You can’t visit Jackson Hole and not see wildlife. Likely you saw a moose, or a few pronghorn on your way to town from the airport.
But just over Togwotee Pass, something extraordinary happens the end of November through mid-December, making a trip to Dubois, Wyoming, a worthwhile part of your Jackson Hole vacation during this time of year.
The bighorn sheep of Whiskey Basin near Dubois enter the rut. That means you can witness those moments you might have see on tv and in documentaries, where the animals collide and horns crash with a sound heard across the landscape. Give yourself about an hour and a half driving time, especially in the winter, to navigate the almost 60 miles to Dubois.
You’ll want to visit the National Bighorn Sheep Center once you arrive in town. The center also offers wildlife tours where an experienced guide will drive you up across the steep terrain (an adventure in itself) and take you to spots where you are most likely to find the sheep. They also offer information for self-guided tours for those wanting to explore on their own.
Bighorn sheep are elusive, making their home high in the mountains where they are safe from predators and hard to find. In the winter the animals descend to areas where they can forage and also mate. The Dubois region is home to the largest wintering herd of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the world. The wind exposes food and there’s plenty of room for the sheep to roam.
A visit to the area offers a rare chance to see not just one or two, but dozens of bighorn sheep. It also offers your best chance to watch two males fight in a display of dominance. The animals can reach up to 20 mph before their horns, which can weight up to 30 pounds, collide.
The rut usually last from the end of November to mid-December. Dress similarly for the weather in Jackson Hole. Think layers and warmth- especially for hands and feet.