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Bighorns by Rocks

December 2017 Daily Journal for JH & GTNP

“Short days with lots of possibilities” 

Monthly Overviews for JH / GTNP .

Daily Updates Archives: ~
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Check Out These TWO Popular Pages: If I Had Only One Winter Day in the Tetons: and A Trip to Jackson Hole

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December 10, 2017 – Sunday

Grand and Morning Ducks

Grand and Morning Ducks: Captured near the Kelly Warm Springs. Nikon D850 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens, Handheld.

Sunrise was at 7:45 am today, with temperatures hoovering just above 0°F. A light breeze added an extra bite to the cold.

Alert Bull Moose

Alert Bull Moose: Taken in the sage flats north of Kelly. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod.

Fleeing Moose

Fleeing Moose: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod.

Sparring Bull Moose

Sparring Bull Moose: The cottonwoods in the distance run along Ditch Creek. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod.

Bighorns

Bighorns: Captured on the National Elk Refuge.  Nikon D850 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod.

Snake and Grand Sunset

Snake and Grand Sunset: The sun is almost as far south as it will get for the year, lighting the south face of the peaks in the afternoon. I took these shots along the Snake River near Wilson. Nikon D850 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens, Handheld.

Snake and Grand Sunset

Snake and Grand Sunset: Nikon D850 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens, Handheld.

Steel Cover

Steel Cover: As I was hiking out of the river bottom, I spotted this interesting design. Nikon D850 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens, Handheld.

If you are interested in taking a One-On-One Photo Tour with me, click the links below! For inquiries, send an email to info@tetonimages.com. I have numerous openings in December & January.  Bighorns should be butting heads and Moose are often visible in the snow covered sage flats. Most bulls will still have antlers at that time.

Best of the Tetons Photo Tours

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December 9, 2017 – Saturday

Coyote

Coyote: This morning, I made a loop around Kelly—mainly looking for Moose. The ones I saw were out in the sage. I heard a few Bison have been hanging around the Elk Flats area, so I headed that direction just for “something” to capture. I saw four or five canines running across the pasture and got to a spot as quickly as possible. I was hoping they were Wolves, but Coyotes would be fine for today. I wasn’t set up for speedy Coyotes, originally thinking I’d be seeing lumbering Moose or Bison. This isn’t a great shot, but hopefully it will be better prepared for what “might happen”. I talk about that all the time with my tour clients, but today, I didn’t follow my own advice! Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld.

Bison

Bison: Well…they were there! I would guess there are 150-200 in the area. The area can also have Badgers and Wolves. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld.

Elk Ranch and Mt. Moran

Elk Ranch and Mt. Moran: Wolf Ranch Road and Elk Ranch Roads are still open, including the connector between the two. On cold mornings, the Snake River regularly generates a low cloud or fog bank, even on mornings when the weather reports call for clear skies. This morning my truck thermometer read 0°F. These are remnant structures from the old dude ranch at Elk Ranch. Nikon D850 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens, Handheld.

Elk Ranch Cabins

Elk Ranch Cabins: As I mentioned a few days ago, I occasionally like to photograph familiar subjects from vantage points that omit the Teton Range. While I was “working” this area, I received a text letting me know that 399 and her two cubs were near the Pilgrim Creek bridge….so I abandoned these shots and headed that direction. It appears she may have crossed overnight and headed onward. Tracks at the end of Pilgrim Creek road access indicated Grizzlies had already passed through.  Nikon D850 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens, Handheld.

Frosted Aspens

Frosted Aspens: I shot this one mainly as a texture image. The fog and low clouds cling to and freeze on grass and branches—sometimes call hoar frost. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld.

Oxbow Pano

Oxbow Pano: Click this image to see it much larger! I had to wait in the parking lot a while to get this photo. I drove back down to the river’s edge and when I returned, hoping to see more of Mt. Moran, the frost had begun to melt on the aspens. A Red Fox has been seen off and on around Oxbow. I saw lots of critter tracks in the area. The river is almost full frozen at the “Bend”. Keep an eye open for River Otters that have been known to show up there. Nikon D850 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens, Handheld (three shot stitched Pano).

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December 8, 2017 – Friday

Bighorns on the Road

Bighorns on the National Elk Refuge: I took this timely shot today before seeing this article in the JH News & Guide: Sheep showing signs of pneumonia. Refuge officials are asking people NOT to let the sheep lick salt and chemicals from their vehicles. It is common to see groups of Bighorns on the road going from vehicle to vehicle. They were trying to get to my truck, but I kept pushing them away. They found another vehicle to attack. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC Off.

 

Aging a Ram: If you view a Ram’s horns, you can usually see several distinctive divisions or segments. Similar to the growth rings on a tree, the divisions represent a single year. Several of the Rams on Miller Butte have six segments. There may be one or two with seven segments. Some “broom” the tips of their horns, but since they grow from the base up, the tips never grow back.

Broadside

Broadside: I took this shot on the 5th, but had already posted a lot of images that day. The youngster is probably 3 years old. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

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December 7, 2017 – Thursday

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl: This owl was tucked deep into the branches. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Swans on Ice

Swans on Ice: Taken along Flat Creek. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Power Station

Power Station: Something different captured in the late evening in Kelly. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC On.

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December 6, 2017 – Wednesday

If you were to scroll down to the December 1st entry on this page, you will find this paragraph:

“At this time of the year, I usually focus on Moose, Trumpeter Swans, and Bighorn Sheep—but also keep an eye out for chances to photograph Wolves, Foxes, Coyotes, Ermine, Owls, Pine Martens, Badgers, and so forth. There is a chance one of the Grizzlies will cross to and from the Gros Ventre River basin. Elk are being hunted and are generally elusive. Each day, more and more of them show up on the National Elk Refuge.”

My predictions have been spot on so far, though I haven’t personally seen the Grizzlies. I definitely saw Wolf tracks a few days ago, and several people have been seeing a Fox near Oxbow Bend. The Great Gray Owl was visible two days. Hopefully, we’ll see more of them soon. With the very cold overnight temperatures, some of the slow moving streams and pools are freezing, pushing Swans and Waterfowl closer and allowing them to stand on shelves of ice.

I’d love to get a few dozen new subscribers this month. Just add your email address above and hit the Subscribe NOW button! I have a couple of interesting Feature Posts on the drawing board right now. Be the first to get notifications!

Morning Outing

Chambers Homestead

Chambers Homestead: Interestingly, I spotted at least 26 Moose today, but didn’t take a single photo of them. Most were too far and a few were just not that interesting. I spent most of the morning driving around along the East Boundary Road and Antelope Flats. Hard to ever say when one of the Grizzlies will come off Blacktail Butte, or maybe a pack of Wolves following a herd of Elk. I spotted a few Coyote and Fox tracks, so I know wildlife is a possibility at almost any time, or any place in the park. Nikon D850 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens, Handheld (three shot stitched Pano).

Moulton Barn and Low Clouds

TA Moulton Barn: I like to occasionally take photos of scenes that most people would never think were taken in Grand Teton National Park. I’ve taken quite a few similar photos over the years, but they seldom look the same. This morning, the low cloud was lifting while part of the barn was in shadows. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Murphy Barn

Murphy Barn: This photo falls in line with the other two. This shot looks much different with moody low clouds, long shadows, and the first light of morning. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Setting Moon

Setting Moon: I had to drive quite a ways up the East Boundary Road to get the moon near the Grand. This shot might have been better two days ago, but the clouds covered everything on the West side of the valley. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Oil Stain

Oil Stain: I stopped to take this photo a couple of days ago along the asphalt covered portion of the Moose-Wilson Road. I had already taken a few thousand images of a bull Moose in the pond, but I still like to photograph most anything that catches my eye. Later today, I’ll probably be back in “wildlife mode” at Miller Butte later this afternoon. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Wildlife: I have been seeing around 35-40 Pronghorns in the valley. Yesterday, it appeared they were about the cross into the National Elk Refuge. Bison are in the Park, but not venturing into the National Elk Refuge (hunters are there waiting for them). I mentioned seeing 26 Moose this morning, mostly in the fields north of Kelly. A River Otter was spotted on a couple of occasions on the National Elk Refuge. Eagles and Ravens are seen regularly in hunt areas, feasting on elk gut piles. Bighorns are active now on the National Elk Refuge. I get random reports of Mountain Goats in the Snake River Canyon, but I like to wait until there is snow on the ground and rocks.

Afternoon Outing

Ram On Ridge

Ram On Ridge: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Ram on Hillside

Ram on Hillside: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Ram Pair On Slope

Ram Pair On Slope: With my zoom lens, I have tight shots of both Bighorns, but I pulled back and took a few “environmental” shots today. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Ram with Rocks

Ram with Rocks: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Ram with Grasses

Ram with Grasses: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

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December 5, 2017 – Tuesday

Wedding Trees

Wedding Trees: I was ready to photograph the moon yesterday, but it was much too cloudy. This morning, the moon was higher in the sky at first light. Nikon D500 and Tamron 18-400mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC On.

Wedding Trees

Wedding Trees: The cloud in the middle of this shot blocked all views of the mountains while on the valley floor. I essentially got above the cloud by going up the Gros Ventre. Nikon D850 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens, Tripod.

Ram on the Rim

Ram on the Rim: This ram was high on Miller butte—a bit out of my range—but I liked the stoic pose enough to snap off a shot. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Approaching Bighorn Ram

Approaching Bighorn Ram: This Ram was coming straight towards me for several shots before turning off to the right. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Lamb on a Rock

Lamb on a Rock: I was about to drive off when I saw this youngster on one of the boulders next to the parking lot. I jumped back out for a quick shot before it jumped off to join its mother. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC Off.

Rams Bashing

Rams BashingNikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC Off.

Ram Chase

Ram Chase: This chase probably covered two miles before ending at the rocks below. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handhald with VC Off.

Ram Chase

Cliff Stopping Point: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

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December 4, 2017 – Monday

Early Morning Moose

Early Morning Moose: Two of eight bull Moose seen early this morning north of Kelly. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Bull and Cow Moose

Bull and Cow Moose: Found on the Moose-Wilson Road. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC Off.

Bull with Aspen Reflections

Bull with Aspen Reflections: Same bull in one of the ponds along the Moose-Wilson Road. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Bull Moose with Dripping Water

Bull Moose with Dripping Water: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Bighorns

Bighorns: A quick head butt on Miller Butte at the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Bighorn Chase

Bighorn Chase: Chases can happen unexpectedly and last only a few minutes. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Bighorn Chase

Bighorn Chase: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

Bighorn Chase

Bighorn Chase: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Tripod with VC Off.

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December 3, 2017 – Sunday

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser: Captured along Flat Creek. I am always watching for these beautiful ducks. Found one today!  Nikon D850 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC ON.

Two Rams

Two Rams: Captured at the base of Miller Butte on the National Elk Refuge. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC ON.

Lip Curl

Lip Curl: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC ON.

Resting Ram

Resting Ram: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC ON.

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December 2, 2017 – Saturday

Alpenglow at Mormon Row

Alpenglow at Mormon Row: Nikon D850 and Nikon 24-70mm Lens, Tripod.

Morning Light

Morning Light: Wait just a little while and the scene can change drastically.  Nikon D850 and Nikon 70-200mm Lens, Tripod.

Bull in Sage

Bull in Sage: Nikon D850 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC ON.

Morning Drink

Morning Drink: Nikon D850 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC ON.

Morning Drink

Morning Drink: Nikon D850 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC ON.

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December 1, 2017 – Friday

Bighorn Ram

Today is the first day of December, marking a change in accessibility in many areas of Jackson Hole. Check some of the maps below for details.

HunterBe Aware!: The Elk Reduction Program continues until December 15th in a few areas of Grand Teton National Park. If heading into any of the hunt zones, wear some orange!

At this time of the year, I usually focus on Moose, Trumpeter Swans, and Bighorn Sheep—but also keep an eye out for chances to photograph Wolves, Foxes, Coyotes, Ermine, Owls, Pine Martens, Badgers, and so forth. There is a chance one of the Grizzlies will cross to and from the Gros Ventre River basin. Elk are being hunted and are generally elusive. Each day, more and more of them show up on the National Elk Refuge.

Muskrat on Ice

Also of note, sunrise is at 7:30 and most daylight shots are over at 4:30. The sun is low in the sky in December and January, effectively allowing photographers to stay out all day. Alpenglow is best this time of the year for people willing to get up early.

Swans in Flight

November 2017 Daily Journal for JH and GTNP. Remember, the first week or two of December will resemble the last couple of weeks of November. I takes a few days to begin filling the December Journal, so click the link to get a feel of what to expect. Also, check out the Monthly Overviews for JH / GTNP .

December 1st Morning Outing

Moose In Gros Ventre

Moose In Gros Ventre: This morning, I spent a fair amount of my time in the Kelly and Gros Ventre area, watching for Wolves, Bears, Deer, and Moose. The Moose above was #21 I saw this morning, spotted in the Gros Ventre river basin. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC ON.

Moose In Gros Ventre

Buck Mule Deer In Gros Ventre: Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC ON.

Elk on the Refuge

Elk on the Refuge: By the time I was heading towards town, most of the bull Elk had already bedded down, but I pulled over to document on the December 1st post they are now showing up. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC ON.

Bighorn Group

Bighorn Group: Captured on the National Elk Refuge. The rut is getting underway with Rams much more interested in the Ewes. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC ON.

Bighorn Ram

Bighorn Ram: I kept waiting for this Ram to turn his head more in my direction. This shot shows how some of the rams “broom” the tips of their horns. Nikon D5 and Tamron 150-500mm G2 Lens, Handheld with VC ON.

 

Superintendent’s Compendium Amendment – Road Closures and Day-use Access . This GTNP page includes some of the recent area and road closures:
GTNP Superintendent’s Compendium . The Compendium has all the official rules for the park, including closure areas. The information below comes from a section of the Compendium.

Winter Closure Map

Winter Closure Map

From December 15th to April l the following areas are closed to all public entry unless authorized by written permit from the Superintendent (see map below).

a. The Snake River floodplain south along Highway 89 from the confluence of the Buffalo Fork at the Moran bridge to Ditch Creek, west along Ditch Creek to the Snake River, then west along the 4-Lazy-F fence line to Cottonwood Creek and north to the River Road, north along the River Road to the RKO Road and then NE along the Snake River to the Buffalo Fork confluence.

b. The Buffalo Fork River floodplain and the UhI Hill area defined as the following: starting section 21 (T45N, RI 13W) where the park boundary intersects the Buffalo Fork, then south along the park boundary to the intersection with the Elk Ranch Reservoir Road, then westerly along the Elk Ranch Reservoir Road to Highway 26, then north and east along Highway 26 to the park boundary in section 30 (Ti 14W, R45N), then south, east, and northeast along the park boundary to the starting point.

c. The Kelly Hill area (portions of Sections 1 and 2 in T42N, Ri 15W.)

Winter Road Closures

Winter Road Closures

Winter Closure Maps in PDF format:

 

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Comments (7)

  1. ED CLARK

    Thanks for keeping me informed w/ all your great photos & notes as to how you took them.. Beautiful work as always.. I have one of the 1st
    Tamron 150-600 lens.. I would like to know how you truly feel about your new G2, if you find time.. I am considering updating, and would sure like you input before doing so..
    Thanks again for your great posts..

  2. Craig Knecht

    Howdy Mike, My wife tells me she has tried to subscribe to your email notifications about new Best of the Teton updates and photos and has been unsuccessful. Please add her to your distribution list with the following email address: mzach@silverstar.com

    Thanks,

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours.

  3. Lowell Schechter

    Mike, wonderful images of the Elk and Moose. It is amazing how many animals you can photograph if you go to the right places . And of course keeping yourself safe from the Elk hunters. Good advice to wear bright clothing. Another interesting that you mentioned was the hours you can photograph during the day. It is nice to know the sun does not get really high in the sky during the winter months.

  4. Hi MikE: I notice you are using the D5/Tamron combination a lot. How do you like the D850? Mine is finally getting here Monday and will try it out at the Pipeline Masters surf contest later in the coming week.

    Aloha, Bud

  5. Hi Bud,
    After the initial newness wore off, I am now pairing the three different bodies with lenses that make sense to me at the time. I like the D850 for landscapes and for wildlife that isn’t moving fast. So the 24-70 or 70-200mm lenses are usually on it. The D5 works great for low light and fast moving targets, so it gets the Tamron 150-600mm, and the D500 has the Tamron 18-70mm for walk around shooting. I put the 200-500mm lens on the D500 if I want a little extra reach. Neither the D850 or D500 match the D5 for low light however. I am waiting for RRS or Kirk to ship the L-Brackets for the D850 grip setup. There’s a lot to like with all three bodies.

  6. Eugene Wright

    i have seen the sheep on the elk refuge licking the salt off of cars. with the out break of pneumonia in the sheep have you heard any talk of the road being closed to sightseers to protect the sheep?

  7. Eugene, I don’t think that will happen. There are a few signs at the entrance that tell people not to stop on the road, but no additional signs at the most common zones. And, there are no signs anywhere telling people not to let the sheep lick vehicles. I stop, roll my window down and tell the people about licking a sucker after knowing another person with a cold has already licked it. Signs would be an obvious fix. The Refuge already issued permits to quite a few tour operators for 2017-2018, so I wouldn’t expect much to change this year.

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