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.
I see many things in my backyard. (I have a pretty big backyard). Among the large cast of characters hanging out around our place is this Pronghorn Buck.
This Young buck has pretty tall horns from my limited experience… 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 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. 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 Grand Cherokee 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 summer where I was the one to move away. Leaving them to continue grazing.
Sometimes the sunset sideshows I see are just overwhelming, then a Pronghorn Doe wanders into my “visual tunnel” that I’m working. Layers of interdigitating hills. Slow tapering like so many water waves on a pond. The Golden Hour Lighting and long shadows add to the contrasts and hues. Accentuating even the drought covered grass’s early brown season patina.
This was taken about a week before a grass fire blackened the hillside just before the tall ridge of trees near the horizon right of center. That whole field was burned over about a mile. I’d say 12 fire rigs of all sizes made a local debut for the 2020 fire season in this country. About 30 men descended on that ground within an hour of it’s announcement. It’s still very dry. We have been enjoying trains of lightning rich storms.
The Pronghorn doe was moving from Yucca plant (Spanish Dagger) to Yucca Plant enjoying the abundance. That is a plant that plans ahead. Their shape on the prairie causes snow to drift and cover them better than the surrounding area. They get a LOT of their watering in the winter. Their lush blooms are eagerly sought by most ungulates. I understand they are good in salads… 🙂
Besides the other minor world wide issues, locally: Drought Hail and Fire this year has surpassed in intensity the green well watered year we experienced last year in 2019. I’d like to play this year over and it’s not even close to done yet. Think I could do that??
Boy this was tough lighting. When the late “Golden Hour” afternoon long traveled photons arrive, there is a tendency for them to be skewed significantly toward the reddish side of the spectrum. The fur colors of Pronghorn I’ve looked at very carefully over the years considering what different colorcast light does to it. This image runs the gamut literally.
Pronghorn fawns seem to be darker than their mother in every situation I’ve ever seen. This is about as red/tan as they EVER are. Even under this red light. Granted I’m just looking at my local population so it’s not a controlled observation. Pronghorn are generally very lightly colored tan. Darker animals are usually made that way by the photo editor boosting the color of the rest of the image. This brings along the coat to the color of a deer. I’ve seen some lighting turn them darker. Shade versus sunlight is another factor. In this image, it was the color of the sunlight that made it hard for me (the photo finisher) to get the animals to look the right color. If I let the raw image through un-edited they would have been VERY red.
All these Pronghorn are females. Males have dark cheek patches. There is still a lot of grass out on the prairie but there are a LOT of grasshoppers happily consuming already dry, headed out stunted grass.
I can’t tell you how many have inquired how the “REALLY” fat pregnant Pronghorn Doe is doing. Well here she is with her brood. I understand that female Pronghorn release 6 eggs which all fertilize. She sheds the ones her body determines she can’t take care of based on the environment. Last year was a very green year. This year is a grasshopper year. Cutting grass early this year is the game before the grasshoppers eat it all up.
At any rate, I’m able to approach this female closely as you know if you are following me. That feeling transmitted quickly to the young ones. At first they were a little wary of this big black Ford F-150 raptor around them. Before long I had circled around them to get them fully in the sun. What was really hard was catching them all 4 together. Watching the group for about 1/2 hour, I only caught this one image of them all bunched up. Typically the fawns were being kids exploring and jumping around like all juvenile animals on the plains.
I have MANY image from this timeline. It’s not often I’m tolerated so well by a Pronghorn group. I hope this relationship continues all summer unaltered. We are about to cut the hay in this field so they will move. I’ll have to figure out where they moved to though. That may take a while as this is a big place. I know where they water though which is a good place to start. 🤔 👀 📷
This young female Pronghorn caught in the act clearly levitating above the county road. No wonder they are the fastest land animal in North America. They have been “clocked” at 61 miles per hour I’ve heard. I’ve seen them run next to me around 50 mph over uneven ground. Running smoother over than that my rig on the maintained county gravel road. Here I managed to catch her actually crossing that road in front of my rig.
Anticipating well known animal behavior is not rocket science. Pronghorn have often been seen having the option to run away from your truck back into the “fields” but run in front of your vehicle instead. Here I “banked” on that activity (clearly today “banked” doesn’t have the value it used to but I digress). Sure enough, I stop to aim the camera, spin the dials while the trucks suspension dampens down….4,3,2,1 click.
Photographic Musings: Photography is all about balancing the amount of light coming into your camera.
Close to the camera, High Speed Animals Running laterally to you are necessary to follow/ track. So you must be free handed typically. That is a learned skill. Keeping the critter in your eyepiece with a 2 foot long lens is like looking through a 2 foot long pipe. I can’t teach you that, but I can tell you that if you don’t have a lot of shutter speed, your going to get a blur as a 50mph thing blows past. I would hope you have 1/2000ths of a second or shorter exposures to freeze it in space and time.. That’s one of three settings in manual mode to get this kind of image.
Second setting is F-stop, It’s always better to have lots of light with high speed work. Lower F-stop # =more light but it thins your “depth of focus field” (google that) You note the only thing in focus in the Pronghorn. A low F-stop number gives me more light to account/balance the light I lost
ISO, camera sensitivity… Final adjustment that you use to balance to actually get the right amount of light to get the exposure you desire. More ISO means more visual noise and grain on the image. Lower numbers like 100 give you the best grain but take away light from your camera. Higher numbers make it so the camera digitally enhances the light that does make it through the aperture (F-stop) and the short exposure time. A three way teeter totter of light.
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.
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. 😔
Boy talk about attitude…..👅 . I actually don’t see this too much. Blue Tongue to the wind is something that might happen every few minutes. They don’t lick a lot I’m thinking….
This is a Pronghorn. It is not an “Antelope” no matter if the “Deer and Antelope Play” song rolls through your head lolol. It is not a “Speed Goat” either and is not related to a goat. It’s not related to an Antelope, the natural location for the closest of which is in Africa. It’s Latin Name “Antilocapra americana” literally means “american goat”. It is not either a goat or an Antelope as I said. It is the sole surviving member of the Antilocapridae family in North America and has literally been in North America for at least a million years. More of a relative of the Giraffe than any other animal…
The best way to tell a male is to look for a black cheek patch under the ear. This is a female sans the patch. They are active both night and day, have excellent eye sight and can see you up to 4 miles away. Your not sneaking up on these guys/gals very easily. They take about 20 foot long single strides when running . These guys own the title as the “Fastest land animal in North America”. They are strictly a western United States creature of the Rocky Mountains and the grasslands of their foothills.
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 the sheath yearly.
While Horns are hollow, composed of keratin… basically the same as our fingernails.. Antlers howeverare made of bone
Pronghorn have different headgear that most North American ungulates. . Each horn is composed of a slender, flattened blade of bone. That grows from the front of the skull forming the permanent core of the horn. It is retained. 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.
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 spend 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 groups will become used to me by the beginning of the summer. I already have this spring a few encounters that have given me great captures of these magnificent animals. They will make their way into my work flow. 📷👀
I usually don’t take too many photo’s of Pronghorn walking away. I was watching these young buck wander off and hit the machine gun button on my camera. From my perspective, they were swerving back and forth. It appeared a semi-drunken path as the cattle trail pulled them side to side. The way their color is, blending is part of their evolutionary camo plan. A wonderful color scheme as they really blend into this country. Thusly produced a seamless illusion of “Siamese Twins” I don’t get a chance at too many of these.
Graphic Artist note:
I could have EASILY removed the extra legs but I think they are fine so you can see what’s going on. I get this kind of alignment occasionally. More so from HEHIND lolol. I’ve even built images similar to this for fun. This one is legit and unmolested.
Boy are these Sony Alpha 7R4’s fast on the trigger with a 60 meg .jpg resultant each click. 📷👀 Machine gunning cameras that produce big files is costly to backup and store. I do fill up 32Gig cards with these things. Usually in about an hour and a half’s work on a normal day out in the backcountry. I always run into something interesting out there.
Long Lenses Crush Perspective tremendously. Far and near objects become “closer” in the frame through them. Long telephotos are tricky to use versus wide angle short lenses. They are very sensitive to motion.
Location: my backyard at the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)