Quite a Day with the Bighorns

Fog Bank Sangre de Cristo

I have to say, yesterday was quite a day… the plan was to arise early and drive to Waterton in hopes of catching the bighorn sheep in full rut. The day got off to a bit of a rough start though, a heavy blanket of freezing fog had enveloped the entire region the night before and it took me about 20 minutes to chip my way into the truck before I could even depart!

On the way up the pass I looked back and noticed that the fog bank had created a beautiful blanket in the Arkansas River Valley at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, so I had to stop and snap a few pictures of that! There was a pretty good haze in the air to go with the fog so the images aren’t as clear as they could be, but it was still an amazing sight to behold 🙂

We began our mountain bike ride up the canyon fully expecting a good long ride before

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

seeing any sheep but after just a few short minutes of pedaling a group of the critters came into view. I assumed it was the usual herd of ewes and youngsters that so often inhabit the entrance to the park, but much to our surprise the little herd was also occupied by four good sized rams causing trouble among each other, one in particular who was kicking the others in hopes of starting a fight.

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

I have long desired to witness the rams butting heads, and it looked like this day was going to give me that chance! I wanted to capture a still of the moment of impact, but I also wanted to get some video so my readers could also experience the excitement of the moment. As a group of three rams circled each other, jostling and kicking… I switched my camera to video to record the action. There was not the classic charge and clash impact in this scene, but I did manage to record the nudging and little head knocking on this video now available to watch on my Youtube Channel 🙂

We watched transfixed by the action for at least two hours as the rams hassled each

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

other. They would graze for a couple of minutes while it looked like they might finally give it a rest and relax for a while, but soon the tension would again arise and the tussle would begin anew.  Just when we would think that nothing was really going to happen, all of a sudden without warning they would square off, take a couple of steps on two feet and smash heads. It was very difficult to photograph, zoom lenses were required to get the best view of the action, but too close to capture both animals when they were setting up for the action. It was also difficult to be focused in on the area where the impact would occur since it all happened so quickly without warning.

Bighorn Rut Season in Waterton Canyon

But I do believe I managed to capture the exact moment of impact on this image, the huge beasts with their heads together and eyes closed for the crash. I think maybe it would have been better if my camera had fired a millisecond earlier, but again… maybe the smashed heads is what I was after!

Rumors of a bear further up the canyon finally tore us away from the sheep herd and off we went. We rode to approximately the 4 mile point without seeing any other wildlife so we turned back around to return to the herd for a few more images. The river was magnificent in the winter light and the ride an excellent aerobic workout. I’m looking forward to really getting in shape for some more serious riding in the spring!

As I crested the final ridge on the journey home I was greeted by this magnificent sunset,

Sunset on the Sangre de Cristo

beautiful golden colors and the remnants of fog from the storm the night before. A perfect ending to a perfect day 🙂

As always, these images and more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy acrylic or metal sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting! Click the link to explore!

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