Now blogging from Perth, Western Australia

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Buffulo Bikers & Iron Mountain by Russell J Myrhe

 Custer State Park
Some nice Curves

 On Thursday of Sturgis Week, Mat and I (Russ) took a ride through Custer State Park on the Iron Mountain Road.  As we began the ride, I noticed a lot of buffalo dung on the highway, which meant the herd was moving.  Mat was ahead of me, as he had been on the road before (an especially turny-twisty one) and had an itch to run fast--the slower tourists were keeping our speed down, plus the maximum allowable speed is only 35 mph but you can go faster, unless you get caught by the Highway Patrol. 

As we got a few miles into the ride, we came upon a double column of bikes, plus some other vehicles, stopped on the highway by about 200-250 buffalo.  Now, I've had some experience with American bison before, from my days on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, where I helped the game wardens cull the herd in the spring, so I knew how fast and nimble these large animals can be.  They are capable of running at 35 mph all day long, with occasional bursts somewhat beyond 40 mph, and can jump as high as their hump from a standing start.  Plus, when an animal weighs 2,000 or more pounds, it can go pretty much anywhere it damn well pleases.

However, Mat almost immediately passed the double column of bikes stopped on the highway, and impetuously nosed his bike in behind a gray minivan that was trying to push its way through the herd, which began moving along with the minivan.  Despite my misgivings, I followed Mat as we pushed our way through the herd, behind the minivan.

So what misgivings would any sane person have about this situation?  Well, back in 2003 some tourists were gored by buffalo in this park, including a fellow on a motorcycle who had been tossed by a buffalo, along with his bike, into the ditch.  Plus, the animals were in rut, so they would be acting somewhat aggressively--there is nothing quite like a horny 2000+ bull buffalo to act erratically, after all.

In the distance by zoom

But Mat was enthusiastic, and I really didn't want to have to ship his body back to Australia, so I jumped in behind him. 

As I mentioned, as the minivan moved forward, so did the buffalo herd, so we traveled with them quite a distance, stopping occasionally when one or more buffalo wouldn't let us pass.  Literally, at some points we could reach out and touch some buffalo as we passed them. 

However, at one point a younger bull attempted to mount a cow, and a very large bull, possibly 2,500-3,000 pounds, with a hunk of flesh hanging from his hindquarters from a previous altercation, took offense at this interloper and attempted to chase him off.  But the large bull was charging directly toward me, which did nothing for my nerves, and only stopped about a lane away from me.  He then turned to the side, gave me a toss of his head and a snort--at which point I said, "Oh shit"--and ambled off.

Oh Shit!!!

Fortunately, we got out of that herd shortly (although a few hundred yards off, there was another, smaller herd just off the highway).  Mat was laughing his ass off at my consternation as I attempted to tell him how dangerous what we had just done.  I asked him if, when I come to Australia, I jumped into a river filled with hungry crocs, would he follow me, like I had done with the buffalo.  He just laughed and said, "You'd be on your own on that one."

Break on through to the other side

What a rush, first thing in the morning.

Photo's by Mat (yes while riding through a Buffulo herd)

I've gone to find myself, If I get back before I arrive, Please keep me there.


  1. Very cool, although somewhat scary! I had a similar encounter last year in Yellowstone and having never seen a wild Bison before, I kept my distance until they walked along the road to where my bike and I were, when a warden instructed me to quickly get into a car! Great fun....

  2. Wow, that's getting pretty close up to some big critters. Good to see so many of them out and free. Up the highway from Sacramento, on the way to Lake Tahoe...used to see a small herd someone had on their property...don't know if they are still up there. Out here we have some large Elk herds...but no large bison herds like that.


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