How (not) to shoot a buffalo

Not the best idea - photographing wildlife

When it comes to buffalo, I am a bit of a novice. My previous experience was limited to a “sighting” outside Manhattan, Kansas, where the buffalo that became visible just before dawn turned out to be metal cutouts. Knowing this, my friends cautioned me on a trip to Wyoming to be wary of the beasts.

They are huge – upwards of 2,000 pounds – and unpredictable, going from docile to demented in the time a sports car can zoom from zero to 60. So beware, I was warned. But what you’re told and what you end up doing can change upon sighting one of these amazing creatures. We had stopped at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone and immediately saw a buffalo on the lawn. I was good initially and kept my distance, but I didn’t like the results and crept steadily closer. I did get a great shot of some fool leaning out from the steps to grab a close shot. What an idiot!  Then – and I don’t know how to explain this – I went up the same steps and took a tight shot of the leviathan staring me straight in the eye.

I was so happy.

I didn’t find out until later that if they fix you with a stare, you better beware. On a later trip, I vowed there would be no more foolish stunts, particularly since I now knew that a buffalo can easily leap a four-foot fence. But, what do you know, I got even closer than before. We were traveling in a big SUV when a herd parked themselves in the middle of the road and swirled around us. As high as I was sitting, I felt like I was at eye level with those monsters. I prayed that I would not attract their attention. Suddenly there’s all this honking behind me, and the driver is literally out of her car, in the midst of the herd, shouting at me to get moving. What could I do?

They finally moved, and off we went . I had done my best, but sometimes you can’t avoid getting close, and you have no say in the matter. After all, it’s been their land since forever. And they are big, really big.

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