Elk Hunting photo

In each issue of Field & Stream, we feature a truly stunning photograph in a section called First Shot. Each photo, whether of an angler crossing a solitary winter stream, a massive deke collection, or a brown bear lounging in the sand, captures a riveting moment outdoors, the kind of moment that renews our appreciation for wild places and keeps us heading back into the field for more. With each image, we ask the photographer to explain the story behind the shot. Here are 31 of our favorites from the past few years.

duck hunter
BLACK HOLE Location: Plum Island, Massachusetts ✖ Hank Garvey, an award-winning decoy carver and avid waterfowler, was hunting black ducks on the Merrimack River off Plum Island, a Massachusetts barrier island, when the rising tide forced him to reposition his layout boat and spread. “One of the challenges of hunting the salt marsh is that the tide fluctuates 10 feet over the course of six hours,” says Garvey. “So you can’t stay in one spot.” It was a bitter-cold January nor’easter, with the snow blowing sideways, but Dorie, his 9-year-old black Lab, was eager to hunt even with the brackish water freezing up. “People ask why I want to go out in those harsh conditions. For me, it’s a test. There’s a thrill to withstanding it, and the birds work really well to the decoys.” Garvey hunts over his own oil-painted white-cedar decoys carved in various positions, like the headless feeding decoy above. “Black ducks are wary. I love working them in close, especially when it’s windy. Part of being a good sportsman is having them finish all the way in so you can make an ethical shot.” He took his one-bird limit that day.—Donna Ng Bill Buckley
bird dog
WATCH DOG Location: St. Joseph, Mo. ✖ As Martin Teeter, Brian Roushar, and Mike Schulenberg brushed the blinds before an evening mallard hunt last December near St. Joseph, Mo., Chase, a 6-year-old Lab, lounged in his hut while watching passing birds. “He’s the perfect blend between a family dog and a hunting dog,” says Roushar (center), a dog trainer from Minnesota. “His poise is what makes him a great hunter.” A dog as good as Chase deserves to take it easy every now and then. Since he began competing in hunting tournaments as a pup, he has placed within the top five in more than 80 events. In 2012, he earned a Master Hunter title—one of the highest honors for gun dogs—from the American Kennel Club. On this hunt, Chase lived up to his reputation, despite a bout of bad weather that resulted in a light game strap. “Chase was an old pro,” photographer Mitch Kezar says. “He did what Labs do: hang out when things are slow and explode into work mode as soon as ducks rain down.” —Adrienne Donica Mitch Kezar
duck decoy shop
SHELF LIFE Location: Biddleford, Maine ✖ Photographer Lee Thomas Kjos met decoy carver Steve Brettell of Little River Decoys after reading about him in a magazine. He stopped by the shop, and soon Brettell was inviting him to come back in winter to hunt eiders. “I was a total stranger,” says Kjos. “Now we’ve hunted together for 20 years. The shop hasn’t changed a bit since then.” Its shelves are lined with eiders, scoters, and longtails, as well as turkeys, upland birds, even a puffin. Brettell taught himself to carve; people who heard about his decoys began asking him to guide, too. “It turned into a business, guiding and carving,” Brettell says. “I love hunting over traditional birds. They don’t work any better than plastic, and you have to be careful. Once I didn’t see a decoy come off its anchor. A couple of days later, a local lobsterman returned it, even though it wasn’t signed. We’re a small community.” A basic decoy takes him 10 hours to carve from pine or white cedar and sells for around $300. These days, he hunts sea ducks just for fun. Kjos says, “After a hunt, he’ll sign one of the decoys, note down what we shot, and give it to me. I have a bunch, all treasures.” —Donna Ng Lee Thomas Kjos
bull elk
MIRROR BULL Location: Canadian Rockies ✖ On a late afternoon in September, photographer Don Jones was taking pictures of bighorn sheep in the hills above a large, shallow lake in western Alberta when he turned and saw a surreal scene. “This big animal was so far out from shore, walking in the opposite direction,” says Jones. “I ran down the mountain, probably a quarter mile, just ran forever.” His vest was loaded down with gear: an extra battery, lenses, binoculars. “I’m not a jogger, unless something is chasing me. I got sweaty like a pig—I didn’t want to miss the shot. I was still hustling when the elk turned around and started walking toward me. I didn’t hesitate—just lay down in the mud on the shoreline, like I was a piece of driftwood.” The 7×9 walked within 30 yards of Jones, who was snapping away the whole time, capturing the bull from the ankles up against the lake’s glassy surface. “He was lackadaisical, with no cows around during the rut, so maybe he wasn’t breeding anymore. When I got up, he boogied away into the brush. I was soaking wet from my neck down to my feet, but I couldn’t have gotten this shot any other way.”—Donna Ng Donald M. Jones
canoe hunter
BOUGH HUNT Location: Geary County, Kan. ✖ Kevin Kezar paddled this canoe under some low-hanging branches on the Republican River in northeast Kansas, where he and his brother, photographer Mitch Kezar, were bowhunting early-spring Easterns. “We like to spot-and-stalk or chase after turkeys,” says Mitch. “I’ve killed 18 birds that way. It’s challenging. I’ve gone to Texas, called in 39 birds, and never pulled a string on one of them. Without a blind, that’s too many eyes. “I went into the Air Force when Kevin was only 4, so we didn’t get to hunt together much growing up in Minnesota,” Mitch adds. Now, they pursue deer, antelope, pigs, or turkeys together at least once a year. “A lot has changed. We used to shoot any deer that moved during our brief gun season, but all my nephews bowhunt, and their season is like 90 days long. It’s pretty cool to hear them talk about passing on a buck; they really care about the resource.”—Kristyn Brady Mitch Kezar
elk herd
A GHOSTLY PARADE Location: Rocky Mountains, Alberta ✖ Late last September in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, photographer Mark Raycroft had followed this 8×8 bull elk for several days, listening for bugles at dawn to try to get ahead of the herd at peak rut. “He and his harem would move a couple of miles a day,” says Raycroft. “That morning all the elements fell into place: the ghostly dead spruces, the new growth in the burnt forest, the fog, the mountains in the backdrop, and the harem being pushed through by the bull, which seemed at the pinnacle of life, with very dark, very thick antlers. It was exhila­rating.” The herd—about a dozen cows and young combined, typical for the region’s population density—was roughly 40 yards away when he took this photograph at about 7:30 a.m. “I’d been out there for two weeks already, but I had to see this image right away. It would have been improbable before recent advances in digital zoom lenses. Someone using a large telephoto would have had to switch lenses or hurry backward to capture the entire scene, trying not to disrupt the elk. Now, it’s a wildlife photographer’s dream.” —Donna Ng Mark Raycroft
brown trout sculpture
HE’S ON FISH Location: Rio Grande, Argentina Fishing guide Mike Lunde wrangled the 20-foot sea-run brown trout sculpture, an homage to the region’s most famous gamefish, at the gateway to Rio Grande, the city and famed river on the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. Lunde was in Patagonia for his first season of guiding in Jan. 2013. “I met Mike in the Houston airport and it turned out we were both headed for the same place—to the end of the earth—via a connecting flight in Buenos Aires and a two-hour drive down mostly dirt roads to our lodges,” says contributing photographer Tim Romano, who was traveling with editor-at-large Kirk Deeter for a story. “Everyone hates the photographer, because I’m always holding things up for a photo op. We had just driven away from the airport, but I insisted that we stop so someone could ride that thing. “I don’t know what kind of fly a 20-foot sea-run brown would eat,” adds ­Romano, “but it would have to be very aggressive.”—Kristyn Brady Tim Romano
ZONING IN Location: Kitmat River, British Columbia ✖ Darren Wright, co-owner of the Steelhead House lodge in British Columbia, was casting for steelhead on the Kitimat River when photographer Brian Grossenbacher took this shot from a logging bridge. “I’ve been Spey casting for 17 years,” says Wright. “I love the grace of it and being able to reach the other side of the river. Here, I’m setting up my D loop for a snap‑T cast.” Wright, who grew up playing hockey in northern Ontario, adds, “A good caster is always focused on technique but at the same time is in the zone. I think athletic people can pick up Spey casting better than most because of their hand-eye coordination, and they also tend to use their body to cast rather than just their arms. “The fishing was slow. The water was low and clear, and the sun was out all day. But no matter what, it’s great to be on the water. What I like most about the Kitimat is that we fish within 5 miles of the salt, and the steelhead and salmon are fresh from the ocean—­explosive, bright fish that take the fly hard.” —Donna Ng Brian Grossenbacher
SHOULDER-SEASON SUCCESS Location: San Marcos, Texas ✖ Photographer Tim Romano climbed the foot pegs on an old cypress tree with a rope swing to capture this shot of angler Jeff Rogers carrying his kayak to the put-in on the San Marcos River outside of Austin last November. Typical of early spring and late fall, “the weather had been really iffy,” says Romano, “cold and rainy for the past two days. And the water was off-color, so we weren’t sure if it was going to fish.” Since un­fortunate circumstances had brought him to town, Romano needed a restorative experience on this float—and he got it. “It turned out to be a spectacular day. We had fish on with every other cast for three or four hours.” He landed one of his biggest largemouth bass to date, and the crew, including guide Marcos ­Rodriguez, who manned the canoe pictured on shore, hooked countless “guads”—Guadalupe bass, the state fish—and one cichlid. “Jeff and I traded off. One of us was in the canoe with fly gear and one was in the kayak with conventional gear throwing Senko worms,” adds Romano. “The action was just silly.”—Kristyn Brady Tim Romano
grizzly bear
WINGS, TO GO Location: Southern Alberta, Canada ✖ “A hawk will pluck at a bird, eat a breast, and leave the rest. This bear ate an entire ruffed grouse in three bites,” says photographer Don Jones, who snapped the grizzly midmeal in the Kananaskis Range of the Canadian Rockies in May 2013, at the start of mating season. “He bit into the gizzard, then swallowed the tail, wings, and all, like a garbage disposal, before going right back to feasting on horsetail stems.” The grouse was already dead; Jones’s guess is that it collided with a car. “Bears don’t generally like to be near roads, but he’d likely been out of hibernation since March, and the food greens up first low in this valley. He was making his way back up north, though—I kept track of him for four days, and he covered 25 miles.” —Kristyn Brady Donald M. Jones

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snow geese
SNOW SQUALL Location: Socorro, N.M. At the sight of a circling bald eagle, approximately 50,000 greater and lesser snow geese wintering in central New Mexico’s Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge burst off a series of small frozen ponds shortly after sunrise in Jan. 2013. “These birds typically fly from roosting areas to the cornfields to feed around sunrise anyway, but most days about 1,000 trickle out at a time,” says photographer Don Jones. “In this case, a bald eagle was looking for birds weakened by avian cholera—a few were left behind, dead or dying, every time the flock took off—and flushed them all in a tight group. Their wings were slapping each other and they were all honking. The noise was just wonderful. “This is one of the top five things I’ve seen that come close to a religious experience,” says Jones, who has witnessed this cacophonous flush several times. “The first time I saw it and heard it, I couldn’t even take pictures. I just stood there, like, wow.” He adds, “I’ve never been christened with their droppings, but my rental car always gets spotted like a leopard.” —Kristyn Brady Donald M. Jones
bighorn sheep
EWE GOT NAILED Location: Western Montana ✖ Photographer Don Jones was 20 yards away from a herd of about 40 bighorn sheep on an October morning during the rut in western Montana when these two 170-class rams bowled over a ewe. “She was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” says Jones. “They are oblivious to everything else—I have to be careful not to get run over myself. They’re very dramatic, with eyes bulging and constant posturing around the ewes, lots of grunting and growling. They’ll be pushing at each other, then nothing happens for a while. They start to feed, but all of a sudden stand up and bang heads. A ewe, or a lamb, might get in the way. And they play dirty. When a ram mounts a female, sometimes another ram comes up from behind. They kick right between the legs. “This ewe hit the ground sideways, then popped up and went right back to feeding. Boys will be boys.”—Donna Ng Donald M. Jones
blue marlin
ELECTRIC BILL Location: Golfito, Costa Rica ✖ Photographer Brian Grossenbacher rarely picks up a rod when he’s working, but on this trip to Costa Rica he reeled in four billfish, including two blue marlin, a striped marlin, and a Pacific sailfish—firsts for him—all before noon. Carter Andrews had enlisted him to be the designated fisherman for an episode of The Obsession of Carter Andrews on the Outdoor Channel after injuring his arm. When a billfish bit, Andrews would set the hook before handing over the rod. “I did the fun stuff,” he says, “and left all the hard work to Brian.” A former flyfishing guide, Grossenbacher found it a real challenge to stay in the boat, crank in line evenly, and still grab his camera occasionally. “The toughest fight was with this fish, the smaller blue, which kept taking off 100 yards and then would turn and come right back at the boat. It was kicking my butt aerobically. I could hear Carter yelling at me, but I was so focused on not screwing up that I couldn’t really listen. At one point, he tackled me like a linebacker to prevent a breakoff. It was grueling, and I was in need of a cocktail after that.” —Donna Ng Brian Grossenbacher
ATTACK OF THE GIANT SOCKEYE Location: Bristol Bay, Alaska ✖ Angler Seth Byler was fishing for leopard rainbow trout in the Upper Nushagak River in July 2013 when this male sockeye salmon—displaying the spawning colors, humpback, and hooked jaw that developed within three to four weeks after the fish entered the river 100 miles downstream—got aggressive and slammed Byler’s king salmon smolt streamer. “Red salmon, as we call them, only look like this for about a week or so,” says photographer Pat Clayton, who took this dramatic close-up in the shallows. “Most of their appearance is meant to attract females, but those teeth are used to fight other males for a spot on gravel spawning beds. The water is only 6 to 10 inches deep, so you can see them biting each other and splashing around. They’re easy pickings for bears cruising those beds.” —Kristyn Brady Patrick Clayton
THE BRUSH-OFF Location: Lewiston, Mont. This rutting pronghorn dashed across public prairie lands outside Lewiston, Mont., while shaking off grasses and weeds that got stuck in his 13-inch horns as he raked the ground in the presence of a doe. “Pawing and raking are typical rutting activities, maybe meant to intimidate other bucks or express frustration,” says photographer Don Jones. “It isn’t uncommon to see pronghorns with what looks like a hunk of tumble­weed stuck in their horns—which grab up grasses like a pitchfork—but it’s hard to get it on camera because they are in constant motion, either trying to shake free or chasing off smaller bucks. Despite having his vision compromised for about three minutes, the 4-year-old male was able to defend his doe from two rivals that popped up out of a coulee—and he knew they were there way before I did.” —Kristyn Brady Donald M. Jones
turkey hunter
DOUBLE DIP Location: St. Paul, Kan. ✖ On a cloudy and calm April morning, Jim Rosckes of Chaska, Minn., took a two-bird limit of Easterns on private land during Kansas’s archery-only season and carried them out across Flat Rock Creek. After roosting the birds the night before, he set up in a wheatfield 150 yards away. “The turkeys were already gobbling, and I gobbled right back. Then eight hens flew down,” Rosckes says. “Soon, two toms followed. Three hens ran off, but five came toward me, and then the toms came a‑running.” He shot one tom as it eyed his strutter decoy. The other started beating on the dead turkey, and although Rosckes’s next shot hit the bird, it ran and lay down 25 yards away. So he grabbed another arrow—and shot the blind right by the zipper on the window. The arrow was thrown way off course, and the gobbler ran into the woods, where he found it by a deadfall and killed it. “I’ve hunted turkeys for 15 years but haven’t used a shotgun for the past four. I get a kick out of bowhunting. You can’t monkey around. When you’ve got one down and another goes running, you’re not going to get him if you dawdle.”—Donna Ng Tom Martineau
Fishing Grand Teton National Park
A VERY FINE SPOT Location: Grand Teton National Park ✖ Oliver White played a Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout during a 10-mile float from Pacific Creek Landing to Deadman’s Bar, as Carter Andrews manned the oars of their South Fork skiff. The longtime guiding buddies had reunited in Jackson Hole in August. Smoke from wildfires tinged the surroundings with a golden brown tone as they took turns rowing and casting Chubby Chernobyl dries and Double Bunny streamers around logjams, root wads, and long grassy banks for fine-spotted cutts. This native subspecies grows to about 20 inches and has hundreds of small spots all over its body and fins. “That float through the Tetons is one of the prettiest to fish in America,” says White, who lives in the Bahamas but returns to Wyoming every summer. “You get so focused on when to cast, how to make the drift, that it’s hard to really take in the mountains and wildlife. When I’m guiding, I make it a point to get people to stop fishing sometimes and look around and appreciate where we are. That whole experience is what makes it magical and special.”—Donna Ng Brian Grossenbacher
COMMUNITY OUTREACH Location: Chanhassen, Minn. “We nicknamed this 3-year-old gobbler ‘Whitey,’ for the white markings on two tail feathers in the center of his fan,” says photographer Tom Martineau, who joined hunter Jeff Lobitz on an 80-acre farm—a rare large swath of private land in the archery-only Minneapolis suburbs—for the May 2013 gobbler season. “Jeff and I had the right setup for taking photos: our backs to the morning sun, side by side in pop-up blinds uphill from the treeline, where we knew some turkeys were roosted. If we’d been there just to hunt, we’d have set up right underneath them. They gobbled in the roost, flew down, and kept getting louder and louder as they headed straight for our decoys—it was a turkey hunter’s dream. Whitey was the first to crest the hill into the plowed cornfield, followed by four toms, three jakes, and a few hens. I kept pressing the shutter as he threw his head out in full strut. When the snood starts flapping like that, it’s pretty cool.” —Kristyn Brady Tom Martineau
SEAT WARMER Location: Shreveport, LA. Peyton Cunningham, a volunteer with an annual bird banding project in winter waterfowl feeding areas, placed a greenwing hen with six males on the passenger seat of a truck to get warm. “Volunteers shot a giant net out of two cannons over the water, quickly collected the teal, and put them in cages before they got too cold,” explains photographer Rick Adair. If the birds can’t ruffle their feathers under the net, they’re less insulated against low temperatures. “About 25 birds did start to get lethargic, so we put them in the truck with the heat on, and they huddled together.” Normally, they would be released within 10 minutes, but these teal were monitored until the end of the day, when they all flew away apparently healthy. “Most banding is done on spring breeding grounds when teal are young, and we’re trying to catch them on ­winter feeding grounds after they’ve been shot at for months,” says project leader and federal banding permit holder Skipper Dickson, who was named an F&S Hero of Conservation in 2012 for his volunteerism in the prairie-pothole region. “We’ve banded 3,000 birds since 2003 and learned a lot about their survival.” —Kristyn Brady Rick Adair

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SINK-AND-SPIT Location: Venice, LA ✖ On a warm day just off the Louisiana coast this past October, Brady Smith, a Nebraska native, was enjoying his first time fishing for redfish when he and photographer Dušan Smetana decided to try something besides the typical grip-and-grin shot on the boat with this 20-pounder. “We stuck an 8-foot rod down to the bottom, and I thought I’d be able to stand by that water hyacinth and hold the fish above my head,” Smith says. Smetana adds, “The depthfinder said it was about 5 feet deep, so Brady stepped off the ladder into the water. The next thing I knew, he was submerged.” “The mucky bottom sucked me down,” Smith says. “I was trying to tread water and hold up the fish. After maybe 30 seconds of going up and down under the surface and spitting out water, I let go. We went on to keeper-size fish in the canals next. The fishing around Venice was lights-out—you could catch bull reds all day and torture your arms. Some other guys had gotten their redfish eaten by bull sharks earlier, but I thought the chances were slim that I’d get attacked.”—Donna Ng Dusan Smetana
drake mallards
COBALT AND CRIMSON Location: Twin Bridges, Mont. “This is exactly the way the birds were hanging in the blind, and the colors, the blood and water dripping from the ducks, and the line of their feet caught my eye,” says Brian Grossenbacher about his photograph of harvested drake mallards. “It tells a story that death is as much a part of the sport as the food and camaraderie. And there’s beauty in it.” Grossenbacher accompanied three hunters, who each took their limit of seven greenheads, including one banded bird, over four hours in a blind made of wire-mesh fencing woven with palm leaves on the Beaverhead River one December morning. “It was zero degrees and so clear at dawn that I thought it’d be a terrible day to hunt. But we were set up in a big back eddy, where a spring dumped into the river. It was the only stretch of water that wasn’t frozen, so the birds came right in.” —Kristyn Brady Brian Grossenbacher
hunter in woods
A HUNTER WAS HERE Location: Gallatin National Forest, Montana The Sunday after Thanksgiving last year—the last day of the region’s firearms season for deer—­photographer Denver Bryan took this self-portrait as he packed out a 3×4 whitetail. “I’m primarily a bowhunter, and I studied whitetails in grad school before becoming a photographer, but I got schooled by four larger bucks in the archery season,” says Bryan, who killed this buck with a .243 Ruger while still-hunting a small aspen- and spruce-filled drainage at the base of a mountain in the north Bridger Range. After caping out and deboning the deer, he left a bloody handprint on an aspen trunk. “You see initials carved in the trunks of aspens that might have been there a hundred years or more,” he says. “It may be that only another hunter would appreciate my marking of this memory, and it has been washed away by now.” —Kristyn Brady Denver Bryan
brown bear
POUR BOY Location: Southeast Alaska ✖ This big male brown bear was resting after a meal on a rainy day last August, giving photographer Don Jones a chance to get down low for one final shot before the weather turned nasty. “He’d stuffed himself on sockeye salmon, just peeling off the skins and leaving the rest for the gulls,” Jones says. Such high-grading behavior is common when salmon are plentiful, allowing bears to choose the fattiest parts—the skin, brain, and eggs—to put on weight. When the bear moved to the beach to digest, Jones got within 30 yards as the tide rose and took this image. “I knew the skiff was coming to get me”—he was staying on a mother ship—”so I wouldn’t have to walk any closer.” The captain had a nickname for this particular boar: Scarface. “He was the head bruin, 800 pounds or so, had scars on his shoulders, face, and ears,” Jones says. “He’d seen battles. When he came out of the bushes, all the other bears made way for him on the stream. They were in their summer coats already, but he was still shedding, so he wasn’t as fluffy and beautiful as the others but had lots of character. He reminded me of a big old Labrador.”—Donna Ng Donald M. Jones
FETCH, INTERRUPTED Location: Wellington, Ontario ✖ Four-year-old yellow Labrador retriever Gillie gave photographer Brian Grossenbacher the stinkeye for invading her space on the retrieve in West Lake, as waterfowler Tyler Burris looked on. “Most of the time, Gillie is a goofball, setting everyone at ease,” says the dog’s owner, Tanya Dunlop. “But as soon as she sees the guns and camo come out, she is totally focused on the job. Gillie’s great at hiding in the marshes—that’s how she got her name—and she’s an exceptionally strong swimmer, especially for a 105-pound dog. She makes double retrieves in big water look easy.” Dunlop and her husband, Frank, operate County Outfitters and guide duck, turkey, and goose hunts in Prince Edward County, which boasts more than 300 miles of shoreline. “We set up in this protected cove before daylight and threw out two redhead decoys, which are really meant for deeper water, by mistake,” says Grossenbacher. “It didn’t impact our results, though. We still limited out and had an awesome day in a great part of the world for hunting.” —Kristyn Brady Brian Grossenbacher
JUST LANDED IN PARADISE Location: Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico ✖ Floating on Espiritu Santo Bay, Dan “Rooster” Leavens says, he’d been reflecting on how far removed he was from his Montana fly shop with the wood fire, where he’d tied the crab fly that hooked this permit in Feb. 2014. “You have no idea how much I dream about Mexico when it’s 30 below,” says Leavens. “But the harder I tried to close the deal on a permit that day, the less it was paying off. I hooked one that morning, raised the rod, and looked at Brian’s camera, all satisfied, and he said, ‘You better look at your line.’ It had broken off. About 20 minutes later another was cruising toward my fly when a cotton-picking barracuda got there first! So, my guide Jorge and I had all but given up, opened some cold cervezas, and turned on some Buffett, and that’s when he spotted this permit tailing in the far corner of the bay. “I connected on a longer-than-I’m-good-for cast, fought it for 30 minutes, and finally brought it in. When Brian snapped this photo, the fish was still not ready to be landed,” Leavens says with a laugh, “but Jorge knew what to do.” —Kristyn Brady Brian Grossenbacher
Rock Creek
GOING WITH THE FLOE Location: Missoula, Mont. “If my life ever flashes before my eyes, I’m pretty sure the beautiful scene from that afternoon is one of the things I’ll see,” says Massachusetts flyfishing guide Kim Bryant about her first ever wade of Rock Creek, in brutal winter conditions. When she booked her ticket to Montana, the forecast called for 40-degree days, but by the time she hit the river with photographer Brian Grossenbacher, an Arctic front had moved in. “She had ice in her guides and had to drop her fly between the ice floes moving down the river—it was like that hole in miniature golf, where you have to hit the ball past the moving windmill blades,” says Grossenbacher, who snapped this shot from a stone bridge downstream. “I managed to land a 14-inch brook trout and two decent rainbows on a San Juan worm and pheasant tail nymph in the two hours before my feet got too cold,” says Bryant. “It was incredibly satisfying, but a truck with heated seats and a pint at the pub never felt so good.”—Kristyn Brady Brian Grossenbacher
Fishing in Alaska
SMOOTH LANDING Location: Kustatan River, Alaska ✖ Ann Martineau tends to let loose a giant ­”Woo-hoo!” when she hooks a fish—and the very end of a fly-in trip on the Kustatan River was one of those occasions. With the day coming to a close (and the floatplane ready to zip them away), Ann frantically tried to fill her limit of silver salmon while her husband, photographer Tom ­Martineau, was busy taking photos of their guide, Jake Newton, cleaning fish. When Tom heard a sudden shout, he knew exactly what it meant. “Oh yeah,” Tom said to Newton, “she’s got one.” The two rushed over to Ann, and as Jake stood ready with the net, Tom jumped in the water to capture the moment. “I had no idea how deep it was,” Tom says. “The banks were real muddy. I tried to stop myself from going in too deep but kept sliding and figured, might as well commit.” Fortunately, Tom found his footing and nailed this shot—the culmination of another successful Alaskan trip for the couple, who’ve gone fishing there annually for 20 years. “Everything about an Alaskan fishing trip is emotional,” Ann says. “Your adrenaline is on high alert. It’s an adventure.”—Charlotte Carroll Tom Martineau
hunter scouting
STROUT PATROL Location: Alma, Ga. ✖ Clint George, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, scaled the side of this grain bin to get a better vantage point on a group of nearly two dozen turkeys—­including six mature gobblers and eight jakes—about 400 yards away on a southeast Georgia farm last spring. “I’ve always been deployed during turkey season, so it was my first time visiting the property where my buddies have permission to hunt,” George says. “We drove by these birds, but the grass was so tall that we could only see their heads, so I got the idea to crawl up the tower’s ladder and get a good look at them.” The birds disappeared into the treeline that day, and it rained for the next 24 hours, but George and his friend Jimmy Hall took down two of the gobblers not far from the grain bin on the following morning. “Jimmy worked his magic on a box call, a slate, and two mouth calls. Two toms came out of the trees and right in to our decoys—a strutter and two hens. They flared up and started strutting at 100 yards, and again at 50, but we were patient and dropped them both at 30.”—Kristyn Brady Bill Buckley
Slipping Angler
SLIDE SHOW-OFF Location: Blackfoot River, Montana ✖ The salmonfly hatch was in full force as angler Jimmy Lampros and photographer Brian Grossenbacher floated the North Fork of the Blackfoot River in June 2013. “Fish were rising, but the current was too fast to cast,” Grossenbacher says. “We pulled the raft in as soon as we could. But to get to the spot we wanted to fish, there was no good way to walk back upriver. The farther we hiked, the steeper it got, until we had quite a slope between us and the water. So Jimmy, who played baseball in high school, slid about 30 feet down the bank like he was sliding into third base, then kind of bounced and landed with a splash. It was a brilliant entry into the river. We made our way to where we’d seen the fish rising behind the fallen rock, and Jimmy caught a nice 17-inch brown trout.” “It was a bit more of an adrenaline rush than you usually get just standing in the river,” Lampros says. “And those waders lasted for another year without any ­issues.” —Donna Ng Brian Grossenbacher
coyotes hunting
THE FACE OFF Location: Beartooth Mountains, Wyoming “Ninety percent of wildlife photography is being in the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment,” says Keith Crowley, who captured this brief stalemate between three bighorn ewes and four coyotes last January in the Beartooth Mountains. Coming around a hill, he saw the predators running up a slope to the top of the 150-foot bluff and grabbed his camera. “They disappeared over the top, and right away the sheep came flying onto the cliff face,” he says. He’d never seen four coyotes working as a team before; they typically hunt alone or in pairs. “The coyotes split up. Two came back down to see if they could get at the sheep from below, two stayed up top. But coyotes are smart and quickly figured they could never get at them in that spot. It was around zero degrees. They’re not ­going to waste energy for a lost cause, so if it was two minutes before they gave up, I’d be surprised.” A few weeks later, Crowley’s friend spotted coyotes eating a freshly killed ewe at the base of the very same bluff, but on that day these sheep had the edge.—Donna Ng Keith Crowley