Finally a Bull Moose


I fell in love with moose about ten years ago. We were on our annual trip to Rocky Mountain National Park with our 5 kiddos, and like usual, lots of questions were coming from the back of the van: ⠀⠀ 

“Mom, will we see a moose?”

“No, moose are on the other side of the park, and it’s very rare to see them. I’ve only ever seen one way off in the distance in Yellowstone.”  ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 

Later, we pulled into Sprague Lake around midday and started the easy hike with the kids. With a 2-year-old on my hip, I said, “Look, guys, there’s a muskrat!”

And my husband exclaimed, “Look, Jen, there’s a moose!”

Standing in the middle of Sprague was a moose cow. She made her way to the edge of the water, lumbered out, and shook on the path right in front of us, water cascading down her thick fur. By this time she had quite the audience (and I was hyperventilating), and we all stood there in awe . . . and shock, I think.

From that encounter on, we spotted moose in RMNP quite frequently on our trips due to their migration to the east side of the park. We saw big bulls out in the willows, walking around lakes in the rain, and bedded down for the night. We spotted young yearlings at trailheads and a mother with twins in the quiet woods. A young male even got in between our family on a trail once and ran for a bit to make his way around us, an experience my kids will never forget.

During this time I used a point and shoot Canon camera and never could get the photos I wanted. It took my son Ethan and I seeing two giant males on a mother-son trip to Rocky Mountain in 2017 to change that. They were the biggest males I had ever seen, and my little camera just couldn’t stretch far enough to capture them the way I wanted. When I got home, I purchased my first DSLR, the Canon Rebel T6i with the kit lens and a 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens.

As our trips began to include Banff, Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone, my passion for wildlife photography became more evident. My gear began to evolve, I invested in workshops and coaching, and I spent hours out in the field practicing – here in Indiana and out West. Finally I felt like I was getting where I wanted to be. 

Last week I got to spend four days in the Grand Tetons before a business conference in Denver, and although I’ve been to the Tetons a few times in the last couple years, I still didn’t have an image of a bull moose.  So my husband and I set off on a trail one evening to a pond we knew might be promising. He and my kids had seen a moose there a year before and we just missed them in June by fifteen minutes. This time, as we turned the corner to descend to the water, I saw him right away. 

A large bull moose stood in the grasses, stretching after probably being bedded down for a while. The sun was setting behind the mountain and his grunts echoed over the pond at a slow staccato pace. I made my way down and sat on a rock, getting as low as I could at a safe distance. The bull slowly marched through the brush, splashing and smelling the air. My shutter was flying and my heart was racing. He was magnificent. The encounter probably lasted ten to fifteen minutes, and then he sauntered off into the willows out of sight.  I don’t think I could have asked for anything better. I finally had the right gear at the right time with the animal that captured my heart ten years ago. 

We finished the night by completing the rest of the trail, seeing grouse, a mule deer and twins, another bull moose in the distance, and a fox along the way. The temperature was dropping, and the aspens were glowing green, gold, and coral in the setting sun. My heart was singing with gratitude. This mini-trip included so many moments like this, and I can’t wait to go through all my photos and share them with you. 


Jen Ritchie

I'm a nature photographer who loves capturing beautiful landscapes and wildlife from our yearly trips out West and parks here closer to home.

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