We arrived in Custer State Park early in the afternoon and planned to do some scouting to see just where the roundup would take place and to try and pick the “best” location for photography.
On the day of the roundup there are two viewing areas setup. On to the northeast of the Buffalo Corrals and one to the southeast of the buffalo Corrals. This is also where you would park while watching the roundup. When you drive to the Roundup you must choose one of the two locations to view the Roundup. Once in one of the viewing areas you cannot leave and when you leave you must leave the way you came in.
As we drove through the park on the Wildlife Loop Road we did not see much in the way of wildlife. When we reached the area where the Roundup would take place we found there were park rangers station at both the north and south viewing areas. We stopped and talked to them trying to find out where the best location for viewing would be and the route the buffalo would take when they are driven into the corrals. This appeared to be the question that everyone else was asking. Several times I was approached asking if I knew the best place to be to photograph the Roundup.
We were a little disappointed to find out that the buffalo had already been rounded up and were stashed in an area southeast of the pens. In retrospect it makes sense because the herd is normally scattered around the Park and it would be impossible to round them up and get them into the pens in a single day. The Roundup that we would be watching is staged for tourists and allows all of the buffalo to be driven into the viewing area in a single large herd. It makes for great theatre.
After talking with the rangers we drove down to the buffalo corrals. There were a small herd of buffalo already in the Corrals. These had been driven in early in the roundup so they would be acclimated to the corrals and would have time to calm down. On the day of the Roundup some of the buffalo are processed and these would be the buffalo processed. Processing includes vaccinations, branding and checking the cows for pregnancy. The buffalo driven into the pens during the “Roundup” would be processed later after they had a chance to calm down.
We then headed out of the Park on the Wildlife Loop Road looking for buffalo. We drove past the location where the Begging Burros are normally found but the burros were gone. We found them a ways down the road near where the buffalo were said to be stashed. They were a ways from the road but when cars started to stop they started moving to the road.
We continued on to Custer, SD where we checked into our Super 8 Motel. When we checked in the clerk mentioned that a breakfast bag would be available at 5am for those heading out to the roundup. My wife was not happy to hear that we would be getting up at 4:30 am.
We stopped for a bite to eat then headed back out to the Wildlife Loop Road looking for wildlife as evening approached. We found a group of buffalo next to the road bathed in evening light. We stopped for some photos before continuing on.
We soon found the Begging Burros along the road with a mother and a very young burro standing in the middle of the road begging. We also ran into bull buffalo lounging in a wallow. Apparently they don’t roundup some of the bulls because they are so mean. This one had been in the same place earlier in the day.