Abundant Pronghorn live on the western plains. One of their major wildlife refuges is the Thunderbasin National Grasslands. Made up of several blocks of land just to our south, the Grasslands are huge. All these animals migrated from the federal land refuge in the spring to pasture on the surrounding privately owned ranchlands. Summer pastures versus winter pastures. These animals have been doing this for the last 10,000 years at least.
This late in the summer, they are starting to group / bunch up. Earlier in the year the does break off to give birth. The males get in small groups. The males will slowly get control over the loose females in their area. Then the serious stuff begins. I count 3 bucks in this group.
The rut is coming very soon and may be happening to one degree or another at the moment. I’m not sure what the rough environment this year had on their activities but I usually get close to rutting activity. Trail Cameras do work for me 24/7 and I get a lot of opportunity to see Pronghorn in and around the ranch. I see some groups two times a day. Depending on how they are feeling, occasionally I get lucky and can move in close. When the groups are this big though, they get collectively and synergistically jumpy. Life in an ocean of grass.
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 🤔 👀
This fawn is about to get nipped. I’ve seen a few deer bite deer scenarios historically. Not too many though. Perhaps that tail looked tasty for a minute. Just a little nip. Perhaps this is a deer form of spanking. Butt Biting certainly would change the expression on it’s face I’m thinking lol. It’s natures way to correct our young one’s inattention.
These guys were grazing out in the backcountry grasslands up high on the ridges. I randomly came by. Blending in and letting the deer get back into natural behavior after your initial intrusion. They definitely have a line in the sand you don’t cross without loosing your photographic privileges. Some close than others. These twins are good with me as are their mother. I watched them for about 1/2 hour. Then continued on up the ridge to find a location to photograph the one going “Golden Hour” and the coming sunset.
I have read that twins are normal in most healthy populations. 10 to 15 percent of the deer in such biomes bear triplets. I have not seen any triplets in a few years. I suppose I only see a small population sample here on a 5 square mile ranch relative to say the 36 square mile township. There are a lot of deer in a 36 square mile township lolol. We only have a few dozen small herd nearby here that I interact some with. Most of them just overlap their range on my place. Only a few herds actually live here. Of course there are itinerant bucks that come by occasionally.
When you watch a mother deer with her fawn, you can see the love. They interact constantly. Once the novelty of me being within telephoto range has passed, natural behavior starts to return. No more suspicion of the intrusion into their world remains as I watch the mother reach over and nuzzle her baby. I’m not so sure the fawn was stressed in the least. I’m thinking the mother was reassuring herself that the fawn was OK. This was at least 5 minutes after I started photographing them. I’m doubting she was very stressed as the photo session continued for at least another 1/2 hour. I drove off leaving them approximately in the same place as when I drove up. I can usually do this kind of work without chasing them off.
If I scare animals (bad plan). I don’t get to photograph them very long and then only their backsides as they run away. So stealth, patience and don’t push are my techniques.
These guys way laid me on the way to photograph a sunset. I often randomly encounter wild animals on my trips around the ranch. I have been known (rarely) to go up a hill with a FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red) high resolution thermal viewer looking for body heat. It is rare I LOOK to find animals to photograph. They almost always just appear during my daily chores and photographic trips. I consider myself a landscape photographer even as all these critter photos grace my portfolio.
This was a lucky random encounter while coming back from photographing the sunrise. I almost never see these guys so it’s a rare capture for me. About 5:49, the sun had just risen. Positioned perfectly with the sun behind me. The Fox had to strain to see into the bright sun. The wind was blowing toward me from him so I was a ghost. Pretty much he knew something was there. He was checking out the apparition in the glare.
The Red Fox / Grey fox debate is for another post down the road. I “Believe” this is a red fox. I can’t seen the tail tip. It’s not an insignificant discussion since the Grey and Red Fox are different Genera of Canid entirely. Not just two different species. Vulpes vulpes is the scientific name if it is a Red Fox. Lots of information out there.
At the same time 30 feet to the right was a spotted mule deer fawn watching this guy walk across the pasture in front of him. I was too close to get them both in the same frame. I would have LOVED to have had them walk up and touch noses lolol. I’d have gotten it . I bet it’s happened before. Neither species has anything to fear from the other.
These guys are low frequency sound specialists. They can hear rodents scurrying/digging about underground or under snow. I consider them an asset keeping down the numbers of rodents. I’ve never had a fox take a domerstic bird out of my barnyard. I’ve cared for a flock over 18 years. No losses by Fox that I’m aware of. They really don’t like my electric fence. They are however, watering in one of my stock tanks though so I’ll probably see him again. All my Game Trail Cameras of these guys are blurred. They tend to move along.
For a Pronghorn Buck to allow himself to get ridge lined is always fun. When I convince one to so cooperate, I prefer there to be a wondrous Cloud Scape to back his twilight silhouette. 😜
This afternoon was one of long shadows. Only part of the sky was exposed to the sun. The Pronghorn and I were in deep shadow of the clouds further obfuscating the remaining light from the set sun. The view over my shoulder was all in dark shadow. Heavy storm clouds were on that horizon. The grounds mists further obfuscating the clear view that way.
No light worthy of your attention that way. I turn my lenses off away from the dark sky. Looking to catch the back show of the clouds in all it’s 50 mile span of landscape. But this young guy got in my way. I did actually get to move a bit but I didn’t have enough topography behind me to get the landscape lower beyond this close ridge. Unfortunately, there was no way for me to gain altitude short of standing on the roof of my truck lol. No far horizon for me this time lolol.
He was good about me moving around as there was a HUGE deep gully between our two positions. I’m thinking he was feeling pretty secure. Intrusions much closer than 200 yards usually get their attention. Even really skittish Pronghorn are good past that typically. It’s hard to sneak up on them running around in the backcountry. I’ve seen their red line humans aren’t to cross even further out.
The Doe is used to me as much as ANY I’ve photographed in quite a while. She passes this lack of fear on to her twin fawns. The one in front has a split hear like it’s mother (same ear too). That fawns ear isn’t quite as notable as it’s mothers notch but I’ll be watching these two. They should be very used to me by winter. I hope not to scare them in any way so that they accept me as just another grazing animal of no threat to them.
Usually mothers with fawns are essentially unapproachable. You get beautiful photo of their rump running away. The southbound side of a north bound deer in other words.
These guys and I have been playing hide and seek for a many weeks now. The fawns and doe survived the 3 inch hail dump for 1/2 an hour a few weeks ago. Most of the pasture is flattened but this particular field still has grass with heads. It’s not reduced to straw in other words. I’m sure these guys didn’t like that hail storm a bit.
This is the first of a dozen or more amazing captures of this family out in the grasslands. This was one of the first and thus furthest away from the clients. I will take photos, then move a little, take photos, move a little over and over until I’m filling camera frames with faces and eyebrows. This was late afternoon golden hour but this is early. The later timeline captures are marvelously color cast by the setting sun. Stay tuned as they mingle into my workflow.
So I tend to see animals on the way to and from various chores, ranch duties like checking water tanks or even fences now and then. Being a Landscape Photographer of course, I go out to photograph quality sunrises and sunsets as well. Traveling too and fro on a big ranch puts me into the daily lives of the creatures great and small that inhabit this place. They of course become accustomed to my vehicle eventually. Hopefully this means they tolerate my presence. I’ve found pushing animals might get you one blurry photo of them running away. I stop in my tracks and wait. Slooowwwwwly moving closer in steps. Clicking away each stop. Rinse and repeat.
I was watching this little guy graze for a few minutes. His mom was way off frame so I was being patient waiting for them to re-unite. Photographing nursing fawns is a good activity most days. I don’t think the power(s) that be take time off your lifeline for watching activities like that.
So I’m listening to Sirius XM channel 14 jammin’. Out the Raptors window goes a long lens. 1200 mm brings subjects marvelously close. Carefully focused on the fawn. The camera back set to machine gun mode. Grazing away, the fawn looks up right at me. Opens it mouth and gives the biggest baddest yawn I’ve seen a deer offer me. Flies could fly in that cavern or worse a grasshopper. 😜 The shutter flapped like there was a breeze in that lens.
Compositions dominate my thinking with the scenes I visit daily. LONG shadows completely crossing the flat road tells the early hour. The Whitetail Deer Doe having watered across the road is now on her way back to her feeding grounds. I love the tension created by curves in the landscape even man made ones. With the deer as the off set focal point, I felt this is how the frame should exist.
This image is in late may when the still pregnant. I suspect this is the doe that had twins I photographed just recently. Generally if they are tolerant enough to let me photograph them once, a second time is way more likely to occur. I will never chase them off by my actions and usually drive away leaving them effectively unbothered by my big black smelly noisy pickup. I have found that if I scare or chase animals, I will not ever get close to them again. I’m very patient with them these days. The wildlings are slowly getting used to my presence.
I haven’t seen many Mule deer this year. Mostly Whitetail which is not necessarily a good thing. When Whitetail move in, Mule Deer usually move out. Mule deer are much easier to photograph. More importantly they are a better game animal. A LOT of people feed themselves with Mule deer up here stocking their freezers for the long winters. It takes 2 Whitetail to give you the meat of a good Mule Deer. (Hail, Grasshoppers, global Pandemic, economic depression and NOW Whitetails are pushing out the Mule Deer???? I mean COME ON……. 😜 )
Grazing as a herd left to right across the landscape of our pasture. Right at our entry cattle gate. We are not a large ranch for this area with many operations 10 times our physical size and cattle capacity. This country is primarily Black Angus Cattle Country. This summer pasture can either be a hay field or eaten down by a herd depending on the year. Ranching on a dry year as this is difficult. Add to that the uncertainty of cattle pricing and this is going to be a rough year for ranchers. We lease a majority of our ground to another who runs cattle here in the summer. Trucking them to their other property for overwinter feeding. Living on a land of many uses as this ranch has been my honor.
The ground the cattle graze on is home to the Wyoming Tactical Rifle Championship (2nd largest team precision rifle event in North America I have been told…. Just another use… Never took many photos here either…
Then there is: Right under their feet are Dinosaur Fossils. Those along with fossils of a portion of the rest of the fauna alive in the rivers. Sand from those rivers formed the ground here. Derived from those sediments, sand and minerals enable the grass to grow. Mountains west of the BigHorns that are no longer there supplied it. Sand in the form of a 700 foot thick blanket of river sand spread over 5 states and into Canada. Mostly these Dinosaur fossil bearing formations are underground, here it makes the soil the cattle feed over. I’ve actually found Dinosaur bones sitting in the grass up here. Vertebra a foot in diameter kind of fossil bones in the grass. Maybe the Sign in the image should say “Large Livestock”. 😜 📷
OK, let’s see how observant you are. Can you see them? Here are three fawns (Triplets) well hidden in about 100 acres of grass and Sweet Clover. The Sweet Clover is getting tall these days. Pronghorn babies effective disappear from view if they lay down. I was literally circling the VERY pregnant Mother and her three foals in my Black Ford Raptor. I stay well back, have been seen maybe 100 times by the mother, and she wasn’t worried. The fawns seeing me for the first time, were skiddish at first. The lack of concern of the mother to my presence soon calmed the three and they were playing to their hearts content. Generally they stayed close to each other but would wander from their mother a bit. Getting the three of them photographed with their mother proved to be challenging.
So have you found all three yet? The ONLY reason I could find these guys is I was following them in the lens and they literally disappeared one by one. No where to be seen. Only with very careful searching with a 1200 mm lens finally found them. Indeed located in the general area they vanished in. I was very luck to find them. I had no interest in getting close to them as I have found that if I push animals, they don’t let me get close next time. Finally I drove away from this group. They remained bedded upon my leaving. Their mother grazing near by. They never panic’d during my visit as Pronghorn are prone to do. It’s all a matter of familiarity and trust earned. Wild Pronghorn are not the most patient of beasts in my experience lolol.
The Black Angus Cattle herd out on “open range” were “Watering up” late in the afternoon. This natural spring fed lake watered several hundred cattle at about 30 gallons or more a day per adult. They usually fill their tank then get up the hill to better grass. All here are cows and calves. I doubt there are any bulls in the mix just yet but it won’t be long before it’s that time again.
This is about as green as it has gotten this year. Part of it is this particular area is drier than others but over all it is indeed going to drought. The water is good sweet water with a tad of the cow next to you flavor I suspect as cattle have a pretty tough stomach. If you drink that water though there might be some intestinal ramifications lol.
I drink NO natural waters without ultra fine filtration. THe cheapest way to filter your water is one of the many “straw filters out there). They are inexpensive protection, just don’t let them freeze after their first use. Honestly I haven’t had to resort to using even a stock tank for the 20 years I lived here. I always bring adequate supply in the form of frozen water bottles in an ice chest. I stuff water bottles in every spare crevice of my ATV and truck. This is dry country, almost a desert at 14 inches of rain a year. Carry enough water for 3 days minimum with you is my advice. Being without water is a bad thing…
Pretty up close and personal. She will get fat on Sweet Clover if she doesn’t bleed out from all the Coumadin in the plant.
Just a taste the sweet clover the bees are so busy with at the moment. There is a LOT of sweet clover this biannual year when it appears in mass quantities. A California Honey Company sends out hives to harvest the pollen from billions of blossoms up here in Wyotana. We are paid in honey every year. About two cases lol. We do our best but it does store for ever. There are jars of honey from the Egyptian tombs that is still viable as a food source. The high clover makes it hard for me to go across open fields for fear of running over Pronghorn Fawns in the grass. I can’t see in front of me with it over the hood.
This female Pronghorn has the coolest ears ever. They remind me of Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame. I’ve never seen this on other antelope which have pointy ears. I have to assume it was frost bite when she was young. I also have a photo of this animal from behind at another location/time where those little extra points on it’s ears look like horns. I had to do a triple take to make the decision boy or girl. I couldn’t see the dark cheek patches on the other isolated photo which I was looking at out of context. Obviously the same animal, different time… I determined the other photographed animal a doe too. This one is certainly a Doe. I’m not sure what to call her but I’m thinking “Saavik”. (classical reference).
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.
For Blue Monday: A mated pair and a perspective with the female being on a post that is a good 3 feet closer to my camera as the left post. (Thus the “Slight” out of focus way closer female). That camera was actually focused between them to get them both “close”. If I focused on one or the other, one would always be way out of focus. So focus between 😜📸 .. (all about F-stop, this was in deep shade and I had no where to go….).
The 6 inch long one ounce birds don’t make much noise in my experience but a little in the morning. Hard to describe. They are fairly small Thrushes with a round head outline and straight thin bills. Sky blue is how I describe the color but are a bit darker on the wings and tail but with a light patch under the tail and it’s stomach. The female just blue on the tail and wing tips.
These guys hoover while foraging for insects. I’ve seen it many times. These guys were jumping around myself in a rare meeting with a couple of neighbors. We were too close to their nesting area…As soon as we changed position, back to business seen and zipping about and then back to this place. He was flitting around, she was watching mostly . I just by happenstance had an 1200mm camera set up with me. They hoover to catch bugs so they have mastered their environment for sure. We are actually a little low at 4000 feet in elevation for them as they are found to 11000 feet up in the hills. The do like our grasslands though. Lots of bugs out there for them to eat…. Good habitat for most insect eaters.
Location: near the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
Taken VERY early in Civil Twilight, this is a very deep focus close/far perspective. Those tree branches are very close for a telephoto perspective. I was watching this wonderful alpenglow/wispy feathery cloud color gradient already on a remote high ridge.
Getting around in the backcountry during early twilight: Up here in the Wyoming/Montana borderlands if you want a big view, you have to gain altitude to do so. The ridge tops are 4000 feet in elevation here. Everything else locally is lower. Having said that, we are actually very low topographically for Wyoming (but I digress). I have to leave considerably before sunrise to get up to an eagles view location as this.. I extend my horizon to 50 miles to the east if I climb the right peaks. This ridge named by me as “Sunrise Ridge” but usually because I’m taking pictures of the sunrise OVER this ridge. Not FROM this ridge as this captured moment in space time presents. IT’s a way’s out from my homestead driving 2 track roads in the dark. I have excellent lights on my F-150 Raptor though.
The Dark Orange Alpenglow is caused by ice that like a gel filter on a theatrical stage, colors all behind it. This is the cause of the color reflected of those feathery wisps of a cloud deck. Photography from the remainder of this timeline was equally as good. Eventually, most twilights gradually taper to a blue morning as the suns light was higher and less filtered by the atmosphere. Blue light invades, shadows ignite with detail and dynamic range. This was early in twilight, about 20 minutes before sunrise that May morning.
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 ☺️
Holy Pregnant Pronghorn. This gal is so pregnant she looks like one of those balloon animals I’ve seen in various cartoons. Just about ready to float above the water hole 4 legs up in the air. Not the fastest land animal in North America at the moment eh?
I’ve taken a few images of pregnant does before and they don’t typically get this big. This may be one of those “does this coat make my butt look fat” moments. Damned if you tell the truth and damned if you lie. There are certain situations in life where there are no correct responses. I’m thinking that within the month there will be three as she has to have a pair of buns in that oven. They usually have twins during a “good” year. It was a long but relatively warm winter for the now miserable mother to be.
Pronghorn birth after both Whitetail and Mule deer in June. That means that by the time this posts, at least a few pronghorn fawns will be scattered around the prairie. This necessitates a great deal of “watching” out in the grass ahead of what ever I’m driving. I’ve seen them in two tracks and even on county gravel roads hiding as a small motionless lump. I’d rather not find one with my vehicle. So for the next few weeks I’ll be treading lightly watching for baby Pronghorn in the grass.
The Annual Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Synchronized Fence Jumping competition (BDRSFJC) is well under way. Last fall we had the tri-outs for the follow up event in the spring. This spring event is much larger usually and involves more animal diversity than the late fall meet. I give the deer in the foreground a 9.5 for form. 9.2 for jumping together…
This group doesn’t quite have the synchronize part figured out yet and doubtfully will make the final cut. Boy are these guys shedding with tuffs of hair falling off each one. Shaggy to say the least. Perfectly healthy.
BDRSFJC is an all “Ungulate” (google the last term) event. I expect some Whitetail to try out but their team failed to show up YET AGAIN !!!. Some creatures just can’t keep to a schedule. This is the second time this year they Whitetails have bailed from a major try out. Now the Pronghorns don’t even like jumping over fences. I read where they can jump 14 feet high but my memory fails sometimes, that might be wrong. 👅
Back to my normal (ish) programming:
I have around 100 good images of deer jumping over fences. This MIGHT be the only triple deer in the air I have in my portfolio. I don’t recall clicking on another with 3 in the air at the same time. I do have a couple of double captures.
I’m considering putting in a synchronized swim tryout down by the lake. We’ll see if those whitetail show up for that.. 😜📸
It is fairly unusual for a Pronghorn of any sex to walk toward the camera directly. This one is a doe. I can count on one hand the number of images I have even similar to this posture. Mostly visiting photographers see their butts heading out. Oddly, she was literally walking directly toward me for some distance. Must be near sighted… Or that Black pickup looked like an angus lol.
I would indicate though that if there isn’t triplets in there, I’d say she is going to have quads. Technically this might be the biggest “Fastest” land animal in North America. She might have been a little not fast enough last fall. I will tell you with certainty that she is not as quick as she was last year before that Buck got involved. I’m really not sure if she is aware of the fact that that “coat makes her butt look big”. I’m not going to tell her. A professional has to maintain appropriate relationships with photographic subjects after all.😇📷
I see so many Pronghorn each year I can’t keep track of individual does but this one seems familiar with me anyway. She looks pretty scraggly but that is only because she is shedding in clumps of fur. She’s perfectly healthy. Most Pronghorn in cattle country have big chunks of hair off their back as going under barbed wire fences at 30 mph has it’s draw “backs”. I’ve seen those scars get infected before but it’s not that common such that it kills them from it. It’s only known in the Presidential “Book of Secrets” why they prefer to go under fencing rather than over like every other ungulate in North America. 😜👀
This Young buck is still growing his horns larger this early in the spring. Horn sheath growth in Pronghorns is a unique characteristic among ungulates in that they actually have horns. 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 however are 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. They disintegrate quickly I understand.
“Clever Girl” my black Ford F-150 Raptor is being well tolerated.. . The local wildlife doesn’t seem to see it a threat. My old Blue Jeep was noisy moving across the prairie. Not so much this new rig. I have spent some good photographic time aside some larger groups of Pronghorn already this spring where I was the one to move away. Leaving them to continue grazing. This is a good sign that these guys think my Black truck looks like a big noisy, smelly mechanical Angus Cow.
Local animal groups are becoming used to me. I already have this spring a few encounters that have given me great captures of these and other magnificent animals. I can occasionally circle even the Pronghorn groups to properly get light plus closer, closer, closer…. Captures like this will make their way into my work flow and get posted. I am currently 10 days out from taking a photo to it being posted. 📷👀
These 3 younger bucks got caught working out for the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch Fall Pronghorn Rut. Taking turns with male aggression. It’s a single elimination tournament with winner taking all in the long run.
These Bucks actually get along pretty well in the “Boys Club” they hang in most of the year. But this is as close to a full blown organized training session I’ve seen this year. Getting ready for the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, annual Pronghorn all male review for a party of just the Does. Hot and heavy in the fall, it’s a yearly thing up here… So turns the wheel of life. 🤘📸
So on an overcast tuesday HIGH up on a backcountry Ridge was a small dojo formed for the purpose of working out and getting “tuned” for the battles to come. These guys were not not yet playing for keeps. The bigger bucks usually take it easy on the smaller males training/ramping up to the rut. It can really be violent when big Pronghorn Bucks cross swords. It’s all fun and game until someone puts out an eye!.
. Probably 4 year olds. This of course is a game trail camera capture from late in the fall (Fall was on a Tuesday this year). From this location in the past, dozens of various wonderful candid captures of both deer and Pronghorn occurred. All the Pronghorn are off ranch at the moment.
They all migrated over a month ago from about 30 miles south from the Thunderbasin National Grassland. Pronghorn herds numbering in the hundreds with thousands in the larger Grassland area where they overwinter. I once had a Old Pronghorn Buck I named “Grunt” that stayed over winter several years but he’s not here for the last 2 years. . He either migrated with the others or in in much higher and greener pastures by his passing. I miss him as I could get very close to him as he was tolerant of me as a pronghorn can be tolerant. Grunt was a nice buck too. 😔
I was following this good looking Pronghorn Doe from below. I had a long lens on it quickly stopping in my tracks. My appearing over an adjacent ridge suddenly caused it to move. Here is the story…
Sudden appearances of scary smelly, noisy vehicles always throw a wrench into a nice day grazing in the backcountry. This is not a traditional multiple exposure. It is a digital recreation of the even placing the animal precisely on the landscape as it was recorded. The digital work alone took hours but I like the result. Thought it was worth your time as well…
SO this is ALL the SAME Pronghorn “documenting” each stop over the same patch of ground. From right to left the Pronghorn moved, stopping as the bird captured in the frame flew very close to it. The spooked doe stopped and watched it. Moved about 10 feet and watched me for a few second. From that quick glance she moved into a nervous shuffle only to stop and pee (more nervous activity). A quick circle and she was back watching me yet again. The thought settled in her mind I was a threat sitting there. Thusly she decided to head more to the left, looked over the ridge, evaluated and changed her mind. Quickly zipping back to the right where she extended and left my area.
I don’t do a lot of these….. Art, did I mention this is ART? It’s built on 9 different photographs… 😜📸 2:1 Diptych Digital Composite
Trees growing out of boulders are always a photographic target . Particularly with a LOT trees growing out of boulders. On the crest of this backcountry ridge, is a hard cap rock that has resisted erosion thusly protecting the rocks below.
This is ALL Hell Creek Sandstone. Differential erosion leaves these relatively harder boulders for me to enjoy. They are 66 million years old and that lichen can be 100 years or more old. Only rocks that are undisturbed have big lichen patches. Cattle pressure/wear from rubbing will destroy it. There are big areas of this boulder strewn surface covered with Sunburst Liichen (Xanthoria sp.), sometimes called pincushion lichen.
Bear in mind that there are hundreds of different species of Lichen that inhabit Wyoming and differentiating them exactly is sort of a science all by itself. Lichenologists have to have work of some kind. Academia is the obvious job path. I suspect that there is a use for court testimony however the job prospects of a Lichenologist is about the same as a masters in biostratigraphy such as myself. Though interestingly, biostratigraphers do a lot of work with oil companies .. My general comment about Lichen nomenclature is that you need a bachelors of science in Biology (which I have) to look at the photos or read the text. The text about the lichen is a foreign language.😀😀. I digress,
Enjoying a veiled sunset while walking around with several cameras in the remote backcountry is similar to a shooting gallery with a .22 but without the report or an occasional zinnnng…. . Lots of good stuff to shoot at. Just a click versus bang. BTW, I do carry a firearm in the backcountry. add a few more pounds. You never know exactly what your going to run into. A 10mm 1911 pistol with a 5 inch barrel is good for 300 yards… (work on that one for a while). This was taken this fall and it was pretty chilly.
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.
Here we are at the 20th annual fence jumping try outs here at the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch. It has become an annual affair since I moved here. We have a good attendance at the event. Jumpers high and last minute crawlers rule the field. Being a tight new fence, most chose over as their path.
They weren’t panic’d, Taking their time, waiting patiently one, then the next. All walked away when all had cleared the obstacle. These same deer have seen my rigs all year and could care less if I was there as long as I stay in the vehicle lolol. A few minutes later the sun would have been setting behind where they were but alas the timing was not to be.
They don’t like the human form much..🤔 I’m trying to decide who “Won” the height title over the timeline of all of them jumping, I think the deer in this image wins…. The smaller deer left of the jumper likely to got a rash from the last jump. She was very hesitant to go and balked several times lolol.
Big Male Mule Deer go to 330 pounds and the females go to 200 pounds. The are actually indigenous to North America and are known by those distinctive “Mule” shaped ears. The hear extremely well with those big ears. I suspect they use their sense of smell way more though to detect danger. These guys are herbivores so they are survivors of what ever killed all the MegaFauna during the Pleistocene 11000 years ago.
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch about 50 feet from the Montana/Wyoming border
Talk about a long landscape.. This is a VERY long shot… The Pronghorn here (all Males) are traveling but were nice enough to frame themselves at this remote ranch gate. The first ridge out in the “Prairie Dog Hills” is 10 miles distant from my camera. The “Red Hills” off in the distance are 40 miles away from the lens.
It’s obvious that Spring has Sprung. The grass is turning green. It is rocket fuel for the animals that have been eating brown grass all winter. Green season is one of birth and new growth up in a harsh country of long winters and frozen climate. These males survived the long winter this year.
Under this lighting condition, I was lucky to get as much detail as I did. The effect of extreme distance is with a REALLY long telephoto, is that even objects a mile away are in a different focal plain that the distant mountains. I had to resort to a low F-stop number to open up the aperture in the lens to let way more light in. The dark conditions just before the sunrise were such that deep focus was not an option while still capturing moving animals with no blur. I had to cave into the light and use the evil low f-stop number for a long shot. I really don’t like to do that. Rule #2 of Photography is to : “Get the Photo”.
The intersection of Parks Rd and Trail Creek about 4 miles south of the Montana / Wyoming border is in the distance. I’m about a mile from that crossroads for this shot. The Pronghorn as a matter of principle decided to cross in front of me. They do this to show off. I was pursuing the rainbow the road was leading to. Of course rainbows are tough to catch up to since they move as you move lolol. BUT I find that there are rainbows images and then there are rainbow IMAGES.
Gravel Wyotana backcountry roads are always exciting in what you will come across. I had stopped to to capture the rainbow lining up with the road of course. I saw this Pronghorn, anticipated her path and waited patiently as she took her sweet time wandering across. There is a HUGE network of gravel backcountry roads in this country. The closest asphalt road to that intersection is about 9 miles to the right (looking south east here). The setting sun was REALLY low on the horizon for this capture as I initially working the sunset of course. I randomly run into animal encounters regularly in this country. More pronghorn per square mile than people here.
There is no hurrying mother nature or for that fact, mother Pronghorn (pregnant this time of year of course). Besides the fat belly, you can tell Pronghorn sex by looking for a black cheek patch which this gal doesn’t have. The males have a big black splotch under their ears / behind their eyes.
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.