This is a must to take full screen. The Pronghorn’s are well camo’d in this image with huge alluvial fan deposits in the distance. Those sediments eventually turning into those rocks were transported from the Big Horn Mountains 130 miles back over my shoulder.. OF course I’m standing where there used to be rocks like that but erosion has removed them. Those layers were at one time continuous all the way back. Now rivers have cut big valleys in the apron of the mountains. Geologists regard things in a strange way 😜👀
So for this shot I was traveling from my ranch to Gillette Wyoming. , I took the “back way”. It’s about a 30 mile gravel road drive through a REALLY big National grassland area. That is a long gravel road that skirts the west side of the area. It passes right through some of the best places to see herds of Pronghorn in North America. 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.
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.
This was captured back in late August when there was some tussling within the local herd. (see how green in August !)
Currently in Mid-winter, Pronghorn have all migrated 20 miles to the south. The Thunderbasin National Grasslands consists of a huge area of unpopulated ground. Thousands of Pronghorn head there in the winter. I drove through there about a week before this posts. I do have some good Pronghorn BIG herd photos from in the grasslands to finish. . My turn around time from taking a photo, then getting it posted is slightly over a week. That is unless I push one into the “line” ahead of others. It’s all telephoto work down in the grasslands. Nothing is close usually and there is only one road through the area that I’ve ever traveled. Vehicular traffic is limited to the main road. Forbidden on the grasslands, big fines for going off road. . The national reserve has hundreds of square miles incorporated.
Pretty much the only large creatures to winter over up here on the remote borderland ridges, are cattle and mule deer. The WhiteTail move down to more reliable water even though we supply it. They tend to be in the valleys for the season not up here.
These younger bucks got caught working out for the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch Fall Pronghorn Rut. It’s a single elimination tournament with winner take all. These bucks get along most of the year. They may even hang out “down on the corner” together. But this is as close to a full blown organized
So on an overcast Monday afternoon “Down Yonder by the fence line” 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 Pronghorn Bucks go at it. This appears more casual for the camera I suspect. 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 about 30 miles south to the THunderbasin National Grassland. Pronghorn herds numbering in the hundreds. I had a Old Pronghorn Buck I named “Grunt” that stayed over winter several years but he’s not here this year. 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 an antelope can be tolerant.
Thunder Basin National Grasslands (The only shaft of light I saw ALL hat Day. )
I was traveling back from Gillette Wyoming. Driving toward my ranch, I took the “back way”. It’s about a 30 mile gravel road drive through a REALLY big National grassland area. This road skirts the west side of the area. It passes right through some of the best places to see herds of Pronghorn in North America. 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.
There are not many private inholdings within this area and nothing but large ranches surrounding the reserves. Right side of the fence is reserve, left side is private ground. There might be a few water and oil wells out there but 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.
I get the best Hoar Frost images from those geothermal ponds in the deep winter. It is a good 1/2 gravel road drive to the closest of those ponds though so I’ll only work them photographically a few times a year. If it’s -10 or lower, I’m heading that way for sunrises. Mostly those ponds are on the north side of this grassland complex. Gotta love vandalism of shooting signs. Shooting signs which cost hundreds to make, is senseless and a waste of good ammo. It’s also vandalism. 😞
“Pronghorn Bucks Rutting in the Backcountry” is a wonderful capture from a quality Game Trail Camera. I maintain a network of 26 cameras over about 5.5 square miles of both Montana and Wyoming backcountry as our ranch spans the border.
The Pronghorn were rutting in early October and this is just after the Oct 1 snow melted. Freezing nights already many times. Apparently the Pronghorn like it cool :).
Getting this close to fighting pronghorn would be difficult to do even with long telephotos. This particular game trail camera has performed well but each photo has it’s issues and takes me maybe 1/2 an hour every time I finish one just to get rid of the cheap camera problems in the digital darkroom.