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.
If you were to go out and try to shoot a photograph of migrating pronghorns… There is a 90 percent chance you will see the north end of a southbound Pronghorn if you try. This mixed group of guys and gals that just crossed the county road in front of my vehicle. There were hundreds in the string and I have several images from the front and crossing the red county road. None of the group jumped the fence line they were crossing. All to an animal waited patently on the one in front going UNDER the fence. I watched about 100 cross the road one animal or two at a time.
These guys were all walking away on their long traveled route. Taken down in the ThunderBasin National Grasslands from the country road. All vehicular traffic remains banned from the Grasslands. This reserve covers hundreds of square miles. This is literally part of America’s Serengeti. There are several thousand pronghorn that move down there for the winter. . I don’t know the official census but I’m betting those numbers easily. Just a few oil wells and stock tanks dot the landscape. An occasional stock tank flows year round and there are some geothermal waters that they drink in deep winter.
This large area of no human intrusion lessens the stress on the Pronghorn. The winter is bad enough with out large herds running away from humans. Every calorie is important.
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. 😞
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.