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  • I've always had the need to have a favorite animal. I am not sure why. I don't believe in "power animals", but for some reason I like to have an animal to relate with or just to simply appreciate.

    Growing up, wild cats were my big thing. I specifically loved the jaguar. I loved that it was equally comfortable in a river as it was in a tree or on land. I took pride in the fact that it was the largest of the new world cats. I liked the sound of the name and that in rare cases they can be black. They just seemed badass - like the Navy Seals of animals.

    For the last 10 years or so my favorite animal has turned to the owl. I enjoy that they are a symbol for wisdom. Their call is beautiful and soothing, but can be haunting. Their physical abilities make them seem like mutants of the animal world - they can turn their heads as much as 270 degrees, fly almost silently, have incredible vision and hearing, are camouflage, and have razor sharp talons.

    I always have my ears and eyes open to spot one. I am very familiar with their habitats and feeding patterns, so when I came upon an open meadow surrounded by tall trees at dusk in Yellowstone National Park, I knew there was a chance to spot one.

    I was hiking with my friend, David, when I spotted a huge bird far in the distance, almost on the other side of the large meadow. Even though I couldn't make it out, I just knew it was an owl. We had seen eagles and plenty of hawks on this trip though, so David was skeptical.

    I convinced David to follow me into the meadow to try and find the bird, even though by this point we had lost it. This particular meadow was pretty wet and marshy - a stream goes right down the middle of it, which we assumed is more of a river during certain times of the year. This hunt was a bit of a sacrifice, as we were getting wet and muddy up to our shins.

    Eventually our work paid off. I spotted the bird low to the ground on a small shrub, not too far in the distance, but well camouflaged - it was an owl, and not just any owl, but a Great Grey Owl, a huge, magnificent bird - the tallest of all owls.

    I quickly pulled my camera out and clicked the shutter. Snap. The sound of the shutter caught her attention immediately. Now she was staring right down my lens and, it seemed, into my soul.

    A few beats later and she turned her head (I know the sex from the call) back to where it was before my shutter interrupted. Another beat and she was off, flying just above the tall grass. I knew this had to be a hunt! I kept my camera trained on her and as steady as possible, since I was without a tripod. I snapped away like a sports photographer, my finger laying on the trigger as if my life depended on it.

    I couldn't believe what I was seeing. She had dropped fully down into the grass for a moment then smoothly rised back out and into the air with a rodent hanging from her beak. It was amazing. She brought her kill to a tall tree and just stood there with it, staring at me. I felt like it was intimidated by me. Sure enough, before devouring her prey, she flew to another tree, farther away and safe from the threat with a trigger happy finger.

    We continued our chase of her from tree to tree for a while, collecting up a few wonderful shots along the way.

    It was a glorious hunt for all of us.
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