Magic Moments in the Mission Valley, Montana

The sky was still hazy from the recent forest fires so I wasn’t having much luck getting panorama shots of the Mission Mountains. Still I continued to drive north on Highway 93 looking for shots of birds around the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge about 50 miles north of Missoula. I stopped along a small creek as the afternoon light was just getting good and I thought I’d wait and see what happened. To my utter amazement a large bull elk stepped into view and remained still for a long time, long enough for me to get my Nikon 600mm lens in position and get this shot of him.

As I photographed the bull elk munching on his dinner three white tail deer walked directly behind him. He didn’t move an inch and didn’t seem bothered by the little family at all. I was able to get this shot of him and deer passing through, something I’d never seen before.

Just as I was about ready to leave Ninepipe and drive back to Missoula for the night I started putting my gear away when I heard a bird in flight above me. At first I thought it was a hawk or an osprey. As I pointed my 600mm lens towards it I saw to my delight that it was a Great Horned Owl! I had never photographed one before and I was thrilled. He sat for quite a while letting me get some nice shots before he flew away.

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) at the Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge.

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) in profile.

Lone Bison at the National Bison Range in the Mission Valley.

Old weathered barn in the Mission Valley.

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