art, photography, random thought, travel

wyoming | elk hunt

i was incredibly excited to be invited on Mike and Ellen’s elk hunt at the end of my trip to wyoming in september.

at that point, Elle had to head home, so i spent the last 10 days mostly by myself in the wild.  and of the last 3, my friends were kind enough to host me at hunting camp.

Jim also showed up. ¬†he and Mike go way back. ¬†and actually, he and i do too… randomly enough.

when i lived in pinedale in 2005, i tried my hand a few other jobs after quitting my job at the newspaper.

in this part of wyoming, everyone knows that able bodied folks can make a VERY good living roughnecking in the oil fields.  even i was tempted by the high pay they were offering.

one problem though…. no experience. ¬†in steps Jim.

he runs a water well rig, which is very similar to the oil rigs out in the fields.  and Jim was looking for a bit of help.

long story short, i apprenticed with Jim for one day. ¬†quickly realized i’m not the roughnecking type :)

but Jim was incredibly nice to this city slicker, and i will forever be grateful. ¬†he’s a good man.

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buster found a good spot for a midday nap.

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only the essentials… whiskey, guns….. and a broom?

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unfortunately, there was still a fire ban… so we had to use camping ingenuity… thanks to Ellen, we were all warm.

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when you’re at camp with Mike and Ellen, you’re not going to go hungry, that’s for sure. ¬†breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we ate like kings.

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we woke up very early on opening day to get the horses ready…

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it was a beautiful morning. ¬†but opening day is a tough day to spot animals… lots of other folks out looking for them too…

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no luck.  we searched all morning only to find that we may want to look for a new spot.

so we decided to take an evening drive down from our camp to scout a new location…

along the way, Jim spotted a few grouse…. mmm. ¬†dinner.

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tastes like chicken. ¬†especially when smothered in bbq sauce…

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we found a great spot.  but we would need to return the next morning before dawn.

and on the way back… more grouse.

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so we went back to our spot early the next morning, before sunrise. it was the day i would have to leave wyoming.

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it turned out to be a great location… we saw several good bulls. ¬†but one thing that i learned about hunting is that you don’t always get to shoot, even when you see what you’re looking for.

we never got the right looks, or they were never close enough.  the last thing a hunter wants is to wound an animal right before nightfall, or spoil the meat with a bad shot.

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so we explored a bit… and found a moose family. ¬†a cow, calf, and bull popped out of the willows and we had a chance to see them on the move together. ¬†a real treat.

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seeing the moose family was a nice way to wrap up the morning… but the sun was climbing higher, temperature rising. ¬†not a great time for hunting.

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so i decided to say my goodbyes and get on the road.

i had a really long drive back.  but my route took me back through pinedale, and for one last stop at soda lake.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2012

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art, photography, travel, writing

wyoming | the bounty of autumn

it’s been said before that fall in the mountains is a magical time.

the leaves are changing, the temperature drops, and the animals are energized with hormones for mating season.

moose populations in wyoming are declining because of the growing wolf numbers, and i’ve been seeing less and less of them every year. ¬†so i was really excited to see a huge bull with two cows at our campground one morning when we woke up. ¬†the state has recently opened a limited hunting season for wolves. ¬†there are at least two lawsuits in the courts currently, brought on by environmentalist groups to challenge the state’s new policy.

because of the close proximity of fires, the sunrises were often very hazy but quite colorful.

i spent many days out on the river road looking for bugling bull elk.  and i found plenty.

the bears were apparently out in full force.  fall is the time when grizzlies and back bear are fattening up for the long winter ahead.

and grizzlies, in particular, are emboldened by the fact that hunters are out in full force and leaving their kills’ guts in the field. ¬†it can be a dangerous time.

but i didn’t even see one bear the entire month i was there… just lots of signs…

mornings on the river road were marked by bugling elk.  they lead their harems up from the snake river to the high plains to strut at the foot of the tetons.

the evenings brought about the reverse.  the bulls, some with new females won from rivals, made their way back to the safety of the tall grass, trees, and water along the snake.

bugling is one of my favorite sounds in the natural world.  and spending the quiet times of my mornings and evenings listening to the haunting tune of elk replenished my soul.

autumn is a time of beginning and end.  the leaves fall from their branches, but not before they take on colors rarely seen so bright in nature.

bitter cold wind blows in from the north. ¬†but not without it’s gifts. ¬†the cold air brings with it the desperately needed moisture to alleviate the wildfires with the first snowfall.

i long for this time of year. ¬†i already miss it. ¬†and i’m already planning for next year…

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2012

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art, photography, travel

wyoming | the many faces of the tetons

my working title for this post originally was “l’obsession des tetons”…

you know, referencing western wyoming’s french explorer roots.

then, thanks to google translate, i quickly realized it was essential that i think of new title.

needless to say, i don’t speak french.

so last year, i had a photographic obsession with squaretop in the wind river range. this fall, i can’t believe i’m saying this, but i didn’t even visit green river lakes (where squaretop lives).

yes, it’s sad. but i was just too busy. i had a two hunts to attend, a ranch to shoot, lots of hot wings to eat in jackson, many pints to consume at deadman’s bar in signal mountain lodge, etc. so since most of my (very important) activities were near teton park, I decided to spend some much needed quality time with the beloved teton mountain range.

enter my newest photographic obsession.

it started the day we finished at the goosewing ranch shoot.

we had a burger and beer at deadman’s bar, then sat on the edge of jackson lake to watch a phenomenal sunset over the tetons.

i then ventured out on the river road, looking for elk. ¬†and the interesting photographic opportunities expanded. ¬†in the next blog post, i’ll show more of the elk photographs.

the clouds and smoke provided most of the drama for me.  but it is the landscape itself that always draws me in and keeps me coming back for more.

come on… you knew i had to.

a portrait with my subject….

more bull elk in the shadow of the mountain.

where the antelope roam…

i hiked to emma matilda lake for the first time.

and then, of course, oxbow bend.  there is good reason that this is one of the most photographed places in the world.  especially in the fall.

that night the stars were out in full force.  i could see the milky way stretching high above the tetons.

i’ve been going to this part of wyoming at least annually since 2001, which i know in the bigger scheme of things is not a long time.

but for me, it’s over a third of my lifetime, spending some of my favorite moments up there.

and honestly, i can’t wait to find out what gorgeous mountains will capture my obsession next year.

God bless wyoming.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2012

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