An Unforgettable Afternoon with the Pronghorn

It is always quite thrilling to find yourself looking at a world you know well but have never seen from such an angle before – Bill Bryson

Sorry.  The editing needs some formatting work.  WordPress does a horrible job helping arrange text and photos.

This unforgettable adventure happened many years ago. Back in the film days. It was late September and I was camped up near Mammoth Hot Springs at the Northwestern corner of Yellowstone National Park. One day I was out photographing and happened to meet another photographer.  He told be about a herd of Pronghorns that he had seen. The herd was grazing a couple of small hills to the west and required maybe twenty minutes of hiking to reach their location. The Pronghorns were not visible from any road. I started out hiking with a couple of rolls of film in my pocket and one camera with an 80-200mm zoom attached. My goal was to get a head shot of a male pronghorn.

Since I had all afternoon and had no other place to go, I took my time. When I thought I was getting close to the herd I sat down and didn’t move for at least ten minutes. Slowly, I moved forward. After cresting a rise I saw the herd in the distance – maybe seventy-five yards away. I moved very slowly toward them on my hands and knees stopping every few feet to sit down, chew on some grass and not look at the animals.

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When I got closer a very interesting thing happened. I was sitting down chewing on some grass when the big male in the herd became aware of my existence. I don’t know if he saw or smelled me. Either way, what he did next was fascinating.

Pronghorn W13WM He took a small group of females and herded them entirely around me in one direction and then in the other direction a full 360 degrees each way. He always kept the females between me and himself.

I didn’t move, continued to chew some grass and did manage to grab a few photos as I was being circled.

A-040-A-17W13WMOnce that was over and the Pronghorn did not see me as a threat they relaxed and went back to grazing and ignored me. I continued to get closer until I was sitting right in the middle of the herd!

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I probably sat there for a little less than an hour. There was a slightly smaller male and the two males fought. They would put their heads down, lock horns and then push each other all around the ridgeline which was maybe thirty yards away. The males never got too close to me, but the females where easily within ten feet of me.

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I was running out of film in my second and last roll and I still did not have a good head shot of the big male Pronghorn.

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Eventually, the big male came closer. What he did next was also amazing – and a little scary. He got one female that was nearby and nudged her to stand up. He then drove the female within six inches of my right shoulder.

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The male followed – getting closer. I was still sitting down.

I grabbed my camera and fired off two final frames and when the male was within about five feet of me I quickly stood up, waved my arms and yelled something. The Pronghorn bolted and stopped about 50 yards away. I ambled back to my vehicle. The time from leaving my vehicle to returning to it was about 2.5 hours. It was definitely one of the most extraordinary events I’ve ever experienced in the natural world.

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3 thoughts on “An Unforgettable Afternoon with the Pronghorn”

  1. Bon soir Cher Robert,

    WOW! You were blessed with the spirit of the Pronghorns that day. What an amazing, and thrilling experience that must have been.
    The images are gorgeous, with wonderful clarity, and detail of both females, and the male. Perhaps it is your Spirit Animal?

    Random thought…only a Cheetah is faster than a Pronghorn. 🙂
    Bonne santé mon ami!

    Liked by 1 person

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