Hiding a Bison Herd

Posted by Dave Allee on

While visiting Wyoming a week or so ago, we headed out on a drive, in search of bison. We had heard that the herd frequented the Gros Ventre, working their way down from further North near the Parks.  As we approached Kelly, WY, my wife spotted a few black beetles on the horizon. When I say on the horizon, I mean way, way out there.  

We were trying to devise a way to get out in their direction, and close the distance on the formless black shapes.

We turned off the pavement onto a dirt track that followed a line of telephone poles, hoping it would connect through somewhere that wouldn't leave us stranded in the sagebrush.

As we worked our way through some mildly hairy obstacles, we reached the end of said dirt road, with a small turn-around spot and nowhere else to head but back where we came from.  The one benefit to our misguided trek down the dirt path was our vantage point had changed significantly.  A few hundred yards closer to where we were currently situated than the black forms on the horizon, we could now see an entire herd of Bison. Probably 200 of them.

We were actually looking directly over this herd to see the animals that we initially spotted.

The entire herd of 200 head was hidden from view in a seemingly flat plain of sagebrush, by a slight depression in the landscape.  From the road, it looks like flat, wide open country.  We couldn't hardly believe that from a different angle, we could now see roughly 140 tons of bison that had evaded our scanning eyes just minutes ago.  

If it had not been for the few individual animals way out on the horizon, spotted by my wife, we would never have headed in the direction that now lead us to the herd.

Our second attempt to get closer to the American Bison was far more successful.  We pulled off onto a far more well-trafficked dirt road, and worked our way directly to our query.  

Finally, after a search that lasted nearly half an hour from inception to completion, we sat among one of the West's most iconic beasts, in one of the most beautiful backdrops in the region.  We hung out and basked in the moment, taking photos and taking in the sights and smells.  Even a herd of 200 bison smells better than the city.

** Lesson learned today: the topography of a landscape can be extremely deceiving from a single perspective.  

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