May 28, 2010

My buddy Rob and I headed for the mountains at 6AM for bighorn shots, but soon changed our minds and decided to go on a moose search instead. Winter Park turned up nothing of interest besides a colony of nesting swallows, so we continued up the road to Rocky Mountain National Park. As soon as we reached Grand Lake we spotted a scraggly red fox with a bird in it’s jaws, slowly skirting the lake shore. We were pulling over and getting into position for shots when three dogs appeared, running full-speed after the fox – the fox easily outran the dogs, gave them the slip in a stand of pines, then crossed the road directly in front of us and safely made it’s way up the hill and to the den with the bird breakfast in it’s jaws.

Several groups of cow elk were out roaming the Kawuneeche Valley (as always), but we continued with the mission until we reached the Coyote Valley trailhead – finally, a moose! The lone bull moose with brand new horns poking through his head was about 100 yards or so off of the road, kneeling down on it’s front legs grazing. Rob stuck near the car while I (as always) took off in search of a different vantage, setting up the tripod in a marsh about 40 yards from the car. After 5 minutes of shooting, the bull began to pay close attention to us, and started walking straight at me. As he was making his way toward me I realized that all four of his hooves were extremely overgrown (the front right hoof was the shortest, at about 10 inches), it looked like he was wearing those long, pointy, curly boots – they didn’t seem to be uncomfortable, just cumbersome. He walked to a willow bush about 25 feet from me, then turned and walked right between Rob and I toward the road. A truck spooked the moose and he ran down the road, his giant, curved hooves loudly clip-clapping. He ran off of the road, right past me and into the marsh.

We spent a while with the big guy, then headed out of the park. Passing through Grand Lake, I spotted a couple of people on a road above the highway looking intently into the trees – a mama moose and two tiny calves, what luck! These two little guys were less than a week old (according to local experts that had “known” this particular mama moose it’s entire life – it’s great to meet other people who really “know” the animals in their area), and they couldn’t be any cuter. Still unsteady on their long legs, it was a joy to watch them wobble around behind mom as she grazed on a hillside about 25 feet from us. The next hour or so was spent with the moose family, chatting with friendly folks who would come to adore the toddlers in between shots.

After a while mom took the babies up to the top of the hill and out of sight, so we headed to the car. Local experts told us that this mother moose had ditched her two yearlings last week, and they’d still been following her around from a safe distance. We drove about a half mile down the road and there were the yearlings, right on cue. We spent some time shooting the two yearling moose, then headed back to town – mission accomplished!

Comments and critiques are greatly appreciated, thanks!

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