Recently I took a little break from Michigans prespawn bass bonanza. Amanda and I rented a car and headed west towards Yellowstone National Park. The trip would take us through Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Neither of us had ever been to many of those states so we were going to see lots of new sights.
There were lots of landscape things that were interesting, but I was mostly looking forward to seeing the animals. The wildlife picked up in South Dakota with pheasants and ducks. Lots of pheasants cruising the side of the road and just about every puddle had shovelers, mallards, and blue winged teal. The most common roadkill was definitely pheasants, luckily we never had any close calls with them flying across the road.
Our first major stop was Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Being offseason we pretty much had it ourselves, which was nice. There we spotted mule deer, bighorn sheep, bison, and about a million prairie dogs. The prairie dog towns are one of the most ridiculous things ever, the numbers and general sillyness of what is going on in them is definitely worth checking out. The badlands themselves were pretty cool, other than the cactus that went through Amanda's tennis shoe.
From there we headed towards the Black Hills, also in South Dakota. We hit snow there for the first time of the trip, which would be a common thing anytime we were at a higher elevation, but it was pretty fresh here. We did drive through some of it, but just light snow. No slippery roads or anything, that would come later. Amanda really wanted to see Mt. Rushmore so we tried to go there but it was fogged in. Luckily, we got up the next day and caught it right before it fogged in again, plus we were early enough we didn't have to pay to get in! Other highlights from the Black Hills was a small waterfall/pool we walked back to, Devils Bathtub. This involved crossing a stream four times and clinging to trees as to not slide down steep banks. The stream did have a bunch of trout in it, but unfortunately I had no fishing rod or license. I did spot a couple brookies in the act of spawning which was cool. Other highlights from the Black Hills were more mule deer and bighorn sheep.
From there we headed into Wyoming and it seemed like the wildlife came out of the woodwork. We saw tons of deer and pronghorn, once you got the hang of the habitats they were using it was very easy to pick them out. My favorite part was figuring out what type of habitat each species of animal was using. There were a few surprises though, like the moose on the side of the road in the Bighorn Mountains. There was 6-8 inches of fresh snow up here and I was not expecting one up that high, but it was pretty cool to see one up there.
The next stop was both mine and Amanda's favorite of the trip, Grand Teton National Park. Lots of animals, amazing scenery, and very few people. It seemed many of the other visitors to the region chose to spend their time in Yellowstone. Also the sun finally came out and we had great weather. It was interesting to see ice still on a lot of the mountain lakes, including Jackson Lake which was huge. I'm betting there is some good trout fishing there. Jackson Hole was also the first nice town we had visited, mostly because it is such a huge skiing destination. Not everything there was open yet, but we were able to find some good food and drinks. After a nice night out we decided we were going to try and find some moose really early the next morning. We hit the road at 5:30 and we found moose all over the place! Also spotting red fox, mule deer, whitetail deer, and elk. Things were much more lively early in the day as it was getting into the 70's and even 80's during the day. Night time lows though were still in the 20's and 30's. I also found some awesome ducks we don't really see here in Michigan. Many times I got great looks at barrows, goldeneyes, and cinnamon teal.
Next up was the famed Yellowstone National Park. This was the first place we started really seeing tour buses and all that fun stuff. The "main attractions" were pretty busy, but if you got out in the park you had it to yourself. I can imagine it isn't nearly as fun in the summer. There were bison everywhere in the park though, walking down the roads, laying next to the road, walking through the areas where all the people are. It is sort of strange to be within 20 feet of an animal that big. They lose their excitement factor in the park pretty quick since they're so plentiful. Other things we saw in the park were wolves, elk, mule deer, pronghorn, whitetails, marmots, ground squirrels, and I'm sure I'm forgetting a few. Either way Yellowstone was cool, but if I had to go back I'd spend all my time in Jackson Hole and the Tetons.
The other nice place we stayed was Bozeman, Montana; cool breweries, good food, and from the looks of all the drift boats in peoples driveways the trout fishing must be good too. I only saw one bass boat while I was out there, but it was a decked out Nitro Z-8 in the black hills. Not sure where he was heading to fish around there, seemed like you had to drive quite a distance for any substantial water. The only other bass things I saw were the pictures I was getting texted while I was out there. Luckily Michigan had a major cold front and shut that down for a couple days!
From the park we started making the long journey home. We snuck in a stop to see family in Chicago and made it home a day early. Since we got home early we promptly continued our vacation on the lake. The bite was decent and there were signs of bedding activity. I'll be focusing on catching those fish from now until they are done doing their thing. If things stay cool it could be a great opening weekend.
The other highlight about getting home was I got to see my dog! Hutch didn't forget too much while I was gone, a couple quick training sessions and he was right back where we left off. I also got to play with the new FishSens app for Android. We are working out a few bugs right now, but it is going to be awesome! Look for some cool footage coming from me in the next couple weeks. I've also got a couple more articles out there about fishing line. Check out part 1, part 2, and part 3.
I'm full swing into everything else right now. Just put new tires on the trailer, getting some new batteries from ClearH2O Tackle this weekend (they are a Deka Batteries dealer if anyone needs batteries). Also going to be doing some filming while I'm down there, I'm not sure what the plan is yet but it is going to be fun. I've also got to stock up on some tackle from Nemesis Baits and get everything re spooled with fresh P-Line. That's all I've got for now, see you on the water!