National Parks Tour: Buffalo Safari & Cookout

Monday, September 6, 2021 (continued)

We got back to the Lodge at 3:00. We had to be ready to go on the Safari by 4:00. Al told us to be sure to bring a light jacket because it would be cool once the sun went down. It is so hot right now, it is hard to believe I will need a jacket.

Exactly at 4:00, several open-air trucks pulled up. The man getting us all organized into one of the trucks handed us each a straw cowboy hat and a bandana.

Chuck ended up in the seat next to our driver. Our driver’s name was Chuck. They both had the same sense of humor, so we were laughing quite a bit.

As we rode, the truck at the front was in radio contact with the ones following. When animals were spotted, we were alerted so we could pull over or go slower. In between animal sightings, Chuck gave us information about the Park and the surrounding area.

He emphasized that the Park keeps close tabs on the bison herd because the Park can only sustain a certain number of bison (currently 1300 – 1400), based on the condition of the grassland and how much food is available. Part of that management is the yearly Buffalo Round-Up every September. He was very enthusiastic about the round-up and said everyone should attend at least once.

He showed us where they were setting up for this year’s Round-Up. Besides the Park staff and long-time riders, twenty volunteers are also chosen through an application process. Even the Governor takes part as a rider.

The riders herd the bison into corrals where they sort out 200 – 500 to be sold or donated, vaccinate the new members of the herd, brand the new calves, and check the cows for pregnancy. It takes about four days to work the entire herd. However, the visitors can leave the area once all the bison are corralled usually about noon. Visitors need to be in the Park by 7:00 a.m.

The auction takes place in November. All monies raised go to the management of the Park. In 2019, it raised over $600,000. In 2020, it only raised a little over $400,000 but given the circumstances, they were pleased. They are hoping to be back to 2019 results this year.

We soon came upon a herd of bison. I think he was expecting more excitement from us, so we had to tell him what we saw this morning. However, it was fun to see them so close from the truck.

We did get animated when we saw our first pronghorn antelope up close. We had seen several from a distance in the bus and on this ride, but this one was just standing by the side of the road and didn’t move as we all stopped, stared, and took pictures. He was ready for his close-up.

Next, was a large prairie dog town. I had a hard time getting pictures. They were quick to jump into their burrows. A few brave ones would poke their heads out to check us out.

We saw deer. Chuck said to start counting the deer we see from now until we get back to the Lodge. His current record is 45 deer spotted.

Just before we arrived at the chuckwagon cookout, we saw a flock of turkeys.

Once we got to the cookout spot, we sat down at one of the picnic tables and listened to the musicians sing some country western songs. We were not the only group at this cookout. I estimated at 150 people in all. This set-up was similar to the cookout we had at Monument Valley.  We had tickets for the dinner we chose – steak, chicken, hamburger, or vegetarian. We each chose steak again.

When the grills were ready, they had us form two lines. We found ourselves in the front of one of the lines. Score! We were served baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, watermelon, and a cookie. Then we handed our ticket and given the main dish we chose. We had a choice of water, tea, or lemonade. Very good meal.

By the time we were finished, it was getting dark, and Al was right – it was getting cool. Once we loaded back into the truck, Chuck gave us lap blankets.

On our way back to the Lodge, we kept counting deer even though it was getting harder and harder to spot them. We were getting close to his record.

Just before we got to the Lodge, a call came from the first truck that they had spotted an elk. But by the time we got there, it had run up the hill. I’m still holding my record of zero pictures of elk.

However, just before we turned the corner into the Lodge, we spotted deer number 46! New Record! Yay us!

It has been a fun day. Tomorrow is a travel day, so we need to get the bags ready to go. I shouldn’t have any trouble sleeping tonight.

Next up – Travel to Sheridan, Wyoming

Author: mmmtravelmemories

A retired college administrator who loves to travel. I write to remember the experiences and, I hope, to inspire others to make their own travel memories.

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