It’s always hunting season in Yellowstone

What did you just say, Steve? Hunting in Yellowstone? How dumb can a tragically misplaced Nebraska flatlander be?

Not so dumb, really. Permit me to explain.

Turns out what you ‘shoot’ animals with makes all the difference.

Killing Yellowstone critters with guns? Very bad.

Popping them right in the lungs with a camera, on the other hand? Very good. Encouraged even.

I take full advantage of the fact there are no seasons, zero limits and no licenses to buy. You can ‘shoot’ ‘em all, too, trophies, mamas, babies, endangered species. They’re all there for the taking.

First a disclaimer; do not mistake me for a goody two shoes/tree hugger who retches at the sight of blood. Fact is, I have bagged deer — shot ‘em dead — as well as a slew of waterfowl and upland bird species. I enjoy a dinner of fresh caught fish, too.

Lethal hunting was enjoyable for years. It was all I knew, then I blundered into a better way. That better way is wildlife photography. Are you harboring a subliminal urge to learn more? Perhaps even curious to try it out?

If so, stay tuned.

First is to get out your digital shovel and mine YouTube for as much information as you can process. Just use caution. There is enough info out there on this topic to make a gargoyle gag. Don’t be frightened away. Do pace yourself.

The first requirement is access to creatures. Obviously, you have this covered in abundance with Park County resting at ground-zero. You literally live just down the hill from a global destination site for all things wild and wonderful (and don’t neglect the Beartooths, Bighorns, et al.

Camera gear need not be complex or obscenely expensive to begin. It took three decades for me to accumulate the ridiculous mess of camera bodies, zoom and prime lenses, tripods, monopods and all manner of equipment that burdens me today. Of course, feeding my family with cameras for 30 years required a higher quality and variety than you will ever need.

Before you dig out the trusty Cabela’s card and leap, get familiar with basic info on camera brands and individual models as well as all things lens. This is sure to pare the odds of disappointment.

It’s also important to know there are reliable sources of previously used gear for much less than new price. I will share the three courses I have used for almost all of my personal gear if you ask.

And hear this: Do not fail to solicit the advice of any serious photo bug you know who is willing to coach you up. A little guidance will be of great benefit in years to come.

Cameras offer a wide variety of megapixels. You want all you can get. Some shoot faster bursts than others. Some are FX (full sized frame) while others are DX with a smaller or effectively cropped sensor. DX, in my experience, is better for wildlife and sports while FX is superior for landscapes, barns and anything wide.

These decisions and others must be carefully considered before plunking down your allowance and, I say again, there is no substitute for trustworthy advice.

Lenses run a dizzying gamut from variable (they zoom) to prime lenses (they don’t zoom). Advantages abound for both, but any experienced shooter would have you begin with a variable. That way you can zoom in tight or zoom back out for a wider field of view without so much as moving your feet.

Like camera bodies, a friend or acquaintance with some years on them can help steer you straight. I will even help if I can, which I have done for years to get numerous newbies off to a proper start. My email is included below for that very reason. I invite you to use it.

There is much more to learn as you go along, such as proper behavior and ethics in the presence of wild subjects. Disturbing them so they stop what they’re doing or even worse, flee, is the cardinal sin. You also must learn about depth of field, discover the magic of first and last light (the golden hours) and much more.

It’s a lot and it can be challenging, but stick with it and you will find growth in expertise, pleasing visual results and memories are second to none.

Plus, you don’t have to go up to your armpits in the critter’s hot guts. You shoot ‘em a hundred times if you want, then everybody wanders home none the worse for wear. Photography is cleaner that way, which is nice. Not so much hand scrubbing.

What is the bottom line? Spring has almost sprung. They’re getting away. Up! Up! Up! We gotta go.

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