Bison Range

OutdoorWriter

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From some of the background in many of your pix, I suspected they had been from the MBR. I was pretty sure when you wrote "Mission Creek," however. A bunch of the ones I have posted also came from there. I have thousands more in the form of 35MM slides that aren't scanned. I sure wish the current crop of digital cameras was available back then. I would have collected a million images. :ROFLMAO:

Even so, the MBR has made me a lot of money over the years. I started visiting there every year in the early 1980s, usually after spending several days at YNP. It was really neat back then; you could pay $10 for a 'photographer's permit,' which included a magnetic USFWS decal for the door & a key that unlocked all of the gates. In addition, once you were out of sight of the main tourist loops, you could roam on foot. The limit was two permits a day. Once I got to know the range manager, I always called to reserve one for the days I would be there.

Alas, that all ended when a noted wildlife photographer advertised the availability of the special permit in an article he wrote for Outdoor Photography magazine. As a result, the USFWS had so many requests that they just said 'no more' & did away with them. It didn't stop me from going, but it was a bit of a downer, regardless, because many of my best photos were shot away from the loops. I think my last trip to the MBR was in 2000 or 2001.
 

ricochet

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I've always liked the variety of animals on the bison range and once I found an inexpensive place to camp nearby it was my go-to for September. After last year, I'm not sure I'll ever go back for any extended time. Using Covid as an excuse, they chased us out at 6:00 pm every evening, so we missed out on the evening light and animal activity. Then they killed one of the up and coming bulls because he gored a horse. They have an elk proof pasture but for some reason USFWS personnel were feeding two horses outside the fence. There was a quarrel over the food and the horse lost, entirely preventable but the bull paid the ultimate price. And now ownership is reverting back to the tribe so how it's going to be managed is anyone's guess. Here's a pic of the bull in question, first in 2019 and then in 2020 shortly before he was killed. I was told the bull was only 6 years old, could have become a very special specimen in a few more years.

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OutdoorWriter

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Nice bull!

Yup, the variety was super. I have pix of elk, mule & white-tailed deer, bear, RM bighorn, mountain goat, pronghorn, and a mixture of small critters. And... of course, bison.

I got in trouble one year over that fenced pasture. There was a big bulI (see below) in it, but he was hanging down where getting decent photos from the roads was impossible. While I was parked, another local photographer pulled up. We visited a while and decided to walk down the Mission Creek fishing access trail, then cross the ditch to the lower part of the pasture. That put us about 75 yards from the bull. We were able to spend about 15 minutes before a USFWS truck pulled up in view, and the driver started yelling for us to get the hell out of there. Whoops. Fortunately that was after they had stopped handing out permits because I have no doubt I would have had to turn it in. :ROFLMAO:

More tales about MBR later, like my riding in the round-up one year and one where I almost sent my truck for a ride off of Red Sleep.

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OutdoorWriter

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Also back in 2016- 2017 most of the sheep died. Think when it was over they lost at least 80% of them.
Here is a sick one from September of 2016.
Yeah, that was the pits. I remember reading about that. Pneumonia, wasn't it? Are there many left now?
 

ricochet

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When it was all over, I was told there were only around thirty bighorns left and no mature rams although I did see a pretty good one a couple years ago. Rattlesnakes seem to be doing fine.

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ricochet

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In all my years of wildlife photography, I'd never been attacked by any animal until I met this guy on the top of the Red sleep. Would hate to meet a grizzly with his attitude.

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OutdoorWriter

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When it was all over, I was told there were only around thirty bighorns left and no mature rams although I did see a pretty good one a couple years ago. Rattlesnakes seem to be doing fine.
Oh geez, I'm sure glad I didn't know there were rattlesnakes on the Range when I was wading around in all the tall grass down on the west side. It's bad enough I had to be aware of them here in AZ.
 

OutdoorWriter

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Before I left home each year on my photo safari to the north, I would call ahead to the MBR to see what date they had scheduled the bison roundup. They closed the Red Sleep loop then. Knowing the dates meant I could adjust my schedule accordingly to go there first or to YNP first. One year, circa early 1980s, I arrived a few days before the roundup, and that led to one of the highlights of all my visits to the MBR.

It started while I was standing next to my truck, waiting on a good bull elk that was down the hill on the south side. Another truck pulled into the pullout. The driver got out, walked over and we started talking. He introduced himself by name & gave me a business card that said he was the mayor of St. Ignatius, the small town just east of the range. He was also an amateur photographer.

We chatted for quite a while, but I thought it strange when he started asking me if I knew how to ride a horse. I eventually found out why, though. He obviously knew all the USFWS folks there quite well since he took it upon himself to invite me to ride along for the annual roundup. Not being a dummy, I quickly accepted. I later found out that there are a few "invited guests" on each of the annual roundups.

Two days later, bright & early, I was in the saddle & headed for the hills. It was blast. The last big push was driving the entire herd down the hill to the bison corrals in kind of a regulated stampede. Being so close to those shaggy beasts on horseback was a bit unnerving, but all went well, other than all the dust I swallowed.
 
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ricochet

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The last few years I've been staying at a former USFWS employee's place. Boy, does he have some stories to tell. And, yes, there's a healthy population of rattlesnakes there, I've seen them along both Mission and Pauline Creeks.
We had a great bear encounter in 2016, two sows happened to put their five cubs into the same tree. Doubt I'll ever see that again.

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OutdoorWriter

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Cool. I occasionally hooked up with another photographer, too. In the early 1990s, I had one fly out from New Hampshire. Another drove his truck from Ohio because we were also heading into the Selway on an elk hunt afterward. It was the first visits to the park & the MBR for both of them.

The gal in this photo was the one from NH. Her name is Margo Taussig Pinkerton, also known as The Barefoot Contessa for many, many years.

Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures

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OutdoorWriter

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I was going thru some of the remaining image files on this computer and came across the one below. It reminded me of one of my "are you really that dumb, Tony" moments.

The goat was down the hill on the right off Red Sleep. I drove by him at first, so I decided to back up & park where the road was a bit wider. That way another vehicle could get by easier if necessary. Wasn't too smart of an idea. When I did, the right rear tire of my Nissan 4x4 likely was sitting way too close to the edge on the steep side. As I shut the truck off, I felt it kinda slip sideways. Sure enough, when I got out with camera in hand, I saw part of the bank under the tire had collapsed. The wheel was now perched on the slope & off the road. To make matters worse, I noticed my left front wheel was about 2 inches off the ground.

I opted not to try & move the truck. You guys know how steep & long that hill on top to the right of the road is. The truck would have rolled for 10 mins. once it started. :ROFLMAO:

About 15 mins. later, a guy came along in his sedan. I asked him to have one of the USFW folks call me a tow truck. Naturally, it took him a while to finish the loop. About an hour passed and along comes Hugh, one of USFW service guys I knew. He agreed with me to leave the truck alone till we had something substancial attached to it. He used his radio to call the office. In turn, they called a tow truck out of nearby Charlo.

Another hour later, the tow truck had finally arrived. He hooked up a heavy chain to the front of my truck & kept it taut while I carefully got in my truck & drove back on to the road.

I almost fell over when tow truck driver told me it would be $20 and to just stop by the gas station in Charlo to pay, which I did.

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ricochet

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A friend of mine and his son had a breakdown on Pauline Creek and had to be towed down to Charlo, the tow bill was minimal. Then they were directed to a retired mechanic who fixed their problem in record time, on a Sunday, and once again charged very little. Some of the nicest people I've ever met live in that area.

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OutdoorWriter

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For all the driving I've done to hunt or fish throughout N.A. over the last 60years, including two trip over the Alcan, I've had only one breakdown other than running out of gas a couple times.

I was driving a '92 Nissan 4x4 on my way to Alberta for an archery elk hunt. I was supposed to pick up the owner of Atsko (Sno-seal) who was flying into Bozeman, MT. About 30 miles north of Kanab, UT, the truck just shut off & no amount of cranking would restart it. Fortunately, just after I opened the hood to look around, a tow truck with a car already attached came by heading in the opposite direction and stopped to see if I neeeded help. He was based in Kanab, so he went & dropped off the one car & returned for my truck.

Back at his station, we pulled the distributor cap, & the rotor didn't turn when we cranked the starter. Broken timing belt! No one in Kanab was set up to do that kind of work. So the station owner got on the phone & called the Nissan dealer in St. George. They couldn't even start it for at least a week. Next he call the Mitsubishi dealer. They would do it, but wouldn't start it until Mon. since the next day was Sunday.

So off we went with the truck in tow from Kanab to St. George, a distance of about 75 miles. As ordered, we dropped the truck in front of the garage entrance, and I walked up the hill aways & checked into a Motel 6. That night I called Kurt at his hotel in Bozeman & told him I would keep him updated. In the meantime, I called a good friend in Bozeman & asked if she could find something to keep Kurt busy for a day or two.

Monday, bright & early, I was at the dealer before it opened since I had the key. It was good timing at about the time the mechanic was about to start on it. I told him my situation & asked if it would be okay for me to help a bit since I had been a mechanic years back, No problem.

We got it all apart, replaced the shreded belt & put it all back together with new oil & coolant by early Tues. Sadly his forewarning about the V-6s turned out to be true when we tried to start it. No compression! When the belt broke, all the pistons wound up slamming into the valves & bending the stems. We then had to order new valves from SLC. Not available there; had to come from CA first!

Of course, all this time, I was in touch with Kurt. He in turn contacted our Canadian outfitter to let him know our status. We were lucky; we were the only ones he had booked for the bow season. He said the hunt would start whenever we arrived.

So on Tues., we tore down the top of the engine, and while the heads were off, we ground the valve seats. We were then at a standstill until the valves arrived, which wasn't until Thurs., mid-afternoon. In the meantime, I had a can of wax in my truck, so I spent some of Weds. & Thurs. putting a nice thick coat on the paint.

Late Fri. we finished eveything, but I waited until the next morning to leave -- albeit $1800 poorer. The truck ran great until I traded in to by my Dodge 4x4.
 

ricochet

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My little GMC died on me during a late November photography trip last year. Got it towed to town to find all the mechanics swamped with vehicles that broke down during the recent elk season. So I left it with a repair shop that gave me an $800 estimate. Two months later I got a call that it was repaired, final cost $3200. Still hurting from that one.

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ricochet

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I have zero pics from Yellowstone. The only time I went, my camera fell off a borrowed tripod and died at my very first wildlife encounter in the park. That was 36 years ago and I've never gone back.
 

OutdoorWriter

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I have zero pics from Yellowstone. The only time I went, my camera fell off a borrowed tripod and died at my very first wildlife encounter in the park. That was 36 years ago and I've never gone back.
Both YNP & MBR were always on my mid- Sept. itinerary for many years.

My mentor, Jim Tallon (RIP), who got me started in the outdoor writing & photography business in 1968 or so, first turned me on to the park. After I moved to Colorado in the mid '70s, he drove up to my place outside Durango & off we went. We slept in his van but ate our meals in restaurants.

That trip more than paid for itself. I sent 20 elk slides to Field & Stream; they bought 4 of them at $250 ea. for ALL RIGHTS back then. I was ecstatic since it was a my first of many sales to the Big Three -- F&S, OL & SA. Jim was a bit steamed, however, because he felt I had somehow undercut him by beating him to the punch. He got over it quickly, tho, and we remained friends until he passed away several years ago.

One day in YNP, we were sitting in one of the turnouts watching a bear that was out of camera range just in case it decided to saunter closer. A guy in a cowboy hat walked up along the side of the van to Jim's open window and says (maybe paraphrased a bit) , "Aren't you Jim Tallon? We met last year at the OWAA conference. I'm Jim Zumbo."

Zumbo & his friend, Gabby Barrus, had a small camp trailer parked in one of the YNP campgrounds. They invited us to dinner that night. I had joined OWAA in 1972 but hadn't attended any conferences until I returned to Phoenix in 1979. Once I started going every year, Zumbo & I became good friends & remain that way to this day. We served together on OWAA boards and also on the steering committee & first board that gave birth to POMA -- the Professional Outdoor Media Association -- in 2005.

The POMA committee...

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OutdoorWriter

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I've seen only one bear at the MBR. It was down in the bottom about 1/2-way thru the loop where they have two gates that can close the road off at either end. They use that as a holding pen for the bison during the round-up. I sat there for a long time, but the bear was in the heavy brush & never got into a position for photos. I think it was probably the only bear on the range back then.
 

ricochet

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I lost track of how many bears I saw in 2019. The bigger bears would pull branches down to reach the berries and the smaller ones, like in this photo, would just climb up into the bushes and munch away.

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ricochet

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The main draw for me at the bison range in September is the elk rut, obviously, but the antelope rut is roughly the same time frame with lots of posturing, chasing, and rubbing on vegetation.

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ricochet

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On another trip with Brute, we were trying for some pics of this coyote pup but he was in tall grass and not giving us any clear shots. Don't know why, but I told Brute to get ready, "He's going to jump up on that rock" about twenty yards ahead of him. And he did. Lucky guess but don't tell Brute, he thinks I'm a coyote whisperer. ;)

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6ppc

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Tony you and ricochet are a hoot and I've really enjoyed following you guys along on this thread...thanks you two for the laughs and stories!!
 

hawkbill

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Thank for the pictures and stories, what a bunch of professional photos. About 7 or 8 year ago I had stopped to glass off a point and a Grouse walked up to me out of the brush, he went for my pack first and starting pulling things out, then jumped up on my 4 wheeler started strutting around. He jumped off and came at me, I ended up packing up and moving. I got the message.
 

ricochet

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I've talked to several photographers who had similar experiences to mine at the bison range, grouse can be aggressive, a friend was driving down the road and a grouse ran out and started attacking his tires.
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Brute

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To be fair about the Coyote Whisperer. We had seen another coyote a couple days before on a different rock. Was pretty cool that they did get on the rocks to give us clear shots.

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