Play, Shoot, Travel

A Morning With a Moose at Brainard Lake

August 22, 2015

I consider myself a morning person but I don’t consider 4 a.m. to be “morning”. 4 a.m. is pretty close to “middle of the freaking night”. And that’s what time my alarm went off. I may have hit snooze a few times but at 4:30 I was pouring a cup of espresso down my throat and by 5 a.m. I was out the door, on a mission to find some moose.

Last summer was my first time shooting the moose at Brainard Lake and I had such a great time doing it that I knew I wanted to get up there again. I was hoping to go on a weekday (you’ve heard of the “bear jams” at Yellowstone, right? Same thing happens at Brainard with the moose.) but it wasn’t in the cards so this weekend I just decided to go for it.

One of last summer’s moose.

Another one from last summer.

I made the long and winding drive up Lefthand Canyon, paid the entrance fee at Brainard, and found a parking spot near the lake. I hung out by the shoreline for a while, hoping to get a picture of one of these beasts as it wandered down to the water for a drink. It didn’t happen. I saw no moose and the longer I waited the more I felt like maybe I was missing something. I walked back up towards the car and then down the road.

When I heard a rustling in the bushes next to me I damn near jumped out of my skin. There, about 10 feet away, was an enormous bull moose. He munched happily on the willows as I tried my best to collect myself. I watched him for a moment and then scurried away to the relative safety of some nearby trees and a group of photographers that were hanging out a short distance away.

We have a lot of “dangerous” animals here but it’s the moose that worry me the most. I feel like mountain lions and bears are smart and skittish enough to move away when they see you coming. They want nothing to do with you and do their best to keep their distance. The moose, on the other hand? They don’t like you either but they also don’t do much to move out of your way. They just do their thing and watch you get closer and closer until you are suddenly WAY TOO CLOSE. And then they’re all antlers and hooves and hundreds of pounds of pure, unpredictable fury.

Yeah, I’m a little scared of moose.

But just because I have no interest in tangling with a moose doesn’t mean that I don’t want to shoot them. In all honesty, I love these guys. Their enormous size, cartoonish appearance, and honeybadger-don’t-care attitude makes them hard not to love. You have to just let them do their thing and hope to get a good shot.

The big bull that I saw today was just doing his thing but, unfortunately, that thing was standing in really tall willows, munching away. It was impossible to get a good shot of anything but his antlers or butt without crowding him, which was unfortunate because he was a beauty!

Not cooperating.

Almost cooperating!


Eventually I gave up, went back to the car, and began heading toward home. And that’s when he decided to leave the willows behind and venture back across the road. I jumped out of the car and shot a few frames before he headed back up into the forest.

I had high hopes for this morning’s outing but didn’t walk away with any shots that I loved. But it was hard to feel to down on the experience. Any morning that I get to spend in the presence of an animal like this (without getting trampled to death …) is a pretty good morning in my book.

Happy weekend, y’all!



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