Saturday, March 23, 2013

Date with the Buffalo

I have a score to settle with the bison.   
On my last camping trip, Sandy asked me why I decided to go from a tent to an RV.  I didn’t have to think about my answer.  Buffalo poop.  
"Listen to this story.  Wanna bet we're the bad guys?"
There I was in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  Setting up my tent in the deserted campground.  I was having trouble finding a spot for my 8x8 tent due to these numerous mysterious mounds of brown stuff. 
What the ..... ?
It hit me like an electric shock what the piles were – buffalo dung.  Bison Scat!!!  I looked around – oh, surely not.  No way the buffalo roam through this campground!  And yet, here were the moist piles of evidence all around me. 

By now, it was getting dark.  I weighed my options.  Too warm to sleep in my Chevy Blazer with the windows up and too buggy to sleep with them down.  What to do?  I set up my tent and hoped I was wrong about my conclusions, and cursed myself for my naivete. 

Brushing aside my fears, I attended a ranger talk that night - along with a couple who had arrived late and were camped in a truck-camper across the way from me.  After the program I asked the ranger if buffalo ever came through the campground at night, hoping for a reassuring negative response.  He responded in a booming voice, “Oh, all the time!!!” 
“Just remember to stay in your tent”, he cautioned.  “Especially now”, he added with emphasis, “it’s rutting season, you know, and the males like to fight”. 


His last piece of advice, “Just remember to stay in your tent.  And that they are bigger than you”. 

Got it.   

I returned to my tent in the dark.  My unease was magnified by 2 recent unsettling experiences. Several days before, I had read a front page story about a tourist who was just attacked and killed by a buffalo bull in Wyoming.

And earlier in the day, near the Park entrance, I had to stop the Blazer to let a herd of the huge beasts cross the road.  There were several young males who were strutting their stuff and dashing about erratically.  Anyone who has seen buffalo up close knows what a thrilling but intimidating site it is.
Believe me, these are scary animals even from the safety of an SUV.   They are massively massive. 
Web Photo

So here I was with nothing but a few microns of nylon between me and them.  I looked across the campground at that solid truck-camper with soul-searing envy.  That was the moment.    

The end of the story is anticlimactic.   No buffalo came through that night.  I suspect that was only because of the heavy rainstorm and ferocious lightening.  I didn’t get much sleep.
What with work and life interfering, I never made it back to where the Buffalo roam. And it took 10 years to get my buffalo surveillance van. 

I'll keep the promise I made to myself to return one day and face the buffalo on a more even footing.  I can’t wait till June and want nothing more than to see them up close.  Really close.  From the steel-encased safety of the GDB.
Badlands National Park
I plan to go where they are, make a pot of coffee, hang up the “Buffalo Welcome” sign, and sit back and wait. 

Oh Yeah.



  1. Great Post! Reminds me of when we were in Yellowstone ... stopped in the road for a herd of buffalo to cross. An impatient motorcyclist decided to cut through the waiting traffic and go around. A bull started to charge the motorcycle and the driver almost laid the bike down getting out of its way. I think all of us motorists were cheering for the bull. (like you, I'd prefer to sleep in something more substantial than a tent)

  2. Oh!I had to close encounters with the bison of Yellowstone! They ARE big, and fast! And terrifying! And beautiful!

  3. Your braver then me! Rutting bison versus a tent? No Thanks! Looking forward to your June adventure.

  4. Surely, you can get even with them.

    Have a bison steak or a bison burger. Tasty lean meat, and good for you too!


  5. What a good story. You go show those bison who's boss when you get out there! Show them from behind the solid and safe confines of your RV though of course. ;)

    I haven't seen bison since my family's road trip when I was 14. I can't wait to get out that way again, originally I was thinking it wouldn't happen until next year but it's looking more and more likely to be this year...

  6. Reminds me of the time a wild hog stuck his nose against my tent and snorted repeatedly. I prayed -- LOUD! :D

    Fortunately he left. If it had been a bison, my heart might not have survived!

    I woke up once hammock camping on a moonlit night in the mountains to see a coyote staring at me. I wondered if he was considering having my little dog who was in the hammock with me for a snack.

    RVs rule! :)

  7. GREAT story. And great comments too! Loved it all. I used to ride my bike from TX to the annual Sturgis, SD rally, and would camp overnight in many great parks from Rocky Mountain Natl to Custer State Park in SD. There are almost 2000 bison that roam free in the small Custer State Park. It was one of my favorites.

    If you're lucky (?), you can practically get nose-to-nose with several of the herd. But, as you and others have said, not sure what I would have done if that nose came to my tent - or even too close to my bike. LOL.

    Great post, Kim. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for sharing. HugZ!

  8. OMG - I would have slept in the car! They are massive animals. Well, maybe I could have put the tent right up against a tree. :)


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