Montana Outdoors

January 25, 2008

It’s really quite warm out here in the cold!

Filed under: Animals, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures, White-tail deer — Tags: — montucky @ 11:45 am

Several days ago just before noon I checked the outdoor temperature from our sensor mounted in the shade of a big fir tree in the yard; 10ºF. A moment later I noticed that another thermometer mounted in the sun on the south side of our garage indicated 75ºF. An interesting contrast!

At this latitude, the winter sun rides quite low in the southern sky, giving its beams a nearly vertical angle against a wall or steep hillside, and even when the air temperature is quite cold, those steep slopes gather enough heat to melt most of the snow and maintain a comfortable temperature during sunny periods.

Mule deer and bighorn sheep especially, take advantage of this and can usually be found on steep south-facing slopes which are relatively warm and have natural food grasses exposed even when the surrounding terrain is covered with deep snow and the air temperature is in single digits or even below zero. (I also enjoy settling in on such a slope and having a warm and comfortable spot from which to observe the area below.)

This whitetail doe and her last summer’s twins also understand this phenomenon and are enjoying the comfort of the sun while browsing for food on a frigid winter day.

Whitetail doe and fawns


  1. Wow that is one big difference in temp, btw -1 here this morning, but it will get better. great shot Terry 🙂


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — January 25, 2008 @ 12:43 pm

  2. I’m glad the four of you found a nice comfortable spot. I’m also glad that you were the one with the camera.


    Comment by Pinhole — January 25, 2008 @ 3:55 pm

  3. It seems quite obvious that animals, especially in the ways of survival, are far more intelligent than we humans sometimes give them credit for! 😀 I must also add that that is quite a nice looking family but I think you’ve been spotted, montucky!


    Comment by Janet Wilkins — January 25, 2008 @ 4:15 pm

  4. Bernie,

    I think we’re both getting some of the same weather from up north. I love the clear skies it brings, but could do without the real cold temps. I spend some time just hoping my RFD pager won’t go off!


    Comment by montucky — January 25, 2008 @ 4:48 pm

  5. Yes, Pinhole, they do much better on that side of the camera. Out of about 40 I ran into that morning, these were the only ones who posed.


    Comment by montucky — January 25, 2008 @ 4:50 pm

  6. They sure are intelligent, Janet. They have learned how to perfectly fit into the natural world and be comfortable there without making any changes to it. I sure wish we had learned to do that!

    Yes, they spotted me, but notice how alarmed they are. They seemed to know I posed no real threat. I often find that I can approach closer if they see me than if they sense my presence any other way.


    Comment by montucky — January 25, 2008 @ 4:59 pm

  7. That’s true, about being able to photograph deer if they see you and know where you are. I remember reading about a professional photographer who wrote that, rather than trying to stay quiet and hidden in a blind (when photographing deer), he would oftentimes step outside the blind and sometimes even lob apples in their direction. I would have feared that they’d run off then but apparently they didn’t.


    Comment by Janet Wilkins — January 25, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

  8. Janet,

    Often when I realize I’ve been spotted by deer (and other wild animals too), I can actually convince them I’m not there. It takes about 20 minutes usually, but gives great results. One of my favorite memories was being able to stay within 30 yards of a big bull elk for over an hour as he browsed his way through a forest in northern Arizona. I was bow hunting for deer, but ended up just enjoying that interlude with the bull.


    Comment by montucky — January 25, 2008 @ 7:11 pm

  9. Beautiful photo!!
    I get to spend a couple weeks in Montana each summer, and I really enjoy hiking the trails and viewing the wildlife there. I especially enjoy the deer. They are such beautiful animals.


    Comment by ak_adventurer — January 25, 2008 @ 7:42 pm

  10. We both live in great areas for wildlife and wild country, I think. Glad to see that you get to see some of this area:. I would like to see Alaska, too, but doubt if I’ll ever have the chance. Thanks for visiting!


    Comment by montucky — January 25, 2008 @ 7:50 pm

  11. so now if I ever come to see you in winter time, at least I’ll know where to stand!! 🙂


    Comment by silken — January 25, 2008 @ 10:02 pm

  12. ps-my kids are loving your pictures. my daughter just came in w/ her friend to show her the “ice falls”


    Comment by silken — January 25, 2008 @ 10:02 pm

  13. silken,

    I’ll save a nice warm spot for you, out of the wind where you can enjoy the clear cold air and yet not freeze.

    I’m so pleased that your kids like the photos! Seeing that comment made my day! They are in the generation that can save the remaining wild country, and their vision is clear and fearless, unbiased and true. Lets hope they can keep that and teach it to those of us who have forgotten.


    Comment by montucky — January 25, 2008 @ 10:42 pm

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