HE’s an oddball though. Everyone else shed theirs in January as did these two. The grow back very quickly with a blood vessel rich “Velvet” skin nourishing the growing bone from the buttons on their skull cap.
Yes there is actually a small cave passing all the way under that boulder. One can crawl in there with all the other creepy things that might live in such a place if you had to get out of the weather. (from the other side lol). That hole is the back window with a view over my shoulder…
The Tres Amigo’s here are walking back home from a long winter down in the Thunderbasin National Grasslands.
So for this shot I was traveling back from Gillette Wyoming to my ranch. I took the “back way”. It’s about a 30 mile gravel road drive through a REALLY big National grassland area. That is the long gravel road that skirts the west side of the area on the maps. It passes right through some of the best places to see herds of Pronghorn anywhere.. I consider it the Serengeti of North America. There are several separate (huge) chunks of ground that make up the this amalgamation of reserves under this name in several states. They wander quite a bit and there are sometime I see nothing but grass and scenery. Half of the time. No cell phone service and no AAA up here…. Just saying 😀
The Thunderbasin Grasslands are indeed a remote area. The closest stop light is about 40 miles. There are not many private inholdings within this area and nothing but large ranches surrounding the reserves. There might be a few water and a few oil wells out there. They actually help the wildlife providing both connate water as well as deep hydrothermal water recovered from very deep oil production in the area. That deep origin hot water ( well treated) is a major source of water for wildlife as it remains unfrozen over most of the winter where it ponds.
Ever had to crawl up to get a shot? I’m too old for that stuff anymore lolol. It’s pretty hard to get a big buck laying down on the job of protecting his girls. Stealth is a slow pace but a long lens sure helps a bit unless your carrying it….
Pronghorn are the Fasted Land Animal in North America. Nothing else even comes close. They developed these skills/anatomy as a result of learning to avoid predation. It seems there used to be some pretty fast Lions, tigers and other cats living in these hills. Those predators were obviously prolific during the last Ice Ace and before here in the Wyoming/Montana borderlands.
The most most recent continental Ice sheet (5 glaciations in the last 500,000 years) stopped it’s advance about 20 miles up into Montana from my perspective here on the Bliss DInosaur Ranch. There were LOTS of critters hanging out below the glaciers. The Pleistocene Epoch is typically defined as the time period that began about 2.6 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago. Paleontologist recognize this age as a time of geologically rapid Glaciations followed by warmer periods in between. A vast and diverse “Mega-fauna” was present within those variable ecosystems.
About 11,700 years ago, things started warming up for the 5th time in a half a million years. (Warm periods between the ice sheet advances). The earth’s various climates (the earth has NO climate, it has ALL climates) were “Changing” every 100,000 years or so. The Term “Cycle” is thrown about loosely these days. I use it here in that I’m glad it’s warm because living here with an ice sheet 20 miles to our north….Might have experienced some “Climate Change” back then. Sort of like this winter so far….
I see a variety of scenes driving the backcountry. This Mule Deer Buck caught in a mid- twilight Silhouette was up watching the sun go gown with me. He was ridge lined. I was able to maneuver way below him about 200 yards out and Click… Silhouettes of nice bucks are always welcome in my web gallery.
This Mule Deer Buck was definitely aware of me but yet tuned into the sunset. I find linking up deer with the moon (harder) and or the sun to be a challenge of finding the right topography that enables me to “work” the scene. In this case (all hand held camera shots walking across backcountry grassy, yucca, rocky terrain. Then moving as the deer and the sun moves. 800mm telephoto. I worked this deer and his partner for about 20 minutes which is about 400 clicks or so with several cameras ….Forever in my world….
The hard part is getting them to “look up” between bites when I’m about 300 yards away. They are usually on a parallel ridge. Of coruse they are used to me being on the prairie with a noisy ATV. He really was watching that sunset. I’ve seen them do it many times. I was lucky enough to wander into this kind of deer versus sun on a ridge 4 times last year and only once this year so far. Hit or miss on deer habits…..
These guys were busy grazing on the grass of this ridge when out of the blue, this big ball of fire came down between them. Separated by an apparently dangerous fireball, the rear buck realizes the problem. I’m sure he’s working out the solution to his separation anxiety. Deer take time to process unique situations so I caught him here deep in thought. 😜📷
Lining Deer UP from hundreds of yards away against the setting sun is an exercise in understanding topography. By working parallel ridges I get to stay hundreds of yards away from the casual deer. not alert the deer and am still able to get far enough away to catch a foreground object in focus for three layers of image here. I only get to have the planets align like this a few times a year. I only had one opportunity this year to have deer pose for me in front of such a show. Images like this are infrequent in their occurrence for me to work.
In reality this kind of image is going on all the time, there just isn’t anyone there to take the photo. Getting into the right position for this is a lucky event. I have known these two bucks for a few years and because aware of their tendency to walk this ridge an hour before sunset. They were on their way from their grass pasture to the water hole on the other side. Almost every day these two walked this ridge like clockwork. Following the same trail daily These two are still around. I’m not sure exactly where with the snows/mud of late. The Backcountry is challenging to get back into at the moment.
This capture caught these two young bucks standing on an old country school site. Bucks still with antlers…. (taken in January).
This is section 36 on the map of the local township. Every township has 36 square miles and is mapped by square mile sections. Section 36 is the state owned and controlled School section. Basically the law gives 1/36th of all land to the state automatically. I digress.
The little brown box to the right center of the photo, is the old oil burning stove that used to sit on the Trail Creek/Parks School. Generations of local kids went to school with this view out the back. I’ve heard stories of walking to school from those kids. There are people alive that went to that school. It is physically located about 2 miles south from our homestead as the crow flies. The building that was removed has a few signs it was there.
Other evidence, : the latent archeologist in me…
The aforementioned stove itself is an interesting antique. I’ve worked it with cameras but never liked what I got. I’ll get back to it sometime with the right light… but there are concrete foundations from that old school building, not huge and they looked like they were hand poured. Someone with a small mixer and bags kind of foundations….say 1930’s….. Those concrete chunks were pushed over the lip of and into a nearby gully where they serve as a rock which are currently being slowly naturalized by the environment. Evidence of past lives and events that will mostly be lost to history but they leave clues. It would be interesting to work this site with a metal detector eh? …
Location: just south of the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.