"Many of the passes were filled with lots of snow, which would melt during the day, then freeze into solid ice under our feet," says photographer Dusan Smetana of this hazardous pack-in for a weeklong elk hunt in late September. "Normally it would be safer to ride than to walk, because the horses can plow through. So you can imagine how nervous we were when we got to a pass no wider than 2 feet and 10,000 feet up, where the outfitter told us to dismount and follow the animals on foot." Smetana snapped this photo right after their caravan made it through safely, then resumed riding into the next basin. "The outfitter hadn't seen it that bad in 20 or 30 years." --K.B. Location: Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Montana Issue: December 2012/January 2013 Photo by Dusan Smetana.
Black & White
Forty-mile-per-hour winds blew spartina grass stalks and snow sideways during this January nor’easter as Hank Garvey and his Labrador retriever returned home from the salt marsh with their limit of one black duck. “There are a lot of fair-weather waterfowlers,” Garvey says, “but the true duck hunters come out during a storm like this one. I don’t remember how many inches of snow came down, but the wind was just honking.” He adds that he is blessed to live only hundreds of yards from prime waterfowl habitat on a portion of the largest salt marsh in New England. “In that kind of weather, ducks are more active than you’d think, and they’ll land by a decoy if they see one.”
Garvey hunts over his own hand-carved cedar decoys and has competed at every major decoy competition in the country, earning the title of World Class Carver. “Nothing beats hunting over my own birds, because there is so much tradition in it for me,” he says. “I started carving decoys with my grandfather on fishing trips, and now I’m teaching my own son.” –K.B. Location: Plum Island, Massachusetts Issue: December 2012/January 2013 Photo by Bill Buckley
Huff and Bluff
Photographer Rick Adair snapped this moose from 20 yards away, where he was shielded by a tight clump of aspens, just seconds before the big bull charged. “I knew he wouldn’t be able to fit his rack between the tree trunks,” says Adair, who estimates that the moose weighed 1,400 pounds. “But he turned on me, huffing, and closed the gap to within 5 yards before he veered off. It was a bluff charge, or he realized he couldn’t get to me.” Adair was en route to Arapaho National Forest during Colorado’s September muzzleloader and bow season when he saw this bull up on a ridge and followed him into the aspen grove. He eventually realized the animal was headed toward a cow and calf. “I wasn’t too close, but the cow moved one way, the bull moved another, and somehow I found myself between them. That is not a good place to be.
“The next photo I took is not quite in focus,” adds Adair. “It was tough to keep from shaking when I pressed the shutter.” –Kristyn Brady Location: Grand Lake, Colorado Issue: November, 2012 Photo by Rick Adair
Scale This Wall
Over 7,000 tarpon scales–signed, dated, and inscribed with the fish’s size and weight by the lucky anglers–cover two walls of the Tarpon Inn’s lobby. They serve as a kind of guestbook and historical record of a time when this area of the Texas Gulf Coast enjoyed a golden age in sportfishing for the “Silver King.” The inn was built by a lighthouse keeper in 1886, when tarpon were abundant and Port Aransas was known as Tarpon, Texas–the tarpon capital of the world. The great migration of these fish ended in the late 1950s, and now the inn’s guests mainly target redfish, but a few famous visitors tacked a scale on the wall between 1900 and 1940, including Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr and cake-mix magnate Duncan Hines. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s scale, from a 1937 visit, is encased in a shadow box, and the official log of his stay notes that when Roosevelt was not on the water he signed 32 Acts of Congress and traded telegrams with Adolf Hitler to express sympathy after the Hindenburg crash. –K.B. Location: Port Aransas, Texas Issue: November, 2012 Photo by Tosh Brown
A Merriam’s turkey came searching for grasshoppers on private property adjacent to the Kootenai National Forest–just as photographer Don Jones was poised to click the shutter on the 10-point buck behind the bird. “Turkeys always seem to be getting in my way when I’m photographing whitetails in October,” says Jones. “They’re kind of a pain: fighting, running around, and sometimes startling the deer. But this one just stopped in that position–sometimes a good shot is just serendipity.” The mixed hardwoods in the distance aren’t indigenous to this area, and Jones had a brief window to take advantage of a backdrop filled with turning leaves. “Back east, you get months of gorgeous foliage, but here in Montana, the fall colors are long gone by November,” says Jones. “The grasshoppers stick around though–they come out early and stay late, and turkeys just love them.” Location: Libby, Mont. Issue: October, 2012 Photo by Donald M. Jones
“This dog would run through a brick wall if he could,” says Ben Burgess about Jake, his 6-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, who charged through decoys to retrieve a mallard in this slough on a late-season waterfowl hunt north of Pierre, S.D. “It’s exciting to watch a dog with that kind of drive, who is just so intense in the field, make a great water entry,” says photographer Bill Buckley. “It’s as if the muddy water behind him is being sucked up by a vacuum.”
Burgess knew he had the right dog after Jake retrieved a four-person limit of ducks and geese in one day and still wanted more. “When Jake brings a bird back, it’s almost comical–head held high, bird-first. Cocky is the perfect word for him.” Location: Pierre, S.D. Issue: October, 2012 Photo by Bill Buckley
This 5×5 bull elk stood still, mesmerized by a coyote drinking from its wallow, as a wintry mix of rain and snow brought on by the first cold front of the season fell on the Missouri River Breaks in late September. “It was 80 or 90 degrees only days earlier,” says photographer Tim Irwin, who captured the scene from 25 feet away in a blind he’d set up near the big mud puddle. “In that kind of heat, this bull would climb in, cover himself in mud and waste, and get really musky to control the bugs.” Irwin was close enough to smell the results.
“This bull never knew I was there, and the coyote didn’t seem to notice the elk was watching,” Irwin says. “Even if he had, there wouldn’t have been any confrontation. We’re talking about a 40-pound animal going up against a 1,000- to 1,200-pound animal.” Location: Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, Montana Issue: September, 2012 Photo by Tim Irwin
“Grizzlies get such a cool texture when they’re wet from the rain,” says Don Jones. He photographed this 500-plus-pound male from his truck as it fed on blueberries and cranberries by the road near Denali’s Stony Pass last September. “They’re focused on eating 20 hours a day, so it’s rare to have a grizzly even look in your direction. I was lucky to catch him in this stance with such a direct look. It’s almost menacing, but I wasn’t in any danger.” Jones, who has a permit to photograph wildlife from his vehicle, gladly abides by all park regulations about keeping back from wild animals. “If this bear stood upright, he’d easily be 7 or 8 feet tall, and he’s round, like a big tick ready to burst. His belly hangs down all the way to the tundra.”
Location: Denali National Park, Alaska
Issue: September, 2012
Photo by Donald M. Jones
“My ear was literally the only thing we hooked that day,” says wildlife photographer Bill Buckley of this incident in Aug. 2010 on the Yellowstone River south of Livingston. “Normally, there would be great drift-boat fishing at that time of year, but it was a very wet summer. We didn’t see any live hoppers until September.” His fishing buddy, Roper Green, turned Buckley’s own camera on him when, just as Buckley started his forward cast, his foam hopper blew back and stuck deep in his left earlobe. “At least the hook wasn’t barbed,” he says. “It came out pretty easily and only bled a little bit.” Ironically, Buckley had been worried that his cousin, a rookie angler visiting from Connecticut, would be the one to hook him with the wind blowing. “I had to eat humble pie when I did it to myself.” Location: Paradise Valley, Montana Issue: August, 2012 Photo by Roper Green
With Bearhat Mountain as a backdrop, this 150-pound mountain goat traversed a ridge along the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park last September, where it has been estimated that 1,000 to 1,500 of these iconic alpine animals reside. “I was hoping to photograph wolverines when I hiked up to Hidden Lake,” says photographer Don Jones. “Then this goat came along, and the clouds opened up.”
An outer coat helps these sure-footed climbers withstand winter temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees at 13,000-foot elevations, before they molt in spring by rubbing against rocks and trees. Jones believes this is a billy, as males tend to be loners, although goat gender can be tough to distinguish at a distance.
Location: glacier national park, montana
Issue: August, 2012
Photo by Donald M. Jones
There Goes Our Ride
Fishing guides Aaron Rogers-Richter (right) and Josh “Spud” Fitz were dropped off at the edge of this pond, between Katmai National Park and Becharof National Wildlife Refuge, by the de Havilland Beaver floatplane over their heads last August. They sat to watch it fly out and take in the scenery before continuing on a 20-minute hike to a sweet spot for grayling, rainbow and Dolly Varden trout, and king salmon. “As the plane flew over, we could feel the vibrations from head to toe,” says Rogers-Richter,
who travels eight to 10 months of the year in search of exceptional waters. “It was a spectacularly beautiful day in one of the most wild places that are left in the world.” Location: Alaska peninsula Issue: July, 2012 Photo by Brian Grossenbacher
Eye on the Fly
“I tried to help Barry get this picture all summer, and he was tickled to death when he finally did,” says Tom Harris, the angler presenting a parachute pattern to this 22-inch rainbow trout in Fishing Creek last July. Photographer Barry Beck says this is the best of 200 frames he took at around 10 A.M. that day, and he considers it one of the highlights of his career. After studying this trout to learn its feeding patterns, Beck submerged his waterproof camera on a piece of wood in a logjam, and Harris waited for the moment to tease the fish into camera range. “I was just hoping the fly would drift in with a drag-free float, and that the fish would go for the take right in front of the camera,” says Harris. “And it did. We were in the perfect position.” Location: Stillwater, Pa. Issue: July, 2012 Photo by Barry and Cathy Beck
Two brown bears sparred on the shoreline of Katmai National Park and Preserve, where photographer Lee Kjos spent an afternoon surrounded by up to 10 adult bears in Aug. 2010. “Just like teenagers, if they’re not boxing and chasing each other, all they do is eat and sleep,” says Kjos of the large grizzlies, which are protected in the park portion of the reserve. When they left the bears, Kjos and his friend and business partner, Tom Martineau, had to wade back out to the crab fishing vessel that brought them to shore. “The tide had changed, and there were silver salmon by the hundreds surfacing in pools by my feet. It was crazy cool.”
** Location**: Katmai National Park, Alaska Issue: April, 2012 Photo by Lee Kjos
Ring Around the Wing
This spruce moth, fluttering and creating rings on the water’s surface, was about to be eaten by a 16-inch rainbow trout in Cliff Lake in 2010. Photographer Brian Grossenbacher, who was there for a Labor Day weekend camping trip, found 10 to 12 rainbows in a morning feeding frenzy over moths blown down from the overhanging spruces. “My first instinct was to grab my fly rod, but instead I wound up taking pictures of this fish for almost two hours,” he says. Knowing he had some good photos, Grossenbacher picked up his rod and threw a size 14 Elk Hair Caddis. “The fish and I had a serious bond until I hooked him. Then I swear he gave me a look that said, You jerk.” Location: Beaverhead National Forest, Montana Issue: April, 2012 Photo by Brian Grossenbacher
In a show of dominance over a jake decoy that Bill Buckley had placed in a clearing, this 3-year-old gobbler thrust his head directly into a shaft of early-morning sunlight. “Gobblers are so worked up with hormones in the morning, and there’s a hierarchy of aggression,” says Buckley, who took the shot in May 2010. “This tom was clearly perturbed by that jake–it pushed up against the decoy and bumped it right over.” Then the gobbler beelined for a nearby hen decoy and strutted around it for a full 10 minutes before giving up. “It made for a great morning of photography,” says Buckley. “Sometimes the shutter’s sound will spook a turkey, but once it’s strutting it’ll go dumb and deaf. And I sure love a stupid gobbler in good light.” Location: Gallatin County, Montana Issue: March, 2012 Photo by Bill Buckley
Grab My Tail, Bite Your Rail
Key West fishing guide Bryan “Bear” Holeman (right) sold this boat to an out-of-state buyer earlier the same morning that he and angler Carter Andrews hooked this lemon shark on the flats west of the harbor in Oct. 2010. “Bear just wanted to take the boat out one more time,” Andrews says. “After he told the buyer that it didn’t have a scratch on it, this shark latched onto the rub rail and scratched the heck out of the gel coat. It even left some teeth behind.” They were chumming with barracuda and jack crevalle, and at one point there were 15 sharks, a mix of bulls and lemons, swimming around the boat. “It’s what we do. It’s only nerve-racking when you go to grab them,” he says. “I don’t recommend it, because they don’t always behave.” Location: Key West, Florida Issue: March, 2012 Photo by Brian Grossenbacher
Not a single duck had flown over their cornfield that morning last November when photographer Bill Buckley looked over at the layout blind of 17-year-old Nick Rabias, from Tyngsborough, Mass., and saw him scrolling through a playlist on his iPod to pass the time. “I just thought, ‘If that doesn’t say everything about this generation of duck hunters, I don’t know what does,'” says Buckley. When the skies are empty, Rabias enjoys pop hits and country music, but Buckley’s tastes would be radically different. “For a hunt like that, I’d probably go with the blues,” he says. “A little Stevie Ray Vaughan would sum it up nicely.” Location: Kidder, South Dakota Issue: February, 2012 Photo by Bill Buckley
Beached Boat. Bonefish. Beer.
Manuel Battista and Judith O’Keefe threw Crazy Charlies to bonefish, snappers, and tarpon swimming around a beached sailboat on the southern part of Long Island, Bahamas, on an October trip. “It was a tough time of year to fish, with lots of wind,” says Battista, who flyfishes for trout and steelhead back in Bend, Ore. “I had some tarpon come up to my fly but no hookups. There was enough action from different kinds of fish that it was still really interesting.” The pair explored the island with four other friends and found some great fishing spots without a guide. “We also stumbled upon a few little roadside pubs, plywood shacks where they serve the coldest beer, and just listened to the locals tell stories.” Location: Long Island, Bahamas Issue: February, 2012 Photo by Brian O’Keefe
Local angler Toby Thompson had this waterfall on Kitchen Creek all to himself last December as he threw a Royal Wulff to native brook trout from a ledge covered in 15 inches of snow. “I was 2 miles from the access area, and not many people go up there at that time of year,” says Thompson. “It’s too rugged for cross-country skiers, and most other fishermen are hunting.” He had better luck casting from the area under the long icicles to the left of the falls. “Trout are sleepy to begin with, so when it’s cold you just try to find the best drift.” He caught and released two foot-long brookies, on the large side for native fish here. “The fishing becomes secondary with a view like that,” he says. “It’s very good for your mental health.” Location: Red Rock, Pennsylvania Issue: December, 2011/ January, 2012 Photo by Barry and Cathy Beck
Photographer Rick Adair caught waterfowler Chris Irwin scrambling back to his blind to call at a group of ducks coming into this cut beanfield near Pomme de Terre Lake in Jan. 2010. “I’d just run out to pick up two Canada geese, and everyone was yelling at me to come back,” Irwin says. “That’s what we call getting caught with your skirt down.” Irwin’s group had set a decoy spread at four o’clock on a snowy morning in negative-teen temperatures, using cordless drills to put silhouettes into the frozen ground, and limited out on Canadas before turning to ducks. Irwin has what he calls a battle wound from this particular moment, when he was bringing a Rich-N-Tone call to his mouth with an ungloved hand. “I got frostbite on my thumb where it was touching the brass band of that call. It was so cold that the snow wouldn’t melt against my skin. I have a scar from the blister.” Location: Bolivar, Missouri Issue: December, 2011/ January, 2012
_ Photo by Rick Adair_
This is a collection of the latest jaw-dropping hunting and fishing photos from Field & Stream‘s “First Shots” magazine section.
First Shots are visually arresting, intriguing, and sometimes humorous hunting or fishing photographs that run across two full-page spreads in every issue of Field & Stream. They serve to showcase both the world of sportsmen and the talent of the magazine’s contributing photographers, who submit some of their best work for the section.
Though the images sometimes speak for themselves, the short caption which accompanies a First Shot reveals more about the story behind the scene, the species of fish or game pictured, and the location where the photo was taken.