One evening I went down the road to the riverbank to see is anything was going on. There were lots of folks watching something so I stopped and took the camera with me to catch any action. What action! The bull Custer had found the cow with twins and was intent on pursuing her. She didn’t want any part of him and so the chase was on. They started out in a thick cover of willows and came out running. They moved downstream in and out of the water. The calves followed mom as best they could. At one point the bull was chasing after the calves a bit but that wasn’t his main objective. It was fascinating to watch, totally futile on his part though since with calves that young she would not be breeding this season. Eventually she moved off into the woods on the far side of the river. He followed but much more slowly.
Mornings here can be pretty nippy, down in the mid teens in fact. A few days after that evening’s drama I was up at 0600 and out at 0700 to see if I could find yet another bull I’d heard about. Sure enough he was where I was told, along with three cows. This bull is massive with an impressive rack. Of course I wasn’t alone, there were quite a few photographers and spectators there. As we watched him and the cows we realized another bull was coming…… oh boy. The second bull moved in from the west, staying in the low area where one of the cows was while the first bull stayed on the upper area (same level as us). He waited for the second bull to approach him, knowing he had the advantage of higher ground. There was no dramatic charging or clashing but bull #1 was definitely the winner is the contest. Bull #2 moseyed away in search of easier pickings. At least one of these bulls has a name, too, but I down’t know it yet.
Getting really good images is always satisfying, but I truly enjoy watching the animals interact. There’s always something to be learned from observing them.
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One of the main reasons I come to the Tetons now is to watch and photograph the moose. This time of year they are in wonderful coat, all shiny and sleek and the bulls are on the lookout for cows. The day after I got settled in at the campground I drove along the river to see what I could find. Lo and behold, there was a bull hanging around a cow with twin calves of this year. I think it was wishful thinking on his part but great to see them all. They graze on the willow shrubs that grow along the river stripping the leaves off the thin branches. Haven’t seen the cow with twins since but it’s good to know she’s out there.
One day I took a drive along a narrow winding road that goes from Moose (yes, it even has a post office!) to Wilson. This handsome elk bull was just coming out of the trees into a large field. When he spotted the stopped cars he kept moving away from us at a dignified pace so I was able to get an image. Butt shots aren’t my favorites but in this case it was this or nothing.
Recently the moose have been coming into the campground early in the morning. I managed to get over to where there was a bull (he’s named Custer) and a cow. This is the same bull I saw at the river earlier. They were both laid down when I got there, he stayed down for 2 hours, got up and moved 10′ and laid down again. They were not particularly close to each other but when the cow got up (after a 4 hour rest) he did too. His efforts to get close to
her were wasted so he headed the other way to do “bull moose things” like rubbing his antlers on shrubs or tree trunks, making a wallow. As he did this he swung right coming very close to where I was and thwarting
the majority of photographers who anticipated a different direction for him. This gave me some great images as I hid behind 2 trees. I did move back after getting about all I could safely. My 4 hour wait was well rewarded I think.
This morning I was up and out but just missed the real action. Wysockie, a mature bull who seems to be dominant here had arrived. I’ve heard he knocked Custer to the ground. Custer headed away and I followed, thinking Wysockie and the cows would head the same way. Unfortunately my guess was wrong but I was able to get a nice image of Wysockie before he headed to the river with 2 cows.
This afternoon I took another drive just a short way out on the Moose-Wilsoon Rd. On the way back I was stopped by rangers who were holding up traffic…… I got to see 3 bear cubs cross the road and got a few photos through the windshield. Not the best but better than nothing. The sow had already crossed. From the coloring and head shape I think these are grizzly cubs.
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From Yellowstone I headed back to the Tetons for several days, hoping to find some moose. Second night I was there it was very clear so I headed up to Ox Bow Bend to see if I could capture the Milky Way over the water. All the while I was there I heard Elk bugling.
The moose were around. First morning at Gros Ventre as I was putting on my shoes my youngest (and most watchful) dog started barking at something outside one of the side windows. I got up to look and was face to face with a moose cow that was under the awning looking at me. Yikes!! No chance to get a photo, either! I made certain she was gone before opening the door with the dogs. Sure enough she and a mother cow were a ways behind the trailer so I hurried the dogs in the opposite direction and hoped they wouldn’t notice the moose. They didn’t so all wen well. Once they were back in the trailer and fed I grabbed my camera and headed for the river since the moose were likely to head that way. Sure enough, but with the 2 cows and a bull somewhere around it was also a bit spooky in the willows. Fortunately there weren’t any close encounters and I did capture this young bull crossing the river.
At one point I turned and captured a mule deer who came down to the river.
That was it for the moose until a few days later I was headed out and came across some folks watching a cow, calf and bull at a creek. Managed to get a few images of them.
A couple of days later there were 3 cows and a bull in the campground so I spent several hours watching them. I find it so interesting to watch them interact. When I got there they were all laid down, but eventually they got up and then it got interesting. They all keep an eye on each other, if one cow got near the bull another cam trotting over, but that second one had run away when approached by him. With them all moving about we had to keep our eyes on all of them so we weren’t in their way and didn’t upset them. To be honest watching moose takes a lot of patience, they seem to spend a lot more time laying down than moving around. But for me it’s worth it.
The weather turned very cold, with my down jacket and wind pants being the norm when I went outside. It was also liable to spit snow at any time. After one such day I went over to the well known barn on Mormon Row, the snowy Tetons made a nice backdrop for it.
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From Utah I headed north to Gros Ventre campground in Grant Tetons NP, just outside Jackson, WY. It was cold and snowy two days but the solar worked great keeping the trailer battery charged along with other stuff. Didn’t see any moose, but I did spend a bit of time at Schwabacher’s Landing, capturing a beaver, muskrat and some sort of interesting bird.
The snow fell mostly two mornings but once it stopped the roads were clear and dry. I took advantage of that and managed to get a few unique images.
As always it is interesting to photograph one of the old Mormon barns, the sunsets are never the same.
Last day I was there I finally got to see a bear.
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It’s been quiet around home as I’m getting things done and looking forward to the next outing. Making plans, checking out possible places to visit and routes to take is almost as much fun as the actual trip for me.
Tuesday morning I met up with a fellow photographer I’d met at Bosque del Apache and he
Milky Way over String Lake and the Tetons
kindly showed me one of his favorite locations in the area along with lots of tips about other places to go for wildlife. He also suggested I try String Lake for some night images. That night was wonderfully clear and the images I got are special.
Wednesday was full of moose. After feeding and walking the dogs I spotted a young bull in the area behind the trailer so I grabbed the camera and tripod. One of the fellows already out there said the big bull was laid down nearby. As I carefully went across the area I spotted another young bull and two cows. Wow, all the ingredients for action there! The moose spend a lot of time laid down with little
Young bull moose tempting fate
action going on but eventually the big bull did a good job of chasing one of the young bulls away, the other one left on its own. Another cow joined the other 2 and all the animals laid down, again. After 4 hours I quit and went back to the trailer for some food and to get some stuff done. Later I went back out and found the big bull and 3 cows laid down with one of the young bulls still close by. Eventually he wandered right over near the others and the big bull chased him up into the campground. I wasn’t in a good spot for any of the chasing shots, but managed to get a few other images.
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Heading back to the trailer after some shopping in town I saw folks hanging around a campsite…..naturally I slowed down to see what the attraction was. There in the shade was a bull moose and close by was a cow, also taking her ease. Since I had my camera in the truck I pulled into an empty campsite and got my gear out. The people who had the campsite were not there so I walked to the back of their trailer and used it as a blind.
I had nothing planned and figured I could wait them out. Eventually she got up and after a bit he did, too. He was definitely interested in her and slowly tried to work it out with her. For us bystanders it appeared to be a very slow and rather indecisive process but so very interesting to see the interaction. We can only assume they decided an audience wasn’t what they wanted. They moved a short way across the field and then laid down again. All told I think I watched them over 4 hours before I gave up and went back to the trailer to feed the dogs. They’re probably still around somewhere close by so maybe I’ll see them again.