The Elusive Elk

Bull Elk Grand Teton National Park - Packy Savvenas

I find it amazing in Yellowstone Country that I have not come face-to-face with the popular elk of this area. You see elk almost everywhere you go here within the protected environments like the National Elk Refuge.

Now I’ve seen cow elk, which are your female elk, in a field away from the males. The males, however, have been hidden away from me all winter long. I’ve known exactly where they were at, but every time I tried to get close they made it unattainable to get a photo of them. If I attempted to approach them with a camera they would normally lie down or make it even harder to get a picture in. This has been a Yellowstone reindeer game of sorts that the elk of this area have been playing on me all season long.

Fast forward to today. I started to set up my gear as I was getting ready for the day. I was standing in a field in the Grand Tetons as I was searching for which lens I was going to use. I decided to go with my 100 by 400 by Canon which is my favorite go-to lens for Yellowstone Country.

I snapped my lens on and stepped out of my car when all of a sudden, out of the middle of nowhere, this mystical bull elk appeared. As I stood awestruck, like a kid that just saw a magical creature for the first time, the elk started to approach me . This was probably one of the most surprising moments I’ve had in quite a while, within the past four months.

Besides the fact that I’ve been up close and personal with some of the biggest bull moose I’ve ever encountered in Yellowstone, the unexpected presence of this big bull elk was astonishing.

The bull elk was still a good 250 yards off and a little bit down hill. It was a complete whiteout; which is probably one of my favorite ways to photograph animals in the winter.

This was an older male as I could tell by the coat. He kept walking towards me without hesitation as if he knew this was a meaningful encounter that was meant to be. The bull elk kept getting closer by the minute while I kept snapping my camera and taking as many shots as I could.

I wanted to take full advantage of this opportunity. After all, I’ve been trying to get a good elk picture for at least four months. Like I said, for some reason these mysterious elk eluded me and have made it almost impossible for me to get a good photo in.

I know that elk are everywhere and that usually they’re easy to get a photograph of. For some reason though, they have done everything in their power to stay out of my way this year while allowing me to focus in on the other pictures that I have gotten.

Trust me, I’m not complaining. I know photographing an elk is like photographing any other famous landmark, but like I said what is odd about this year is that they have eluded me continuously. Well, that is, until now.

I feel as though I have earned my right to photograph them. This bull elk was like the elder of the herd that welcomed me in. This mysterious presence let me know that I am welcomed in their community and they were happy to have their picture taken. Every creature of this land has a story to tell; each one completely unique to any other. I take this as another adventure in the photographing day of the Greek Mountain Man.

Bison On The Move

Bison moving across the Grand Tetons

My wife and I were on a journey through the wonderful back trails of the Grand Tetons. We happen to approach a section where a large herd of bison had been hanging out for the past month or two.

I noticed the past couple days that this group of bison have been missing. They were no longer in action and could not be found in their usual location. So, to our surprise, as we were approaching our destination, we were astonished to see the large herd of bison in motion before us. Their presence was magnificent as they stampeded across the highway and into this beautiful pasture in front of the Grand Tetons.

Now these bison were on the move and were not slowing down. It was as if they had seen a wolf of possibly had been run off a ranch.

The Sun was shining and the sight of this literally took our breath away. My wife had her camera on her so she immediately began to get video of the bison crossing. I will be putting this together soon for future viewing.

I found out today that these bison have been gorging other animals and other people’s farms. So the authorities and park rangers, as of today, are now moving the bison out of the park and then to a safer area. They have shut down many of the areas that are accessible by car while they proceed to ensure a safe relocation of these big beautiful creatures. Learn More!

This was a sight to see though. This was the second time my wife and I have witnessed bison on a stampede. It’s a huge adrenaline rush to be near such an incredible sight in the raw elements of Yellowstone Country.  The bison run right by you while you know not which direction they’re going, as they can change at any moment.

You can feel the thunderous energy through the earth while witnessing the stampede. The gentle snorts and bellows can also be herd as the bison pass by too; it’s almost like a song of sorts.

What I’ve learned is to stay as still as possible and to not get in their way. Being a photographer, at the same time, I try to do the best I can to get the best shot encapsulating exactly what is happening at the moment.

Yellowstone is a magical land and every day there is something new. You really can’t go wrong coming here spending time in this majestic place.

Plus don’t forget that I provide photography lessons in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons area. If you’re looking for someone knows where to locate wildlife and can teach you how to shoot Wildlife photography, then be sure you reach out in the contact form below.

The Greek Mountain Man will have you covered.

Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope in the Grand Tetons - Winter Shot

Yellowstone, Wyoming is a place unlike any other. The Grand Tetons are absolutely beautiful and no matter how many times you view it, the majestic sight continues to take your breath away. Whether passing through while vacationing or testing your endurance of living here like the locals, one thing is certain..this place is uniquely captivating. As if encapsulated in an unseen bubble, the North Land contains mysticism filled with raw beauty and pure adventure.

The wildlife that inhabits Yellowstone Country is stunning to say the least. I have witnessed sightings of animals that would set one’s mind to the depths of another land, or perhaps even another planet altogether. Some of my favorite animals reside here and with good reason. Their appearance and personalities are a mirror of the greatness this land holds. I must admit, I feel as though I have become family with these creatures.

My passion has transcended into compassion for the spirit of these animals. I’ve always felt drawn to this place throughout my life and through the lens of my camera I hope to relay the message of why Yellowstone holds my heart and soul so dear.

Pictured here are the uniquely beautiful and somewhat comical looking pronghorn antelope. Their speeds can shock you once they take off. Fun fact, the pronghorn antelope are the second fastest animal in the world next to the cheetah. Pronghorn antelope blend in exceptionally well with their surroundings and if you’re lucky enough to spot them, that’s usually when they take off.

I found it a real treat that these two pronghorns took a moment to pose for the camera before heading off to their next adventure.

Pronghorn migrate to a winter range over a hundred miles south of Grand Tetons National Park and the Jackson Hole Valley. This is a federally protected migration route and is one of the longest known migrations in North America.

What do pronghorn antelope do anyway? Maybe they play tag with the elk, or hide and seek with the foxes… who knows. I’ll tell you one thing though, a sighting of these animals will always have you wondering. After all, in a magical place like this, anything is possible.

Check out me hanging with my pronghorn antelope buddies here….. my adventures in pronghorn antelope herding.

The Pouncing Mouse Hunting Coyote

The Pouncing Mouse Hunting Coyote in the National Elk Refuge

It was an immensely warm 35° in Wyoming as February was kicking off. This was a shift from all the usual expected snow this time of year and, quite frankly, it was down right toasty to us mountain people. It was lightly raining, the snow was melting and the coyotes just happened to be jumping.

We decided to hit the National Elk Refuge here in Jackson Wyoming today. It’s literally in our backyard and yet I haven’t visited this place since capturing my unbelievable photo of the bighorn sheep ramming while in the rut. Click here to view that article.

We were driving around wondering if we were going to see anything at all when I actually happened to capture a coyote doing what foxes usually do. This coyote blended into his surrounding so well that it was hard to get this photo.

Even with the rain and overcast weather, I was so excited to see this coyote in his element hunting. It took me by surprise as I had no idea coyotes actually jumped and pounced in the snow looking for mice.

I know I’ve said this in prior post, but literally every time I go out for my daily photo shoot I find something new.

It literally was warm today. It was only 35 degrees, but 35 degrees here feels like 65 degrees in the Spring. I’m guessing that is why I saw most of the animals up high in the mountains. Their coats are thick and when the temperature rises to about 30 degrees I’m assuming it gets really hot for them.

We could see the grass on the ground just from one day of it being over 32 degrees. This in turn gave the animals a feeling of an approaching Spring; letting them have some fun today. After all, it got me out enjoying the weather.

Little Sasquatch of Yellowstone

Golden Porcupine in Grand Tetons National Park

You don’t get a name like “Greek Mountain Man” by chance…it’s completely earned. Let me elaborate by giving you a glimpse of a typical day in my hiking shoes. Let’s begin with a recap of my day today.

It was another snow blanked day in the Teton Mountains in Yellowstone Country. The wind was kicking up as I felt the frigid mountain air crisply against my face. Fortunately the sun was out intermittently today as it made the snow glisten like glitter.

I was cold, damn cold and not to mention hungry, though the determination of my mission at hand kept me focused.

It was day three, my fingers felt frozen and yet I still found myself on the prowl looking for the famous Sasquatch within the brush by the creek where I had my first encounter. While on my search for Sasquatch I found this little itty bitty Sasquatch on the side of the road. Just kidding… this is a porcupine. This made my day!!!

It might as well have been a Sasquatch because I hunted him down for several days. For 3 days straight this creature eluded me. He did everything in his power to make sure that I would not get a shot of him looking my way.

This little guy is quite the master of disguise. Each day I would spend on average of anywhere from four to seven hours at a time hoping to capture the perfect shot.

This porcupine really gave me quite the challenge. It was so difficult as most of the time he either had his back to me, was rolled up in a ball, was climbing a tree, scratching his backside or he was doing everything possible to make sure that no one could see him.

Or, maybe he was just oblivious and didn’t care. I tell you what, these little Sasquatch beings are very elusive.

Today, on the third day, after spending days braving the freezing cold on the side of a bridge within the Grand Tetons, I was able to come in and finally capture him eating a branch while facing me.

This was my first time ever even witnessing a porcupine. Point be made, I didn’t even know porcupine could climb trees; until today that is.

It was even interesting how I first noticed this guy. He was actually sitting on the side of the tree as I was driving by. When I fist spotted him I thought it was a moose head. At a second glance that’s when I noticed what I really had found.

As I got out of the car for a closer look, I noticed this little creature moving around and realized it was a porcupine. He was hiding within the sagebrush and all the surrounding branches. Quite honestly he was like finding the needle in the haystack.

So many people pulled over to witness and try to capture a photo of this little guy. They would try to get a snapshot of the porcupine and after about 20 to 30 minutes they would give up due to the brush or from trying to brave the harsh winter conditions.

There were times where it was absolutely freezing with no sun, the wind would be blowing and the snow would be drifting. The weather in the Grand Tetons is very unexpectedly crazy and it can change at any given moment.

I can not explain to you enough just how hard it is to spot a porcupine, let allow try to photograph them. Porcupines make it quite clear that they do not want you to find them. They do everything they can to try to hide everywhere they go.

So, how did I manage to get such a photograph? With a lot of determination, braving the harsh elements and a name like Greek Mountain Man, I’ll do anything for the shot.

Stay tuned and subscribe for my next unexpected adventure.

“It’s amazing all the beautiful things, animals and everything I have learned in this backcountry that we call the Grand Tetons!”

Coyote in the Grand Tetons – On Route…

Coyote Grand Tetons - National Park

I had been tirelessly trying to catch a glimpse of the famous little Yellowstone Sasquatch. It was day 3 on the search for this mystical creature when I made another discovery within the range of the Grand Tetons. (Click Here to View)

I was making my drive to one of my favorite spots where this famous animal was eluding me. It was in a city called Kelly, right outside of the beautiful peaks of the Tetons mountains. Today seemed to be the day that my searching would pay off. I felt this way because the wind was picking up while blowing at about 20 to 30 miles per hour and the sun was shining. This made it just absolutely optimal conditions for animals be out and moving.

You would think that the warmer and calmer the weather the more animals you would see. On the contrary it’s actually quite the opposite. It seems these wild animals prefer harsher weather conditions along with higher wind gusts.

While making my way to my favorite location I happened to capture two coyotes(second picture coming soon) off the side of the highway at the edge of the Grand Tetons.

My hopes were high, as this was like visiting my favorite fishing spot. It felt similar to a fisherman’s luck when catching a little bass prior to getting all the crappie you’re going to catch for the evening.

So I pulled over to the side of the highway and started to photograph the coyotes that were about a mile out. Notice his eyes are closed due to the fierce winds being encountered that day.

I’ve noticed that I am becoming a better photographer just by photographing these coyotes. They can be quite tricky to get on camera due to the fact that if they sense your presence or even smells you they will take off like the wind and leave you hanging in the dust.

Instead these coyotes decided to stick around and even started to play with each other while allowing me to photograph them. So I took this as a sign that I would achieve my goal for the day; a Greek Mountain Man Goal that I have been trying to capture for three days.

And to my luck I actually achieved that goal!

The Sharp Tailed Grouse

Sharp Tailed Sage Grouse

I find the Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons area absolutely amazing. Everywhere you go exploring you’ll always find something out of the ordinary.

I was driving across the bridge towards my favorite location to photograph where I happened to see an amazing find.

As I was searching for a specific animal, I happened to look up into the sky. To my surprise I spotted this beautiful bird that I’ve never seen before. This is what I love about photographing this area. Regardless of what direction I take, everywhere I go I see something that I’ve never seen before.

This always provides such an adrenaline rush and I can always tell by the way my hands are shaking when I snap my photographs. It’s almost like being born again; it’s an amazing rush. I don’t think I could ever find anything that makes me as happy as photography does.

Fortunately this bird stuck around long enough for me to pull off a wonderful shot while not using my tripod. I’ve always found it a little bit tricky to photograph a bird.

After doing my research what I have learned is that this bird is a little bit out of his element. According to the internet this bird shouldn’t really be in this area, but we have had major cold fronts that have come through at this time. I think it has pushed him into the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone area for protection.

More on the Sharp Tailed Grouse: 

Sharp-tailed Grouse
(Genus, species:  Tympanuchus phasianellus)

The sharp-tailed grouse are one of the larger grouse.  They have sharp pointed tails which stick straight up when the birds are displaying.  They are often mistaken for their cousin, the prairie chicken.

One of the more interesting details of the sharp-tailed grouse relates to their courting rituals.  The males gather on a group breeding ground called a lek and show off (or display) for the females.

When displaying, the males point their tails up, spread their wings, hold their heads low, and stamp their feet in a sort of stutter-dance that looks a lot like an airplane trying to take off.  The males of a community all dance at the same time as a part of their battle over territory and to impress females.

First Nations people call the sharp-tailed grouse the “fire bird” because their habitat was kept open by fires that killed trees and shrubs.

It’s a Muskrat in a Steaming Stream

Muskrat in a Steaming Stream - Grand Tetons

I’m going to change the scene up a bit….. It was the day before we had the big snowstorm, that’s still continuing today, and the adventure went a little something like this:

My wife and I were in my favorite spot, right next to the city of Kelly, and we happened to drive by a majestic steaming creek. Or, perhaps it was a spring, as its naturally warm water had steam gently rising from it; against the contrasting cold atmosphere.

As we were taking in the beauty of it all, my wife noticed a muskrat swimming through the crystal clear waters.
At first we thought it was a small otter, but we were corrected and told it was a muskrat.

So that means I still get to photograph an otter!

Due to the steam that was being emitted from the river, I had to get up close and personal to get a crisp photo. This made things even harder because this guy would scramble off at any movement. It was very perceptive to any subtle sound, even a car driving by.

So I built a snow barrier between me and muskrat so that he could not see me, even though he was looking right at me in this photo.

Every time I hit the shutter on my camera he could hear it and scurry right back into his home.

Finally I got a shot in!

The muskrat is a large rodent that is about a foot to two feet long. It has a stocky body, a rounded head and a long, scaly black tail that is 7 to 12 inches long. Its tail is laterally flattened, that means it is flattened vertically! Its tail works like a rudder and helps the muskrat maneuver in the water!

Cow Elk amongst the Sage Brush

Cow Elk Golden Hour - Grand Tetons

Here is a totally different shot from me. I noticed these cow elks on the side of the road on my way to my favorite location today!

It was golden hour and I feel it will warm your heart as it did mine.

These animals have eluded me this year. It seems to me that these fellows really don’t want to be seen.

Of course these are the females and they separate from the males every year. The females do like to stay close to the males but they do end up separating.

I have tried all winter to photograph the bull elk and every time I encounter them they either lie down in the sagebrush and hide or they just moved to a totally different area.

So as of now this is the best image I have of elk… stay tuned!

Big Bull Moose, Golden Hour

Big Bull Moose Golden Hour Grand Tetons

Being in the Grand Tetons for a couple months I finally realized that I needed a much better lens. It needed to be one that would allow me to get up close and personal with these animals without invading their space or privacy.

The wonderful thing is that over the past three months they have gotten use to me being around; they’re practically family. I was pretty lucky today when I bought this lens as it was right before they were going to start dropping their paddles.

I’ve had my eyes on this specific guy for the past 3 months; he is my favorite moose to photograph hands down. I hadn’t seen him the past couple of weeks so he his appearance surprised me. This was the perfect day!

He even has snow on his face from rummaging around for food.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was almost as if the bulls were out there showing off because the lighting was perfect.

Stay tuned as I turn things up a notch!!!

This picture has been featured by JHStyle Magazine right here in Jackson Hole.