DSC02340A bull moose at a small pond near West Bearskin Lake along the Gunflint Trail
This summer I set out with the goal of exploring the forests of Northern Minnesota with the hope of photographing some of Minnesota’s most elusive and most impressive animals; namely bears, moose, and wolves. I have had the opportunity to see and photograph those animals in places like Wyoming and Montana, but I had never had the opportunity to do so in my home state. Northern Minnesota has always been a very intimidating place for me when it comes to wildlife photography. Its dense forests make it difficult to see wildlife from afar and I really didn’t know where to begin. I started doing research on where I would have the best chance of encountering these animals. All signs pointed north. Way north. Deeper into the forests of my home state than I had ever traveled before. It’s intimidating heading out to a new place hoping to find wildlife that rarely makes itself visible to people. Fortunately, my wife loves northern Minnesota almost as much as I do, so we planned a weekend of canoeing and hiking with the promise of searching for wildlife thrown into the mix. Even if we didn’t see anything at least we still had a weekend of adventure ahead of us.
DSC02356A bull moose at a small pond near West Bearskin Lake along the Gunflint Trail
On our first morning, driving to a canoe outfitters, we came around a corner and there was a bull moose at the edge of a pond. I didn’t even have my camera ready as we hadn’t anticipated seeing anything at 9am. But there it was. My first moose sighting in Minnesota. The rest of the trip didn’t disappoint. The following day a pair of black bears ran across the road in front of our car. Then that evening we set out to explore some back roads deep in the forest where we came across two more moose, one of which was casually walking down the road toward us. When he saw our car he gave me the classic over-the-shoulder look before heading into the trees. I was able to snap a few photos of each of these encounters, and while none of the photos were particularly amazing, I was completely hooked.
Six days later I made a second trip up the north shore and back along the Gunflint Trail. I combed Minnesota’s forests
DSC03421A cow moose and calf feeding in a pond along the Gunflint Trail
for hours, driving hundreds of miles and search along any drivable back road I could find. Eventually it paid off when I came upon a cow moose and her calf feeding in a small pond just before sunset. The cow plunge her head into the pond to feed and every time she brought it up water would cascade from her head. Meanwhile, her calf swam back and forth across the pond, passing occasionally to interact with its mother. It was such a beautiful encounter and I couldn’t believe that I had found moose two weekends in a row.
2020_bullmoose_sawbilltrail_bringtoLRA bull moose pauses to look back as before is disappears into the forests of northern Minnesota.
Several weeks later I was back on the North Shore for a climbing trip with my wife. I have a way of working in wildlife photography into many of our trips, and on our first morning I rolled out of bed around 5am to search a new section the Superior National Forest. After only about 15 minutes of searching, I noticed a large dark shape moving through the trees. Sure enough, it was a bull moose and by far the largest I had seen this summer. He gave me only a few minutes of his time. The rising sun caused the trees behind him to glow and I kept hoping he’d step into the light. The best he could do for me was give me a parting glance over the shoulder as he disappeared into the trees, morning sunlight hitting the edge of his giant antlers.
All that being said, this summer has opened a new chapter for me for wildlife photography. While it’s possible I’ve just been really lucky this summer, I feel confident that I will continue to have opportunities to photograph the impressive animals of Minnesota’s northern forests. It’s incredible to live in a state that is home to wildlife such as moose. In the past I would have waited for trips out west to places like Glacier and Yellowstone to see wildlife like this. I no longer feel like I need to wait. The opportunities are before me and I look forward to future endeavors into the wilderness of Minnesota.
DSC03034A moose walking along the backroads near the Gunflint Trail