01 October 2011

Clear Skies, Searching for Water (SkyWatch Friday)

A few cool, rainy days took care of our smoky skies here in SW Montana. The rains did not extinguish the forest fires, but made them "lay down". Soon enough, snow will truly put them to rest. I've been roaming the hills with a bow, for which "elk hunting" serves as a reasonable excuse to visit pretty places:

And watch the sun set as I sit out on a forlorn ridge until it grows dark, then hike two miles back/1,000 feet down to the truck (by headlamp), hoping I don't step on one of those rattlesnakes I heard buzz in the sagebrush on the way up:
Hmmm... deer or elk antler? It looks like a white-tailed buck's shed, but that would be rare in this mule deer country. The mice have reclaimed most of it:

Using binoculars from the ridge, I spied a likely place below tree-line where the critters might find water on this high desert--a little closer than the creek near where I parked. A few days later, I hiked back to check this place out. It's a natural spring, and the rancher who holds grazing rights on this public BLM land has fenced it to keep cattle out & to collect the water:

The captured water then flows through a buried pipe to a stock-watering tank. Unfortunately, the hoped for pool of water was not to be found in the bone-dry stock tank:

However the water did find its way to the surface in a nearby seep. Judging from the tracks, it seems to be well used by the bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, and -- yes -- elk that live here:

Most of the bighorn sheep died off here a decade ago thanks to pneumonia transmitted by domestic sheep. So I was happy to see that, at least on this corner of the high prairie, they seem to be doing OK as these eight ewes & lambs will attest:

Every wild sheep family seems to consist of ewes, kids, and at least one wildlife biologist. Several of the animals in this herd word tracking collars so the biologists can find them:

Oh yes, where the deer and the antelope play. No far from where I parked along a creek was this group of "speedgoats":

We are blessed with abundant public land here in Montana:

Sometimes, I think people try to discourage others from using "their" spot, as with this old home-scrawled sign on a distant ridge that is, according to my map, public land:

A friend and outdoor writer, Bill Watt was here for a new magazine piece he's working on and provided a good excuse to take a day off for some fishing (weather has been too warm for good elk hunting anyway). Here's Bill on the Big Hole River, releasing one of several fluvial Arctic grayling we caught:

Despite what Mrs Rover might tell you, I do more than hunt and fish (and work). Fridays, at least, are set aside for social time at the Quarry Brew Pub. They're moving to a bigger & better location, so we gathered with friends to say good bye to the old place:

Lyza Schnabel (she and her brewer husband Chuck own the place) worked the taps:

And we became part of the "spill over" crowd on the front sidewalk (Butte America has no "open container law"):

Quarry closed, the following Friday found us at Julian's Piano Bar. Wonder of wonders, it's an iron-framed building (built as a 1-story structure in 1900, upper floors added c. 1910):

You can tell it's an iron frame by knocking on the prominent supports. That or by reading the label on one of them:

Weather continues unseasonably warm most days (highs in the 80s) with the occasional cool day slipped in just to keep us on our toes (with jackets handy). Some morning, though, we'll wake to see snow on the ridges that surround town. As a hunter, I'm ready for the changing of the season, but these warm late summer-like days are sweet.


Sylvia K said...

Thanks for the delightful memories of my years in Montana! Terrific captures and looks as though everyone had a great time! Hope your weekend is going well!


Arija said...

What a successful day's hunting! Great pictures, obviously good company and many animals sighted. The snows will come soon enough to make your nostrils twitch.

secret agent woman said...

I hope the bighorn sheep can make a comback. They've reintroduced a number of native species around here, so there is a gradual return of elk and bald eagles, for instance.

BLD in MT said...

Lovely photos as always and very interesting. We are SO blessed with public lands here!

troutbirder said...

Wondering if the grayling are holding there own or even coming back a littlein the Big Hole? "Speedgoats", I love it. Good hunting, Pat. :)

Max said...

Thanks for an unexpected discovery. I clicked on the first Quarry picture to see if I recognized anyone and I found my grandparents in the booth on the left! I am happy to see them support craft brewing.

Janie said...

Elk rifle hunting season started here this weekend, and our days are in the 70's. It's supposed to be cooler at the end of the week, which I think will be better for hunting.
Interesting that the wildlife biologists follow the bighorn sheep so closely there.
Utah also has an abundance of public land, which is one of its best assets.

Jackie said...

Highs in the 80's and jackets handy for the cool days..what do you consider cool I wonder!? We have just had a weeks Indian Summer with record temps for October in the UK, 29.9 celcius, up in the 80's, we are not used to that, specially after a pretty miserable summer. When it gets down to the 40's I might wear a jacket!
We had old Motel Manager colleagues living in Butte, I wonder if they are still around, Claudia and George Perusich, when we were in Management training in California we called Claudia Mrs Piranovitch, and she called Jim Babbling Brooks! Nice people, last I heard George was not doing well healthwise.
You have an interesting life, and your photo's are very interesting too.
Talking of berries, I will be collecting Sloes from the blackthorn bushes soon, to make Sloe Gin!

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

I like reading about your adventures in nature and wayching the beautiful things that you have captured through your camera. Thanks for sharing us your experiences.

Judy said...

Wow! That sunset photo is just gorgeous!!
As for your comment about the sheep having a biologist as part of the flock - my elder DD is now in South Africa becoming attached to a large troop of baboons. A number of people said the baboons here in Ottawa, on Parliament Hill, would be cheaper to study, but she said they are not the right species...

Crafty Green Poet said...

lovely photos of the scenery there. I didn't know that about the bighorn sheep, hope their numbers recover

Merri said...

some of us are indeed truly blessed by all the open land out West. I couldn't be anywhere else!
- The Equestrian Vagabond