scott bean photography
American Bison at the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge in Kansas.
American Bison

(ISO 400, 400mm, f/5.6, 1/60)

This past weekend I had another opportunity to visit the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, located near Canton, Kansas. The refuge hosted a special event the past two weekends for photographers to visit the reserve and photograph the bison and elk. This is the third time I’ve been to one of these events and I have enjoyed all three.  This year photographers had the choice of attending either a sunrise or sunset trip out to see the herds and I selected the sunset trip.  As with past events, this year combined a nice social gathering of photographers before and after shooting which is always fun and I got to meet several photographers that I have been following on various social media websites.

These events are well coordinated and photographers are taken out near the bison and elk herds on trams. If conditions are safe, photographers are allowed off the trams to photograph. If the animals (especially the bison) are near then everyone stays on the trams, but they are open sided and easy to photograph from.

American Bison (buffalo) on the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge in Kansas.
American Bison

(ISO 400, 310mm, f/5.6, 1/80)

On this trip, our first encounter was with some of the bison and getting close (safely) to these incredible animals did not disappoint. I’m sure most people are aware of the story of the American bison  and their disappearance from the plains. It is hard to imagine 30 to 60 million bison roaming the countryside. Bison populations have rebounded from their low of about 1,000 animals to current estimates of 500,000, counting herds that are part of livestock operations, with perhaps 20,000 in herds considered to be wild. Bison played an important part of the plains Native Americans and that of Kansas. There is an ancient feeling to the bison, maybe I get that impression because of their history, but nevertheless they are magnificent animals and I’m always glad to get the chance to observe them.

Bison 'Play'
Bison ‘Play’

(ISO 800, 105mm, f/4.5, 1/125)

Bison are also powerful animals and we got a chance to watch two at “play” (I’m pretty sure I don’t ever want to get invited to participate in any bison play!).

Elk at the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge
Watchful Elk

(ISO 400, 400mm, f/5.6, 1/160)

Of course, we also had the chance to photograph the elk herd at Maxwell. Kansas is not going to be the first place people think of when they think of elk, but elk are native to Kansas (with herds possibly numbering in the thousands) and at one time were found throughout the U.S. I learned on this trip to Maxwell that there are 3 elk herds in Kansas, in addition to Maxwell there is one at Fort Riley and one at the Cimarron National Grassland in the southwest corner of the state.

Elk at the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, Kansas.
Kansas Elk

(ISO 400, 285mm, f/5.6, 1/200)

The elk were a bit camera shy this trip (who can blame them, I hate having my picture taken!) but we still managed to get in position for some nice photography opportunities.

If you haven’t ever visited the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, please visit their website and check out when they have activities. You can also join the Fans of Maxwell Wildlife Refuge Facebook page to find out when events will be held. Events like these photography outings help raise funds for the refuge.

A huge thanks to Jeff Heidel, Jim Griggs, and the volunteers at Maxwell for organizing and conducting these events!

Kansas Elk Pano
Kansas Elk Pano

(4 shot pano; ISO 400, 400mm, f/5.6, 1/250)

Scott (249)