Yesterday when reviewing a file of photos of an area in which I plan to do some backpacking next summer I ran across this photo that I had not posted before, and it’s one of several that I really like. I stalked this big guy for about a hundred and fifty yards on my belly through tall grass until I got close enough for this thirty-yard shot and then to realize that he had long been aware of my rather clumsy approach, and was just plain not afraid of me.
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep photographed at the end of Sundance Ridge
I’m quite sure these two had never seen me before and I don’t think they are part of a large group that hangs out about 15 miles from where they were.. There are different bands of sheep here spread along 50 miles east to west. I am going to spend a few days in the middle part of Sundance Ridge in the roadless area next summer and it will be interesting to see if any sheep are living up there. It’s a rather strenuous hike to get up there, from about 2600 feet at the trail head to just over 7000 feet five miles up the trail.
Possible Grizzly country but not too likely. Lots of Black Bears though. Nights? There are lots of nice places to put a backpack tent along the trail. I prefer under a big old tall pine where the needles are 6 inches deep. Feels like a feather bed! On windy nights, just on the lee side of a sharp ridge or rock outcrop out of the wind.
Kinda looks like he’s saying “Wonder what that guy is up to over there. I’d better keep an eye on him”. I always find it interesting how much better animals are at being aware of their surroundings. A skill humans have surpressed.
Their lives always depend on being aware, and sometimes ours do too. It’s part of enjoying the outdoors. Bighorns have unusual attitudes in that they are often unafraid, as though they know that they could butt me off the mountain if they chose and therefore don’t worry about my presence.
His coat is amazing. It almost looks like suede. It seems very tight, and not very thick. It must do well at keeping him warm, though – like the elk, deer and such. I admire your ability to track and find these animals, but I admire even more your ability to leave before making them restless. That’s the hard part!
That’s his winter coat coming in. It really is thick and warm. They have no problem with the cold!
When you spend a lot of time wandering around through the back country, you will encounter animals. I seldom go out specifically to find them unless of course it’s hunting season for deer and elk. Part of the wonder of being alone in the back country is the opportunity to see and sometimes inter-relate to wildlife. They let you know by the way they act if they are alarmed, or relaxed, irritated or possibly aggressive and you learn to sense when you are in or close to what they consider their private space and it’s good to respect that. They act much like you or I would. I almost always wear camouflaged clothing, which also helps, and make as little noise as possible. I think they tend to accept anyone who behaves like one of them and who respects their patterns of behavior.
When I’m close to rams I always sense a feeling of confidence and strength, never fear. I think their attitude is that I’m welcome as long as I don’t misbehave and if I do they will simply knock me off the mountain, in a matter-of-fact sort of way. And I can get along fine with those rules.
I’m sure you would enjoy them. This time of year a group of them will come down on the highway not too far from here and everyone stops to look at them and I see a lot of them taking pictures. These two were in the back country though and not uses to seeing people. Very curious.