Utah Winter WildlifeOn a recent winter afternoon, I took a break and decided to enjoy some time outdoors by going in search of eagles to photograph. I drove to a location I had visited before, but saw only a couple of bald eagles flying in the distance, not close enough to capture on camera. I noticed that the western hills were already casting long shadows on the fields where I would be taking photos, so I quickly drove eastward to a canyon near the small town of Fountain Green in an attempt to beat the setting sun. The canyon's dirt road had been cleared of recent snow, but it was still icy. One mile up the canyon, I came across several mule deer high-stepping through the snow and quickly took pictures of them from my truck window. Along the second mile, I unexpectedly spotted a herd of what appeared to be over one hundred deer. However, upon closer examination, I realized it was a herd of elk. I parked my truck on the edge of a narrow mountain road, put on my jacket, beanie, and gloves, and descended into a ravine where the elk couldn't see me coming. The snow was 10-12 inches deep, and I trudged upward through the crusty powder while cradling my camera. I popped out on a ridge about 300 yards away from them and then advanced in plain view, knowing that at some point, they would get spooked and run over the ridge on which they were grazing. The scouts in the group were bugling to the crowd, seemingly saying "There's somebody coming our way." The herd was widely spread across the face of the hill, and every once in a while, they would mass closer together as I intermittently moved and then paused to take some photos and video clips. As I closed the distance to 150 yards, they finally determined I was too close and they raucously bid me farewell, their hooves crunching loudly in the icy snow as they receded over the horizon line. I tramped upward and followed to see how far they would go and spotted them already moving across another ravine, walking single file in two separate groups up an adjacent hillside. The light was gone and, in the darkness, I could now see Orion and the Seven Sisters constellations bright overhead. I listened to the elk, some of them breathing heavily and others emitting quiet high-pitched sounds as they ascended together. Every so often, a louder bugle would sound out across the rolling hills. The lights of Fountain Green twinkled in the distant valley. I stood in the deep snow, warm from my uphill climb, and took in the beauty of the moment; no wind, a quiet starlit night, and just me and the elk traversing the snow-laden hills of central Utah.