While driving to the McCullough Peaks on Friday night, I wasn’t sure where I was going to go Saturday. Sandy (Sisti — Wild at Heart Images) had been posting a lot of great pictures from Yellowstone, so a trip there seemed like a good idea. Yet it was also Memorial Day weekend which would mean a LOT of people. I also had to be home Saturday night, which would mean I probably wouldn’t get to a lot of Yellowstone. As I drove out from my camping spot to the highway, I still wasn’t sure where I wanted to go, but made a quick decision to head left once I had to make the choice.
With the thought of people every where, I decided to go to the one place that there probably wouldn’t be too many people, Fifteenmile HMA. I didn’t see another car or person my whole time there, which I doubt I would have been able to say about much of anywhere else. Right before I got to Fenton Pass, I was surprised to see first one elk, and then 3 more. I knew there were elk over near Meteetsee, but I didn’t know they came this far out into the desert area.
I also saw some small buck deer growing their antlers back out.
While I did not get a lot of great photo opportunities, it was nice t be some where I didn’t hear any cars in the distance and could just listen to the sounds of nature. The more active spots in fifteenmile center around the water, where a lot of birds gather.
The only horses I was close enough to get pictures of were right at a wash that had water freshly run through it. We both surprised each other a little and they proceeded to run to a safe distance to watch me. I have mentioned it before, but many of the horses in HMA’s outside of McCullough and the Pryors that I have been to are a lot less tolerant of humans. I was fortunate to get the shots I did of these 2.
I could not find any more horses down in the bottom. I went back to my favorite viewing spot and scanned in all directions. I was able to finally locate a few horses in an area I have seen them before. I hiked there once. A long hike but there were a lot of horses there that time. They only allowed a few shots before moving around the corner and up a draw. With that in mind, I decided I wasn’t going to make the hike to them today. If they had foals, they would want left alone even more than usual.
I made my way back to McCullough. The first horses I saw were moving down the creek in the area just on the Cody side of the WYDOT section. I was able to sneak low along the sage and set up on the overhang before the horses got to an open area where I could photograph them. They never came too close, but I did see where they like to lie in the creek and dust. I am glad I had my new, longer lens to pull them in some.
The next location that I had a chance to see some of the Peaks horses was back the “main” road just above the waterhole. There was a car parked in the road taking pictures, so I stopped behind them and grabbed some to as the horses moved along and then across the road. I can actually identify 4 of the horses and if I look a little more may find some more names.
**Update – I was able to learn some more names from Deb Little and get a field list. I have added the names in the captions. Thank you for the help and now I can hopefully name McCullough horses when I do updates on them.**
Legend, Tonkawa and Tradebeard
Even though the horses were still near the road and I had not taken pictures of all of the individuals, I decided to move past the car once it go to the side. Having been here before, I had an idea that they were heading down to the waterhole. I prefer to let horses move to me, rather than driving in to them, like I just had, where they might not be as comfortable. I drove around and down to the far side of the waterhole, back away from it. There are a few reason this made sense. The first is as I just mentioned, to let the horses make a choice to move in when comfortable. It also meant I was on the side where they wouldn’t have to go by me to get there. Probably the best reason from a photography stand-point is that it also put the sun at my back with the horses in front getting less shadows. I saw some of the horses come over the hill toward the water, with the car following and more horses behind it. The people were driving right down with the horses, and stopped on the near side of the waterhole where the horses had to go right by them. It probably meant a little closer photos, but the light was probably not as good. I do not know the McCullough herd as well and the car between them and the water did not stop them, but I would imagine they didn’t know these horses either or they would have come down ahead of them. There is a part of me that wishes they would close the roads that run right up to the water holes in McCullough.
Being on the far side also meant I had some reflection. I am not sure if I like the 2 horse or 3 horse better. Probably the 3, although it goes against my personal tendency ( not necessarily a good one) to get everything zoomed in with less empty space and more details.
As the horses left I thought the car might go to the right and back around to where the horses might cross the road again. It didn’t. It followed most of them right back up, with some still behind them. Honestly, the horses never ran, so maybe it was no big deal. I have had Pryor horses move right by my car. Yet I think I have learned a little about horse behavior. While they didn’t run, the horses also never stopped to graze as they went along. The Pryor horses move by, but it is usually slow and they graze as they go. The times they aren’t comfortable with you it is usually obvious. These horse may just have been in a hurry to get back to where they came from, because horses can move fairly quickly when on a mission to get somewhere. I can’t say I know, it just bothered me that day for some reason. Maybe it was just having to “share” the horses with some one after having all morning to myself.
Now that 14A is open, it is not much longer to go to Lovell and over than it is to go to Greybull and up, so I decided to stop by the Pryor range for a little while before going home. I stopped at the center to call Lori and Kaibab seemed to think if any one stops by he should be fed.
Lower Sykes was first to hopefully see Garcia, but no one was in the spots I could see. I then checked the Bad Pass guzzler and saw Inniq and Medicine Bow. It looked like there is maybe a scar on Medicine Bow’s forehead .
Lori had told me that the Greeters no longer included Jesse James. I found this to be the case both this day and when I was back out there June 2nd. I did not see him yesterday, but the other 3 were in place. On the 25th, Hickok had the ladies across Crooked Creek Bay and was hanging out above them on the cliffs.
While looking at the Greeters, Malaki and I saw this poor bird that appeared to have a broken wing. Nature has some interesting defense/protective mechanisms.
In a totally different area by himself was JJ. It was far off, but I am pretty sure this is him.
Coming back over the mountain I was reminded that I need to spend time in the Bighorns too. I saw 4 or 5 moose before Burgess Junction. On the East side I was able to find one close to road that I think was close to giving birth. When I first saw her I thought maybe she had and had afterbirth hanging out, but now I think it may be pre-birth material. I think I could see the calf’s bulge on her right side, but she didn’t seem to be in a hurry to push as she just kept eating and eating. She was still there as it got darker so I left her to probably give birth over night, unless I was totally wrong.
It was a short Memorial Day weekend for photography, but I had seen a lot. Sunday and Monday brought hail storms and spotty weather anyway, with rain continuing through Friday. That is good for the forage.