Friday, February 3, 2023


The Wild Side: Getting closer to critters is easy for RV travelers

Relaxing at the edge of a sparkling trout stream, I caught movement on the far bank. The undulating form quickly became an otter, in search of a meal, adventure, fun? How simple it was to sense its fleeting presence – gone in an instant. It reminded me that often all you need to do to savor our wild world is to hold still.

Who doesn’t love a glimpse into the wild world provided by birds, mammals and even reptiles? Okay, maybe not snakes and lizards, but the cuddly and cute ones are worth watching, right?

America’s favorite outdoor activity is wildlife watching, and RVers are ideally equipped to get up close to bees and bunnies, frogs and other fauna. It’s in our DNA, searching for what used to be food and now is an intimate peek into the world outside our motorcoach. Kids and grandkids are entranced by animals – so are we – and searching for a glimpse of them in their natural environment is a pretty good excuse to get active and out of the rig.

I’ve made a living in the outdoors and mainly by accident figured out a few ways to add to my own enjoyment of the denizens of woods and fields, prairies and meadows. If you’re so inclined, here are some suggestions:

Start indoors

Professional wildlife photographers know the value of a “blind,” a man-made hiding spot from which to shoot magazine-cover images. RVers can simply pour another cup of coffee and gaze out a window. Often, a thin layer of glass is all it takes to assure wildlife that we are no threat.

Be still

Movement screams “predator” to many critters. Breathe deep, remain motionless and the woods come alive. First to arrive will be small birds. Always on the go, constantly in search of food, they will soon be animating your view once you’re settled. Bluebirds and goldfinches are like flying gems, enlivening our skies and brightening our days outdoors. Bigger jays and robins will soon get the hint and become active as well, adding squawks, trills and tweets – a symphony of wild music. It’s not just birds, though. I’ve had coyotes and deer come to drink as I stood stock-still in a river, raccoons and chukars walk past as I dozed on a sunny ridge.

The bigger the animal, the stealthier we should be

Deer are prey to everything from coyotes to cougars, so are constantly on the lookout for threats. Wild eyes, ears, and noses are constantly sussing out clues that could mean life-or-death. If you’re mindful of that, you might score a glance at them. Get downwind if you’ve spotted a deer, remain quiet and motionless. Often, a deer’s first line of defense is stillness. Watch for horizontal lines in a vertical landscape of tree trunks. Search out a bit of antler, a dark eye, a twitching tail on an otherwise frozen body. Acquire a thousand-mile stare and search the distance before you bumble noisily into a meadow. A bit of motion might betray a coyote watching you, or a porcupine waddling toward his tree.

Being close to nature is one of the many blessings of RV travel. Getting to know our fascinating wild neighbors brings us closer to their world.

(Scott Linden hosted and produced the RV Travel podcast and a television series on bird dogs. He also authors books and magazine articles and produces instructional videos about fly fishing, bird hunting, dogs, the outdoors and RVing.)



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1 year ago

I like the idea of communing with nature, but this article makes it sound easy. Sitting along a river to see deer might be an all day affair. And the picture is BS. I have scouted and hunted all my life. This picture is either photo-shopped or something. You would never get this close to a bull elk unless he was ready to charge especially standing in the open! Telling you to be still and slow to get close to wildlife, makes me think of the video of the lady trying to get close to a Buffalo and be rundown and hurt. Wild animals are WILD! People seem to be dumb. Enjoy from a distance, from the safety of your vehicle or from designated viewing areas. Not arguing with the author, but please be smart and understand you are in the animals home territory.

1 year ago
Reply to  Steve

I have been more fortunate. While walking along the Green river a herd of several Big horn sheep came walking out of a tree stand and walked right by us down to the river. In Ouray Colorado walking along the river bank, a Mule deer came out to the woods and walked along side my wife and me. In Estes park, my wife and I were walking in the golf course when a female elk was walking along side us and then we noticed her baby on the other side of us (we just slowed down and let them pass). Just a while later we were standing fairly close to the bull. All was well until someone thought it would be a good idea to see how close he could get to get a picture. My daughter was great at finding snakes on our walks in the woods.

5 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Steve, my first thought on the picture was the same. I’ve bowhunted for nearly 50 years, much of it with traditional equipment, so I understand about getting close to wild animals.

But then I remember a time in late September when I was on a business trip to Boulder and decided to drive up to RMNP after work. A herd of over 100 elk was in a meadow right off the road in the park. There were numerous large bulls in the meadow screaming out bugles as cows mulled around emitting mews. Park rangers were there to keep the “wildlife morons” from walking out into the meadow. Numerous cows and bulls were very near the road…some right in the ditch. When I take my dying breath I will still be able to see that evening’s spectacle which is burned in my brain.

Animals that are that accustomed to human activity will many times allow a close approach…just before they maul the intruder! 😉

Donald N Wright
1 year ago

I never appreciated dogs in campgrounds until I camped at Mesa Verde. Bears tend to avoid campgrounds with dogs in them. However, all the other “mini-bears” come right on it. Skunks fear no one.

1 year ago

Good piece, Scott. Unfortunately, the vast majority of RV Parks (therefore the vast majority of RV’ers) are located such that the only “fauna” that are likely to be seen from the windows of your RV are kids, strolling old folks like us, and their dogs… 🙁

1 year ago

All so true.

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