With some time off of school, I was able to do some camping over the first part of Christmas break. With the restrictions on what you are allowed to do with a dog in Yellowstone, I decided it was best for Malaki if we went to Bighorn Canyon NRA and the Cody area. It had also been a long time since I had been over to see the Pryor herd, so I wanted to see how they were doing.
At the base of the bighorns was support of the claim that “not as many elk can be found during gun season because they are on the private ranches”. A large herd was sprawled across a ridge on what I believe is the Horseshoe Ranch. While this is well after season, I have seen large herds there as early as middle school football season in late September.
It wasn’t too late when I got to Lovell, but with the clouds and the shortest day of the year, I knew I wouldn’t have time to do any hiking until the next day. I decided to run out to the dryhead first. I did not encounter the greeters any of the 3 days I was there, but I was fortunate to run across Fiero a little before the Devil Canyon Overlook Road. He did not have anyone with him, but looked good.
I stopped to glass the area around Sullivan’s Knob (The little one way loop just past the overlook). I thought that I could hear some sheep butting heads, so I decided to hike over the knob. While I did not find multiple rams, I did find one ram that came in to escort a small band of ewes/lambs.
I carefully proceeded to Mustang Flats, and could not find any horses or tracks. I did not see anyone out there the next 2 days, either. I decided to drive over to Lower Sykes and out toward Burnt Timber to scan Turkey Flats before it got dark. On the way back through I did stop and watch Fiero a little more, and did run across a lot of doe deer.
I did not find any tracks or horses in the lower sykes area, but I did not go much off of the main road to the guzzler because of the snow. My trip to BT was more fruitful as I was able to view some horses out on the upper end of Turkey Flats and in the bottom just past it.
It was too dark to hike out to them, but at least I knew there were some there for the next day, although my plan was to drive a little ways up Burnt Timber and hike back to where many of the horses hang out in the winter.
When I awoke the next day, it had snowed a few inches over night. Not finding any fresh track in the park, I decided I would go out to Turkey Flats. I parked at the turn-off up Burnt Timber and knew that I could not drive any further up it as would have been possible the evening before. The good news is that I had seen 1 band on the lower turkey flats terrace, 1 in the valley below it and 1 between the road and the flats. Hiking always seems to go a little quicker when you have a target and you are sure you are going to find someone.
The band between Turkey Flats and the road just happened to be my favorite. It was Garcia, Greta, Millicent and Norma Jean! They all looked healthy and the snow didn’t seem to be bothering them much. I watched them for a little, but left after a shorter time than I may have stayed in the summer because I don’t like to be around the horses for too long in the winter. They seemed fine with me there, but I know this is a group that likes left alone more than most others.
I could still see the horses on the lower TF terrace, and the best way to get there seemed to be following a canyon down to just below them. With the snow on the trees and the red rocks, the canyons were very pretty.
When I finally got to the lower terrace, the first horse I recognized was Isadora. While Blue Moon and Amethyst were a little further away to begin, I was able to view his group fairly close as they were curious and came in to check me out.
From the terrace, I made my way to look down into the bottom where I had seen the last group. It was Bolder’s band. It is amazing how dry and weed-like much of what they eat is and yet that it sustains them through the winter.
While I kept Malaki on his leash at heal position for most of our hike, I let him “mush” without his harness going back up the canyon wash. He was on his own to avoid the yucca and cactus, which is easier in the wash than in a lot of the lower sykes/turkey flat area.
By the time we got back to the car, we only had time to make another run through the park. We did see some bucks this time, but they were pretty small.
I made one last sweep through the park before leaving for the Cody area on Monday. They finally had a plow going through around 9:30, although I was a little surprised because I didn’t think they plowed in the park at all. While scanning from Sullivan’s Knob, I was able to find 3 horses high on a ridge above the power lines.
I watched for a while, hoping they would come down. They were keeping about the same height and if anything moving a little higher. Without really looking for markings, I hypothesized that it was Kemmerer, Chief Joseph and Johnston. It was windy and the hill is fairly steep. Was it really worth it to hike up and see them closer. I told myself that if they stopped moving up and there was a place to park below the ridge leading to them, I would make the hike. Things worked out nicely and I did end up going up for a quick 2-3 minute peak at them before leaving them to enjoy the wind. I was not 100% correct, but as Meatloaf said, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. The dun was Kemmerer, but the black was actually Hawk. I am pretty sure the grullo is Johnston, but he is one I have not seen near as often as most of the others on the range so I could be wrong. These were the last horses I saw before leaving for the Shoshone River forks.