It’s been over 30 years since my first visit to the National Bison Range in Montana, so I’ve wanted to stop there since I started driving to Colorado to see Tyson and his family a few years ago. Of course, I also wanted to see Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, repeatedly. Since Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons are largely closed this time of year, I decided that it would be a good time to see the Bison Range.
When I first visited the Buffalo were literally all over the road; we had to stop and wait for the bulls to move out of the way. If we had wished to, we could have reached out and touched a buffalo pelt. Visiting in winter turned out to be a rather different experience. First, the access road to most of the preserve is closed in winter. That means you’re a lot less apt to actually see bison. They go where they want in the winter, and as the ranger noted they tend to want to go to the southern areas where they get more sunshine. Unfortunately, you can only access the northern areas in the winter.
So, we didn’t see any buffalo, or any bison, for that matter even after talking to the host at the Visitors Center and he told us places we might see them from the road. We did get a real sense of the land during winter, at least a sense of the land without the snow.
The very first thing we spotted as we entered the Bison Range was a Red-Tailed Hawk, and I suspect last year’s nest.
As it turned out, this was also the most common bird I saw throughout my entire trip.
We also saw lots of deer, both bucks and does. We couldn’t figure out what this magnificent buck was doing as he seemed to be constantly sniffing the ground
and then looking intently around, though certainly not at us as he had more important things on his mind.
At the visitor’s center we learned that it was the end of the rut season and there were still a few does that hadn’t been impregnated. The buck smells the urine of does to determine if it’s already pregnant. It seemed quite likely that it was one of these does he was looking for, but they were a ways down the road.
As we left the Bison Range we spotted an American Bald Eagle.
I’m pretty sure that if we had had more time to spend we could have seen the bison and a lot more since there was a professional photographer at the range, and I’m sure he wasn’t there to waste his time. It was, after all, mainly a way to break up our long road trip and it accomplished that quite well. I’m sure I’ll be returning in the summer in the next couple of years.