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.
I’m a serious sufferer of pareidolia. (Seeing familiar shapes from random visual data) At least I am not alone as proven by the conversation of these two.
Now bear with me as my Pronghorn Lip Reading Skills are not what they should be. Here is how I translate it. These two gals are called (Left Doe is “Jane”, The Right Doe is named ” Doe” ) . Jane and Doe… 👀
The general topic of conversation was concerned about, “Seeing things in clouds”. “Doe” saw a Bear face. The bear, swallowed by a huge alligator from behind. (Now how do those guys know about Alligators ??) 🤔😜
“Jane” on the left was saying she was seeing a gorilla’s face in the growing storm cloud. “Doe” was all about the bear being eaten by the alligator. Lots of things live in those billowing cloud they agreed. The conversation went on with small talk about the weather being dry this spring. No big storms have dumped on fields this spring. Just little dribbles. Going to be a long brown season with some fires and other topics unique to pronghorn gossip. I’m not repeating the conversation about that “new Buck” on the block…… Rated “PG” this page.
Then suddenly, “Doe” said out of nowhere that Jane looked “fat”. “Jane” snapped back quickly “have you looked in a mirror lately?” Sneering away. Well needless to say the conversation went down hill from there as did the animals. Right down the hill to the left off frame at typically high speed. 😜📸
Sometimes I feel that I’m being pointed in the right direction. Either by amazing chance or other forces beyond my comprehension. As I left my driveway in the middle of this blowy spring snowstorm, the flat light was not the best for photography. I stopped at the end of the drive deciding to set up my long lens for the light conditions. I pointed the camera at a random spot on the surrounding hill out in the distance. Amazingly on a big scale, it was already in focus and looking directly at this group of Pronghorn. I had about 120 degrees of landscape to choose from and I point DIRECTLY at this group perfectly framed. I didn’t see them, didn’t know they were there. Using this 1200 mm lens at about 300 yards out. Blended perfectly into the landscape. They sure stood out in the camera though.
So I very slowly worked my Black Ford Raptor higher above them. Carefully closer until I could get a better look. I must have done well. I have never ever been able to sneak around on a group of Pronghorn bedded down before. I’m thinking the 30 mph winds driving moderate snow at this moment might have given them reason to hit the deck. They are all looking into the wind and you can see snow starting to build up on their back. There is 5 inches of snow out there as I type this at 15 degrees F.
Perspective is indeed was a really cold morning but it was a pretty sunset. Crawling out into the pines seemed like a good idea at the time🤔 We actually have 2 fresh inches of snow on the ground here today (as I type) and expect some more of it. The scar on the tree is from a lightning bolt exploding the layers of wood with water in them. The heat from the bolt flashes the water to steam and boom. This old soldier survived it’s wounds.
This gloomy day with VERY flat light wasn’t that inviting. Anything exposed to the wind because coated by hoar frost. The temps were around zero with some light wind. T-shirt weather without the wind up here. Add some wind, put on the three layers under the Parka. I get out and walk around up on the forested ridges to see what I can see. I use these locations for many of my images. From the POV of field mice.
Every season seemed to be a month late in 2019 . Winter came early, rinse and repeat to mid-February. Last spring, Winter ended late. We had Lilacs blooming on the 4th of July at least a month late. I’ve noticed that the deer rut was late starting by several weeks. It only got to 100 degrees F once this year if memory serves me right. July and August were not nearly as hot as normal. All climate is local I point out. . Global warming didn’t happen here this year. Far from it. It’s just mid-February too so this cold/wet/icy stuff might be around for a while.
Sheep Herders Cairns from a day that Sheep Roamed this country more than a few years back. I find these piles of flat sandstone on hill tops here in the borderlands of Wyoming / Montana. Literally found in the middle of nowhere typically miles from the closest inhabited ranch. Somebody spent a lot of time gathering flat sandstone from far and wide. You see sheep wander the hills and herders would stay with them to protect them. They had some spare time.. The stone cairns were markers. They marked places to meet, places to drop supplies or a sign post marking borders..
The ridge tops are the highways of the backcountry. While forested ridges certainly exist, long grassy ridges generally cleared of pine by past fires provided easy walking for the Indigenous Americans. There is a documented “Clovis” tool site within a 20 minute radium of my place. I’ve never found Clovis artifacts on my place as of yet though I do find man made stone tools. I wouldn’t call them common up here on the high ridges. Only hunting camps were summer inhabited in this country. It is too high and too dry to sustain population very long. We do find “TeePee” rings now and again. Both springs by my homestead have teepee rings about them. Summer quarters this spot was.
I’m not sure If I could have found a flatter light than this. Occasionally I’ll look at a heavily veiled sun with no colors in the scene and instantly start with high F-stop close / far perspective anyway. This one was worth the effort. It was windy and cold up there. The bunch of grass in the mid-distance testifies to this.
I’m pretty sure that light can not get “flatter” than this but I could be wrong. What I love about this image is the huge number of grey’s there are resultant from that matte screen. This was pretty far away from the gravel / county road out to the ranch bone yard. The drifts between the plowed road and this old plow are numerous and sometimes high and wide. Short Drifts you can punch through, Wide drifts you go around or you get stuck lol
The Ranches “Bone Yard” is a small patch of ground populated with disused antique farm equipment, good scrap metals and old stuff generally. Some of it is serviceable, some of it is not. A little welding here/there, then a tractor and your discing with anything that will pull the thing. There are many spare parts out in the boneyard.
I spent a month one year cleaning it up of mostly wood and old tires which are now buried in a building materials only landfill. It’s taken full trailers of steel from long times past from that boneyard when steel scrap was worth something. I’d get 400 – 500 dollars a load or scrap steel back in the day. There are still a LOT of equipment there that no doubt traces it’s history back to the beginning of the ranch. 100 years of accumulation leaves some interesting stuff lol. I’m thinking that every ranch of any size and length of ownership has a similar “Bone Yard”.
Snow Dumping on a Pronghorn Buck (or “Winter is coming” )
Winter has been here for a months already and we’re seeing snow on the ground full time now for a week anyway. This Pronghorn Buck is crossing in front of a Game trail Camera while Snow is just Dumping on him lol. Based on the timeline of images, he was following a doe through the gate walking right along the trail. I set my camera up to be focused right on the trail. This particular camera is in a very good spot ! 📸
Pronghorn Migration South
The Pronghorn are migrating now and I’m seeing groups I have never seen on ranch. Moving through here toward the south from up in Montana. They are following ancient migration routes that the cowboys used to move cattle in the late 1800’s from Miles City Montana down to Newcastle Wyoming. The local version of the “Texas Trail” runs right through the western side of our ranch. Fences are little obstacle to these animals which play the “limbo game” effortlessly. They usually do go under but I do have a few photos of Pronghorn going over fences.
I figure most of those animals that lived on ranch all summer are mostly 10 -20 miles south. They are working their way to the ThunderBasin National Grasslands where they have moving water (not frozen) and good feed. There are only a few roads through a pretty big piece of remote real estate between the Powder River Basin and the Wyoming Black Hills. Many Hundreds of square miles for herds to congregate in. Many ranchers maintain water stock tanks during the winter. This helps more on the margins but water is a rare thing up here when it’s been 30 below for a week.