We got a late start on Tuesday morning which put us in the West Entrance at about noon, horribly late for searching for wildlife. We drove to Old Faithful and saw the usual, hundreds of elk and buffalo and a coyote. Then we backtracked north towards Mammoth and we saw a black bear just south of Twin Lakes. We borrowed a campsite at Mammoth Campground (they hate when you do this) and cooked up a quick lunch of dogs over a fire then started the slow drive to Lamar Valley, a top bear and wolf viewing area. All our usual bear hotspots let us down. We saw the complete opposite, relaxing elk, antelope, deer, bighorn sheep and bison. When these critters are resting so are the bears.
We drove out the North East Entrance of the park and past Silver Gate, MT and Cooke City, Montana and found a place at the base of Pilot Peak where we could camp and make dinner. We did this about 5 pm then headed back in the park. Unfortunately there was an accident just ten miles in and we spent an hour trapped until the wreckage was cleaned up. That gave us a late start on the evening bear search. Once cleared, we drove all the way to Slough Creek and nothing. It appeared things weren’t going to happen so we turned back to camp.
It was 8:30 pm when just south of the Yellowstone Institute we saw some panicking elk cows on a hillside with our naked eye. Out popped a charging black bear and the elk dispersed. They didn’t run far before turning and challenging the bear. Sure enough, these elk hid their calves in the area and the bear was there to steal one for dinner. This thrilling act of nature lasted only a minute before the large black bear found a calf and grabbed it by the head and ran for place to dine. The elk cows did their best to free the seized calf but were no match for the bear.
As if that wasn’t good enough for the weekend, ten minutes later with just enough light to see, we ran into a grizzly with two cubs in the meadow by Pebble Creek Campground. What a great day all packed into the last hour! We got up very early Wednesday to drive Lamar Valley before sunrise. As far as carnage goes, things were slow. However, we watched a large wolf approach and cross the road near Slough Creek Campground, some foxes, coyotes and spent an hour on a hillside observing a huge black bear eating grass in a damp field.
Yellowstone’s fishing season opens on Saturday on many of its rivers and lakes. My recommendation would be concentrate on the Firehole and the Madison Rivers. Although we couldn’t wet a line during our wildlife rendezvous this weekend, we certainly made a few stops along these rivers to observe a few fish rise to blue wing olives. Also keep in mind that the upper Henry’s Fork opens to fishing as well. This includes Box Canyon and Last Chance. I saw one large rainbow rise from the platform at the Last Chance parking lot. No matter where you choose, the fishing should be excellent for the openers. As for me, it’s big pike time!