Before I tell this story, I need to let you know that I had no idea that bugling for elk was illegal in Yellowstone National Park until after this incident when I read it in their park newspaper!
I went to Yellowstone National Park to find and photograph elk for future paintings only to discover they were harder to find than in years past - perhaps due to the wolf population. One of the predawn mornings found me in an area outside the Hoodoos. I could hear numerous bugles, one of the hauntingly beautiful sounds in nature, and was catching glimpses of the cow elk as the sun started to rise but I couldn't see the bulls. After leaving the rental car parked onthe side of the road I headed up over a small ridge into a bowl towards the bugling elk. I positioned myself up against a lodgepole pine and let out a small bugle of my own through my Primos call. The entire area lit up with bugles close and far! There were three bulls in the immediate area and I was caught in the middle. One came into sight - a very healthy 6x6 bull. The whites of his eyes were blood red, he was drooling and he was angry! I was only able to snap a couple photos before freezing up against the tree, knowing I was in trouble. The two other bulls had moved in closer on the other side of the tree and I was in the middle. The one thing that stood out to me was how powerful these animals looked and how quickly they could move
I hoped they were only paying attention to each other as they bugled back and forth. My thoughts were:
1. The car would be parked on the side of the road for days before somebody might notice. This was Yellowtone and people leave cars all the time to go for hikes.
2. Rachelle wouldn't worry for a while because I wasn't expected home for days and had poor cell reception - not a good situation!
Fortunately, they were only paying attention to each other as I stayed as rigid as the tree. When they moved off to my side, I slowly backed out of the situation and when I got back over the ridge I felt relief as the bugles started to sound distant.
With a bow or a rifle, I would have felt completely different, but armed only with a camera changed the entire situation. Regardless, it was still exhilerating and this painting is what is coming from the experience. It is not exactly what I experienced- the cows weren't in front of the bull, but he was there.
This painting has been in the works for a while and should be completed sometime this fall. Right now, I am working on some waterfowl paintings for Ducks Unlimited so the daily paintings have slowed to a snail's pace, but they will be back soon!