Story time: years ago, I was leaving Jasper National Park after trying to shoot the elk rut for a week, and I spotted this well camouflaged fella, a bighorn sheep ram (Ovis Canadensis), near the top of one of the smaller mountains. The mountain he was resting on towered over a small parking pull-off, so I was able to safely get out of the vehicle, grab the ol’ Canon 300mm ƒ2.8 and start photographing him. It was fairly windy, a warm autumn wind actually, and though I was kicking myself for not grabbing the 1.4x extender, I remember thinking how nice it was that I wasn’t being crowded by the usual rubbish wildlife jams in national parks. Vehicles passed by me without caring why I was pointing a large lens up towards the sky. It was bloody glorious. Ah, why can’t it always be that way, eh?
I was leaving Jasper a day early because of an urgent family commitment, so I was happy to spend a few moments observing this ram. He laid there resting up on the rocky mountain terrain with his head dropping and then back up again as he jolted himself awake. He finally gave in and allowed himself to fall asleep, his ears twitching every now and then, and it was comical to watch because most of us know that feeling all too well. He was the last animal I saw before I exited the park, and because I was only hours away from saying goodbye to my beloved dog, best friend and sweet boy, Barney, it felt right this ram was there when he was. There was no conflict … no intrusive tour buses … and no crowds. Just me observing a beautiful and healthy-looking bighorn ram taking some time to sleep because nature knows best.
Bighorn sheep rams are spectacular creatures. If you ever are able to witness rams fighting and head-butting each other during the annual rut (mating season), it will likely be an experience you will long remember. Even crazier is the crushing noise as their heads smash together, which can be heard throughout the park. I have witnessed the rut many years ago, but have never been able to photograph it. One day, one day. Until then, videos and images made by others keeps me entertained.
Want to know more about bighorn sheep? Check out the resources below:
Being around wildlife is always amazing. I can never get enough … even when it is just for a few moments and they are simply snoozing.
I’ll never get over losing my sweet Barney, but looking back at these images allows me to smile for a moment when I think back to that terrible day. That’s the beauty of photography and making images — it’s always there for us, even when we don’t realize how much we need it.
See you in the field!