2017 Summer Games Yellowstone National Park

Billy Lightpaw Middle weight contender for the Broad-jump – Summer Games Yellowstone National Park.


As long time readers of the BigShotsNow blog you know that every 4 years Yellowstone National Park holds the Summer Games in preparation for the Wildlife Olympics with entrants from around the globe. This year the games are being held in Yellowstone once again with venues at Gibbons Meadows, the Madison river, Hayden Valley, the LeHardy Rapids, the Lamar valley and the Blacktail Flats area.

This is always an incredible experience with visitors attending from all over the world. As usual most of the events are standing room only as tickets have been sold out for many of the big events for the last two years. However most events have roadside observation areas set up to accommodate the overflow crowds. Be prepared for Bear Jams, Wolf Jams, Buffalo Jams, Otter Jams and every other jam you can think of as the various animal contestants make their way to the different events, while those humans attending Yellowstone for the first time slam on their brakes, throw open all four of the cars doors where  applicable, and race out to greet and get their first up-close view of the different contestants, leaving their vehicles unattended and blocking the roadway. This impacts traffic bringing it to a standstill for hours. As this also usually results in the arrival of the First Responders stationed throughout the park to take care of the maimed and wounded that occur from way too close encounters with animals that are wild and have never heard of Disney, it takes awhile before the visitors cars can be impounded and hauled off to be shredded. Prepare for long waits depending on the popularity of the contestant being viewed.

This years games are truly spectacular with many new participants such as one of the real contenders in the light heavy-weight broad jump, Mr. Billy Lightpaw, a fantastic looking black bear here shown settling into his patented “Squat and Jump” starting position. Mr. Lightpaw also known as Billy the Bumper to his friends, currently holds the amateur broad jumping record of 32′ 8″ set last fall at the pre-hibernation games outside of Ottawa and is considered to be a gold medal frontrunner. Notice the coiled spring like action of tucking his head in and rolling back on his powerful haunches prior to his launch. Simply incredible. This is why he’s a crowd favorite. This event has plenty of accessibility due to the wide open Hayden valley floor. Binoculars are highly recommended.

The Madison river will have a new event this year, in fact it’s the first time this event has been offered in the summer games and it is likely to be a huge crowd pleaser. It is the “Calf Drop” and it’s a doozy. There are no front-runners in this event due to the fact that only first time Buffalo mothers can enter. Those due to drop their calves during  the week of August 11th through August 22nd are automatically entered. As mentioned before there are no front-runners yet but the likelihood of twins and even in the rarest of circumstances triggering an automatic Gold medal, triplets, might be expected. There is a lot of interest in this event by the press and Mothers for Public Breastfeeding or the MBP as it’s known, around the world.

Another fun event for the whole family is being held at LeHardy Rapids this year. It’s the “Otter Fish Off'” and this event is one that ESPN has scheduled for prime time coverage. As you know from previous games this one is fast paced and exciting. Upstream at the top of the rapids, barrels of trout averaging 26″ to 41″ inches long and weighing up to 96 lbs. each are released to streak down the rapids where the contestants wait at the bottom. The Otter that gets the biggest fish with the least amount of personal  injury is scored on tenacity, conviviality, ferocity and good manners. This is a high interest event for the entire family and you may want to arrive a few days early to get a good seat.

The “Wolf Run” or “Elk Calf Take Down” is an event that is best watched on TV or the various Jumbo-trons set up along the highway as much of the action is out of sight due to the rugged terrain through the ponds and small streams in the heavily brushed area that is Blacktail Flats. This year we’ll have extra coverage as the various networks are employing their new “Wolf Drone” cameras which are able to follow the wolves as they run down the elk calves and drag them out of the buck brush where they like to hide. Odds on favorite this year is of course the Blacktail Flats Pack for their intimate knowledge of the area.

Gibbon meadows will again be the site of the contestants housing area, media outlets, Torch lighting, and the entrance and closing parades. A Special “I Paid A Lot Because I’m Special” Pass is needed to access this area. If you don’t already have one you might as well forget about it. There’s none left. Sorry. Seems like everybody is Special.

The Lamar valley is again host to one of the all time favorite events, “Buffalo Herding”. This event has been a staple of the Summer Games for as long as I have been making them up. It is not someone herding the Buffalo but instead the Buffalo proudly showing off their skill at being a herd member, their ability to ‘herd’ as it  were. There are synchronized marching exhibitions, where the different herds show off their ability to walk together with all four legs synchronized, which if you’ve never seen it before is mesmerizing. There is a herd bull “Bellowing” event where the different herd bulls get on opposite sides of the valley and bellow at each other until one runs away in shame. There is a new event this year where the herds travel along the valley floor with the newborns running alongside ( the little orange ones ) to see how long they can run with their tongues out. And last but not least the contest that pits the different herds against each other to show who can make the trip up the Gibbons Narrows to the meadows above the slowest. The resulting length of the traffic tie up from the buffalo jam decides the winner. Last years numbers to beat are eleven and a half miles of stalled traffic and five hours to make the six-mile trek up from the bottom of the falls to the summer grazing. Everyone travels at Buffalo speed for this one.

These are just the highlights of the summer games, there’s plenty more so start packing and head on up to Yellowstone for another amazing year of the Summer Games at Yellowstone National Park. We’ll look for you there.

The Yellowstone Zephyr


It’s 3:17 in the afternoon at the pull out close to the northeastern end of the Lamar valley and everyone is in place waiting for the daily arrival of the Yellowstone Zephyr. Just like the trainspotters of days gone by who would wait at their favorite vantage point to see the Wabash Cannonball zoom by, smoke belching from its magnificent smokestack, cinders flying, huge steel wheels spinning, their spokes a solid whirling gray mass in the center of the rims, its side rods a furious blur of impossible action, every part of it screaming noise and fury and action we wait for the arrival of the golden eagle named the Yellowstone Zephyr.

Off in the distance way down where the Lamar river makes the wide slow bend around that rocky point, over the beaver pond with its chewed trees and flat water there is a dark speck and some ones cries “There it is. It’s coming!” and everyone shades their eyes frantic to pick up its image. Cameras are readied and held up to eager eyes, fingers flying over last-minute settings. You only get a few scant seconds to take your shots as the Zephyr screams by. You hear the sound of wind rushing through its primaries and speeding across the top surface of its wings as it gets closer and louder until all you can hear is the whistling boiling sound of the turbulence behind it as it comes racing over the sage and rabbit brush. You struggle to keep it in your viewfinder and hope for the best as you fire off a burst of images hoping that one of them will be in focus and clear enough to use. Then it’s gone.

If you did your best and were prepared you might get one good shot for your time and effort. If you didn’t and missed the opportunity there’s always tomorrow. Be there, find a good spot to stand, have your camera set and your nerves in check and watch the countdown on your watch. When it  hits 3:17 be ready. Maybe today you’ll get  lucky and get that shot you’ve been dreaming of. But pay attention, the Yellowstone Zephyr waits for no one.

2016 Yellowstone Summer Games


Every four years Yellowstone National Park puts on its very own Summer Games. This is similar to, but larger in scope, than the summer Olympics that occur for the human games, as it includes the entire park and all of its year-round inhabitants. Everyone participates according to their skill level and choice of events. We intend to periodically feature some of the participants as they train and get ready to win the gold.

This week we look in on little Ms. Lindsey Vethouf as she and her trainer mother, Constance Vethouf, get ready for Lindsey’s participation in the Synchronized Swimming event. This event is one of the most popular and watched events of the entire games as it features close to 75 young cow elk swimming together in synchronized patterns in the deep pool area of the Firehole river. Lindsey although young for her age is an experienced river forder and is expected to place very highly in this event if not win it outright.

Normally this area would be full of tourists swimming and trying desperately not to be  swept over the 40′ falls just downstream in Firehole canyon, but for the Summer Games this area is closed to the public so the elk swimmers can train daily and finally compete in this important venue. This is a limited access event and as such does not have formal seating constructed, no bleachers or skyboxes have been built as the edge of the roadway past this area is only inches from the sheer drop-off, so the spectators must find their own way out onto the sheer cliffs that line the pool area and locate something sturdy to cling to as they view the events. The small risk of losing their footing and plunging down in the pool area is outweighed by the excitement of watching this spectacular bunch of young elk athletes perform their intricate maneuvers.

In the picture above you see Constance Vethouf adjusting Lindsey’s fur to make sure it lies flat and shows itself as a fetching pelt, which helps not only with water resistance but aids in her ability to stay buoyant as she performs some of the routines that require her to float on her back. Constance, herself a medal winning Synchronized Swimmer having won the Bronze in the 2008 games, has a huge amount of knowledge to pass on to Lindsey. Everything from showing her the correct grass to eat to maintain her weight, yet have the energy it takes to stay in that cold water for the long hours of practice, to how to keep her head above water and not to lose points for gasping, spitting and looking like she is drowning when she is occasionally forced under water due to some of the more rigorous routines.

The games are shaping up to be even more spectacular than in preceding years and if you are lucky enough to get tickets for this event, remember to bring Crampons, Pitons, and a tested climbing rope as well as snacks and non-perishable water, as much of the seating requires technical climbing to reach. Watch for further posts as we feature more of this years Yellowstone Summer Games hopefuls as they train and dream of the Gold.


Yellowstone Diorama


This idyllic scene of a herd of grazing buffalo in the Lamar valley is not what it seems. It is a specially constructed life-size model prepared by our master dioramaticians here at *The Institute. Many of our readers know that there are many divisions, departments, sections, areas, teams, worker bees and bee-ettes, programs, units, centers, groups, systems, agencies, bureaus, commissions, that make up The Institute. We even have an office just to keep track of all the different divisions, departments etc. where important work is done.

One of our lesser known departments is the bureau of Procurement, Construction and Installation of Dioramas or PCID as it’s known in the trade. It is there that we make the amazing dioramas that you see in many of our National Parks and other places where they don’t have adequate scenic areas for the public to view.

If a National Park or even a scenic-poor state such as Utah or parts of Arizona want to dress up their highway systems with dramatic views they will contact The Institute where we will develop a plan to add interest along some of their more desolate roads, thereby transforming those roads into revenue-producing Scenic Byways. The State or National Park then has the option of adding roadside stands, local entrepreneurs, and whatever local color they think might add interest.

Another use for our patented, modular, fade-resistant, weatherproof dioramas allows game-poor parks such as Yellowstone National Park to have animals in scenic environments on demand for those times when the live animals are not present or have been killed off by local residents around the park.

Our unique but uncanny ability to mimic local conditions, coupled with incredible taxidermy techniques allow our experts to create dioramas such as this Diorama of a buffalo herd along the roadside in the Lamar valley, that defy detection by anyone cruising by it at 45 – 60 mph. Plus our patented Extend-A-View ™ Dioramas let us create dioramas that can extend for several miles along an otherwise dull and boring road, keeping the occupants interested and thinking of lunch or possibly souvenirs of the amazing “Scenery” they are passing by. We can also supply a more complete package with our dioramas that include a complete line of scenery specific souvenirs, knock-down roadside stands, trained actors that can simulate the local culture and color, plus accessories such as a live horse that can be tied to the side of one of our retail units providing sure-fire traffic stopping appeal. Other animals available upon request.

No detail is spared when you order one of our complete dioramas. The diorama above, our deluxe Buffalo Extravaganza, includes approximately 1800 full size American Made, Plains or Mountain Buffalo, each with life-like glass eyes and true-to-life coloring, plus a large assortment of cottonwood trees all with drip tube watering systems, or if necessary due to budget constraints, these trees can be constructed of a special weather-resistant Paper Mache guaranteed for 3 years, and our own proprietary turf made of recycled tires.

Many of you have driven by our dioramas and didn’t realize it. Those of you who have visited Zion National Park and marveled at the Desert Bighorn sheep located near the tunnel at the east side of the park will be surprised to know that was our model “Desert Bighorns and Laser-etched Rock Formation #66903”. Or perhaps you have been to the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway in the Rocky mountains where you will have seen one of our largest installations, the “Mountain Goat and Craggy Scary Drop-off Cliff  installation,  #994216-a”. We provided all the natural looking gray boulders that litter the mountainside and installed close to 3000 life-like Mountain Goats and Bighorn Sheep all over the 14,000’+ mountain, some of them animatronic in nature to provide movement and interest for those hardy tourists wheezing by the side of the road.

We are currently working on a secret installation of a completely different nature than we have ever attempted before, for a not to be named city near Puget sound. The parameters so far are for us to provide a complete aquatic diorama that will include sea life such as ship-resistant whales and animatronic Orcas, or killer whales, that can do tricks such as flip baby seals into the air and catch them in their mouths, plus many other items too numerous to mention. Estimated date of installation will be early 2019.

The next time you’re on a vacation in Yellowstone and see some spectacular looking scenery look for the little brass plaques saying “This Scenery provided by The Institute” to the trees and other hard surfaces and give one of our buffalo a good rap in the side to see how life-like it feels. You’ll be surprised.

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

Color Of Sun


Some times as a photographer you can become image blinded. What that means is you have a shot in mind, in this case it was to get over to the Blacktail ponds to try and get the sunset coming off the water, and you are so intent on making your schedule that you are not watching for anything else. The sun was already setting and the ponds  were still about five miles away yet, and there was a tendency to hurry. You’ve had this shot in mind all day and here you are scrambling to get there, late as usual.

Rounding the long sweeping bend in the highway that runs past Yellowstone Picnic area and heads out towards the flats, you look over to check the light intensity which is your gauge as to whether you will make it in time. OK you got maybe 10 mins. based on the slant of the shadows, is that enough time to get there and get set up, can I make it, is the thought that goes through your mind, and yet here is this gorgeous patch of foliage all lit up and waiting for you. Its bright golden yellow just perfect in its color and hue.  Can you pass it up and try and get over to the ponds and get set up in time. Quick calculations go through your mind, I mean here is perfect color and it’s only going to last a few more minutes, do you really want to tear over to the ponds only to be late? The old bird in the hand thing pops up and you pull the rig over to shoot this scene.

So intent on your schedule and program you have not even recognized the old silver back grizzly standing there for what he was. He had been standing still and as your eye swept the scene to check out the color and composition he appeared to be a boulder there in the valley. Until he moved. Not startled but focused on his travel he would soon be out of the frame. Man what the hell were you doing? Are you losing it here? was just one of the thoughts going through your mind as you realized what the situation was. Nothing snaps a wildlife photographer out of his preoccupation and inattentiveness than seeing a grizzly appear magically in your shot. Scrambling to get the camera ready, get out of the rig and shooting before he had traveled far enough that this shot wouldn’t be possible, it was a flurry of action that would be comical later if you got the shot, but tragic if you didn’t.

Fortunately practice and experience and pure blind dumb luck was present enough that the image was made. It is called Color of Sun and the grizzly is gratuitous. Blacktail ponds would have to wait another day.


Note From Yellowstone


For Immediate Release: Subject: The Rut : Special Interest: MMA fans : General Public

This just in from Yellowstone National Park. The Rut is still in full swing. The annual Battle of the Antlers can still be seen and heard throughout the park. There’s bellowing along the Madison, grunting and heaving in the Hayden valley, total chaos up at Mammoth as these big boys show their stuff.

This is no holds barred cage fighting without the cage. Shown here is Evvie Stepper, Evvie is short for Everett, a contestant from the upper Lamar valley Steppers, a herd well-known for producing big mean bulls. Here he is making a splash as he comes down to challenge any comers. Don’t call him Everett and don’t laugh when you say Evvie unless you’re wearing Kevlar.

So if you’ve been staying home because you thought things were over, think again. Jump in the car and come on up for a front row seat at any of the venues. Entrance fee good for all fights.

Close: For Total Distribution: TV and Cable: Good for Still Release : Subject Tie In: Elk; River; Nature; Good for all ratings

First Arabesque


As all of our ballet fans know the winter season of famous ballet performances is nearly here. Yellowstone National Park, long known for its support of the arts has hosted the most famous of all the ballerina schools the, L’école du cygne de l’excellence.

And as if things couldn’t get any better they have managed to bring in perhaps the most famous Swan performer dancing today, the Diva herself, Olga Vasiliyevna Lepeshinskaya.! What a coup! There was celebration long into the night when the park rangers in charge of this seasons performances found out the news. The Supervisor himself after learning the Diva had accepted the position leapt to his feet, did a few pirouettes and a show stopping impromptu stutter step on pointe and threw his champagne glass into the fireplace. There was some excitement at the lodge that night, I can tell you.

Our Siberian princess, who flew in directly from the innermost reaches of the Siberian tundra took the name of Olga Vasiliyevna Lepeshinskaya as a tribute to her favorite Russian dancer. Of course it wasn’t Russia when Ms. Lepeshinskaya was dancing, it was the U.S.S.R. and that rascal and all around bad boy, Stalin himself was in charge. Things were tough for our ballerina because unless you were an exceptional dancer Stalin would normally just kill you. But as adversity makes you stronger we are glad Ms.  Lepeshinskaya survived and that her talent lives on in our star performer today.

Of course given the talent assembled for this seasons performances what other program could they perform but Coppélia with its primary character Swanhilda. We won’t give the story away other than to say it is a comic opera and well worth the admission fee. And as always it will be performed at the Yellowstone river bend at the North end of the Hayden valley. There will be bleacher seats available and for you opera diehards that hold season tickets the lawn chair area will be provided with security and a roped off area to commingle during the intermissions.

We part today with an image of the diva rehearsing. Here she is shown in the middle of the First Arabesque and preparing to Pirouette, then advance into a Grand Jete and of course this leads to her famous awe-inspiring Tour en l’air which won her namesake the Order Of The Red Banner Of Labor not once but twice. Our current Diva has been awarded the Prima Ballerina Assoluta one of the highest and rarest awards given. This is only the second of these awards given in the last forty-five years. We are so honored to have her here for this incredible season of song and dance in Yellowstone National Park. Get your tickets now and see you there.

Note:  Please remember nothing but North Face or higher quality down jackets allowed into the lawn chair area. Thank you for your support and join us for Coppélia and a night to remember.