These are courtesy of Sherry Wiggens and others. Here’s the link.
I’ll post more info when time allows.
Thanks again to all who participated, donated and volunteered.
These are courtesy of Sherry Wiggens and others. Here’s the link.
I’ll post more info when time allows.
Thanks again to all who participated, donated and volunteered.
Seems like the last week before leaving for a hunting trip is always a stressful time. Besides getting ready to hunt – tuning bow, shooting, and hiking to maintain some kind of conditioning – there’s the equipment and supplies required to make the trip as comfortable and productive as possible.
Getting the regular job under control and tying up loose ends is probably the worst part. But, when Thursday comes I’ll be heading up I5 and none of that work stuff will matter until I get back.
I’ll be hunting in the desert of Nevada and I know from experience that one must be physically prepared and mentally prepared for the desert. The desert sun can be unbearable and chase one right back to town. Hopefully it won’t be that hot.
Shade is often missing in the desert, so I bought a golf umbrella. It has a silver top and black underside. I may be visible for miles, but in the mid-day sun I’ll at least have shade anywhere I go.
I’ll be taking an ATV on a utility trailer Rob and I had built a few years ago. I’ll be able to get around pretty good.
I’ll be stopping at Cabela’s in Reno on the way to finish up my shopping. I’ll pick up one more set of camo clothing for the desert (sage) and hopefully a better tri-pod as the one I’ve been using is really giving me fits.
I’m planning on eating MRE’s some of the time and regular food when time allows. I figure the first couple days will be mostly glassing. After that I’ll start making stalks – unless the giant shows up right away and beds under my nose. Keep dreaming.
I’ll attempt to get a few good photos of bucks. That’s always nice to have in order to prove that they really were there.
The desert can be very lonely – I think I’ll have cell phone, but not sure. I’ll bring an XM and AM radio along with some note paper and a little reading material. I have a car battery charger for running one of my laptops, so maybe I’ll do a little posting, but probably not. Never seems to work out that way.
I probably won’t see anybody out there, so going to town after a few days may be necessary. I talk everybody’s ears off after a few days alone. It won’t be a long trip as a week alone in the desert is enough to get anybody heading home.
Who knows. Maybe this will be the year.
Just about every episode of my favorite Outdoor Channel hunting programs are recorded at my house. When I arrive home from work I often have a few minutes alone to relax and watch TV. That’s when I review the recorded programs and pick out something entertaining.
It is impressive to see how many big bucks are bagged on film these days, primarily whitetails, but mule deer are not ignored. I watch archery hunts first.
Now for my favorite peeve – leaving deer overnight to make sure they are recovered.
“The shot was a little far back so I decided to play it safe and wait till morning….” So goes the typical statement.
I’ve been there, and more than once. I left my first buck out overnight and I sure regretted it. However, I was young, naive and alone when I shot that buck at dusk in 1971. It was late in the California archery deer season and I returned to my favorite haunts to give it one more try. I’d already missed almost a dozen bucks with my Bear Grizzly recurve bow and wooden arrows, but I knew I had a chance.
I missed the buck on the first shot. I can still recall the arrow sailing over his back. The next shot connected, but I couldn’t be sure where he was hit. I followed blood for a short distance, and then decided to go for help.
When I arrived in camp, which was a half hour drive away, it was dark and my hunting partners suggested we wait to morning and they’d help track him down. It sounded like a good plan to me.
As it turns out, the buck was hit in the femoral artery and it bled out quickly, dropping while still running, only 125 yards from where I shot. The meat was so nasty tasting that most of the venison went to waste. We attempted to eat it, but it was not good.
My experience is that once you leave a deer out overnight, the intestinal gasses contaminate and ruin the meat. Maybe in really cold weather this is not the case. I haven’t archery hunted in cold weather and left an animal out overnight, so maybe there is a situation where it will be OK, but most of the time you’re giving up the venison when you decide to leave an animal out overnight without taking the hide off or at least getting the body cavity opened up to cool off.
The guys on TV are experienced hunters – or at least they lead us to believe so. In some cases they are hunting for bucks that are extremely rare trophies and that’s probably how they justify their decision.
My archery hunting experience has been fairly extensive, but I’m not the ultimate authority. I’ve concluded that most of the time, a mule deer (or whitetail) that is ultimately recovered drops within 100 yards of where it was hit. An elk may go farther.
My point is that (in most cases) failing to follow a blood trail for at least the first 100 yards is foolish. If one hits a buck at dusk, wait an hour and check out the first portion of the trail. The decision to leave the animal overnight should only be made after one is convinced that it’s gone more than the first 100 to 200 yards.
Most animals that travel 200 yards will not be recovered anyway, so you might as well wait ‘til morning and hope it beds down and dies during the night – or maybe you’ll be able to get another shot at it.
I’ve had this advise backfire on me, but it was because I didn’t wait a full hour. Hitting a bull elk in the neck, during a 1987 archery hunt, I watched the herd bull walk off at sunset. Alone and a ways from my jeep in unfamiliar country, I was reluctant to wait, but I did.
After 20 minutes or so, I took up the trail. My flashlight exposed a continuous trail of blood. I thought he was dead for sure, so I followed the trail into a patch of brush about 100 yards from the site of the shot.
I heard the big animal walk off and after a few minutes reconsidered my decision to track in the darkness. When I returned the next day, I found him laying on his side only another 100 yards down the hill. He had never stopped before dropping. If I had continued after him, I would have found him shortly after my last contact.
Although I had a great 6×6 elk rack that still hangs on my wall, the meat was inedible. A friend and I carried every piece of it a couple miles on our backs and then went to town to consult with a local butcher who was also an elk hunter. We concluded that the meat should go to the dump. On the way, I stopped along the side of the road and pulled out my camp stove. I had to fry up a piece of back strap to confirm what I already knew.
There are no guarantees, but before letting the meat spoil, I believe every hunter should make a significant effort to recover the animal before leaving it out overnight.
That’s what I did on a 2000 Eastern Sierra mule deer hunt. After making what looked like a fatal shot on a buck, I followed it until I found it still alive only about 100 yards from the site of the shot. I watched the buck get up and bed again. After a failed follow up shot, the buck ran another 100 yards and rebedded.
The next followup shot appeared to be effective, but the buck ran over a rise and out out site. I spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening searching for blood, but it was scarce as the animal had fled at great speed.
Exhausted and disheartened I headed back to camp at dark.
The next morning, with the help of my brother Rob, we found the buck laying in the middle of an ice cold creek. He had apparently crashed into the creek while running. He was dead within mintues of the second hit. The meat was fine, but what a lucky recovery.
Posted in Big game hunting, blacktail deer, deer, Deer hunting, Endangered species, family, hunting heritage, Land Ownership, outdoors, Ranch Management, wildlife conservation, Wildlife habitat, wildlife management on February 25, 2008 | 9 Comments »
This morning, as I read the story in the Tri-Valley Herald (www.insidebayarea.com/trivalleyherald) about the Koopman Ranch and how the county’s ranching heritage is threatened, I couldn’t help but think that something very important was missing.
Yes, agriculture is dwindling in Alameda County and ranches are disappearing along with wildlife habitat, but often forgotten is the loss of habitat for use by human hunters.
A loss of our hunting heritage will insulate man further from contact with mother earth. Hunting is one of the most compatible uses for open space and wild places. We have very few of those places left in Alameda County. Unfortunately, a large portion of the remaining wild places are owned by agencies that have foreclosed on hunters.
The remaining hunting spaces are more threatened than the kit fox, tiger salamander and red-legged frog. As agencies (primarily East Bay Regional Park District and San Francisco Water Department) close in on consumption of Alameda County’s remaining open spaces, they are signaling a death knell for Alameda County hunters who have worked hand in hand with ranchers to develop and protect wildlife habitat.
Hikers and bikers use open space, but unlike hunters they don’t carry field glasses and sneak through the woods. Bikers speed by, unaware of their surroundings while hikers grunt at the weight of their load intent upon reaching their destination.
Like the mountain lion, human hunters are acutely aware of their surroundings. Both types of hunters are often misunderstood by those who don’t share in their pursuit. Aboriginal tribes appreciated and worshiped the hunter. In our modern world, the venison is not as important, but the characteristics that made those aboriginal hunters valuable to society are just as valid today.
Also like the lion, these hunters depend upon healthy and well-managed deer herds to make their hunting adventures successful. Unlike mountain lions, these hunters are bound by many laws that limit take and insure public safety, laws that are important.
If Alameda County’s rich hunting heritage is to live on, steps must be taken to cultivate a climate in which hunters can survive. That means protecting the remaining large blocks of contiguous habitat and opening up public properties to limited hunting. Or, like the other endangered species, an American culture will disappear from our midst, leaving us all further removed from the outdoors and more susceptible to encroachment upon our remaining wild places.
Once we remove people from the outdoors, the outdoors will be gone forever and nobody will know the difference.
The mule deer is one of the most difficult species to take with bow and arrow. Large bucks are often incredibly wary and know how to travel using the terrain and other deer to their safety advantage.
One of the advantages of archery hunting is that during the early season these big bucks will often be found in open country and often on high ridges or in high-elevation bowls. One ridge we used to hunt in Southeast Idaho held a few big bucks during the first week of the Idaho archery season.
It was during one such early-season hunt that my brother, Rob, and I watched a very large buck disappear into a rock pile near the very top of a high ridge. The buck was so far away that we could only guess at how big he was, but we knew he was at least big enough.
It takes a special type of confidence to climb a huge mountain with the goal of hunting for one buck and at that, a buck that is probably one of the most experienced and wise old bucks in the country. The climb to the top of Snow Drift Ridge, as the mountain is called, takes about three hours from the point where we sat. Per our usual understanding, Rob got to go after the big buck as he had spotted it first. I set out after a smaller buck that we had also seen from below.
The climb was every bit as tough as it looked. When we reached the top, the wind was whistling at a good clip and the air was much cooler than it was below. Cloud cover added an ominous cast to the scene as we split up, each taking up position above the bucks we were after.
To add a little excitement to the hike, Rob had walked to within 15 yards of a bedded five point bull elk on the way up. We had elk tags, but the bull was gone before Rob had any chance.
I looked over at the point where Rob would start his descent and my knees felt a little wobbly. The descent would be off a very steep avalanche shoot with loose rocks that were perfect for falling. The cold wind and cloud cover made the approach even unfriendlier looking.
From this point on, I can only repeat Rob’s story as I recall it. He hadn’t climbed very far down the mountain before he spotted antlers below him. He knew right away that it wasn’t the large buck we had seen from below, but it was a four-point buck. He estimated that the bucks spread would be about 24 inches, and the times were all long and evenly matched. Since it was a good scoring set of antlers, Rob figured that it would probably make the Pope and Young minimum score of 145 points. This had been his goal from the start. The buck was in range and hadn’t seen him yet.
He used his range finder and found the range to be about fifty yards and down hill. He re-estimated the range, reducing his range estimate by a few yards to allow for the steep slope of the hill and knocked an arrow. At the shot, the buck ran a few yards and stopped. Rob thought the shot had been on target, but couldn’t see any wound on the buck. The buck walked off and stepped out of sight. Rob quickly climbed down to the spot where the buck had stood and spotted a few drops of blood on the rocks. He figured that the shot had been a non-vital hit, but hoped that he could track the buck and get another shot at him.
Rob sneaked slowly along the buck’s trail occasionally finding a drop of blood, while watching for any sign of the buck. He had traveled only a short distance when he spotted movement ahead. Huge antlers appeared before him as the original buck (the one we had spotted from the bottom of the mountain) fed slowly in his direction. The buck was enormous. He had a mainframe spread well outside his ears and massive antlers with cheater points sticking out several inches past his main frame on both sides. This buck had five points on each side of his antlers, counting the cheaters, and the bases had the largest circumference Rob had ever seen on a live buck.
At fifteen yards the buck acted suspicious and turned to walk away. At 30 yards the large buck stood broadside to gaze ahead. If Rob had been free to shoot, it would have been the chance of a lifetime. As it was, he felt an obligation to continue after the buck he had hit and only watched as the largest buck he had ever seen within archery range stood broadside at 30 yards.
Unfortunately, the first buck was never found. Rob felt certain his arrow had only clipped the buck’s leg. The actions of the buck after he hit it and the lack of blood sign indicated that this had been a non-fatal hit. At dark, he gave up on the buck and climbed down the mountain and later related his story to me.
Posted in blacktail deer, deer, Deer hunting, Ecology, fundraising, mule deer, outdoors, The Mule Deer Foundation, wildlife, wildlife conservation, Wildlife habitat, wildlife management on February 1, 2008 | Leave a Comment »
Feeding deer is sometimes controversial and not always effective. It can maintain deer population numbers at a level which is beyond the ability of the habitat to support them. However, when unusually rough winters hit, it is the only way to keep deer from starving and when the habitat is healthy and the deer need a boost to get them through tough times, it make sense.
The Mule Deer Foundation will be holding it’s sixteenth annual Livermore-Pleasanton Banquet on March 14th. On February 6th at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, The Mule Deer Foundation will be holding it’s 20th anniversary convention. For those who support deer these are important events. Tickets for the Livermore-Pleasanton event are $90 single and $145 couple. For the March 14th event in Livermore, I can take ticket orders over the phone at (925) 373-6601. Information about the convention can be found at www.muledeer.org.
Received this press release from The Mule Deer Foundation today.
January 31, 2008Contact: Mule Deer Foundation
Tel.: 888-375-DEER (3337)
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) is asking for donations to help feed mule deer in the Gunnison Basin of Colorado.Heavy deep snows and cold temperatures have created harsh winter conditions in Gunnison Basin preventing mule deer from reaching their normal food sources requiring that the Colorado Division of Wildlife to begin feeding operations on January 13. Colorado DOW is conducting emergency feeding at over 60 sites.
As of January 24th it was reported that approximately 5,000 deer were on the feeding sites.The feeding effort is targeted at mule deer and pronghorn because their natural food sources are completely covered with snow. Fortunately, the deep snows came late and deer went into the winter in good condition.
Prolonged deep snows and cold temperatures can quickly depleted fat reserves and deep snows which require mule deer to expend considerable energy when moving to cover and food sources.Colorado DOW personnel have been packing trails and roads into feeding areas with snow-cats and snowmobiles. Feeding is being conducted by DOW personnel and volunteers.
Deer are being fed a specific diet of wheat, other grains, dehydrated alfalfa and cottonseed meal in the form of a wafer so it will stay on top of the snow. Deer are being feed about 3 pounds of the feed per day.The public is being asked not to feed deer around their homes or on their property. Feeding deer other types of food can actually do more harm than good.
The public is asked not to approach deer as this may cause them to expend considerable energy needed to survive the extreme conditions.Colorado Gov. Ritter recently asked the Colorado legislature for spending authority for $1.75 million to fund an emergency winter feeding program in Gunnison Basin and other parts of Colorado if necessary.
DOW personnel are monitoring deer herds in Northwest Colorado that have also experienced heavy snows. Biologists have indicated that they are seeing localized areas of deep snow but they have not experienced the prolonged extreme cold and heavy crusting conditions like are in the Gunnison BasinMDF has set up a fund to assist with the purchase of feed.
The specially formulated feed is supplied by Ranchway Feed Inc. in Fort Collins, CO at a cost of $8.00 per 50 lb. bag. CDOW is feeding approximately 3 lbs. of feed per day per deer. One bag can feed approximately 17 deer. A $50.00 donation will feed between 15-18 deer for a week. Monetary donations can be sent to Mule Deer FoundationColorado Emergency Feeding Fund404 East 4500 South Suite B-10Salt Lake City, UT 84107 OrCall 1-888-375-3337
100% of the donations collected will go to the feeding operation. Volunteers can contact the Colorado Division of Wildlife to help with the feeding operation.##
About MDF (www.muledeer.org) The Mule Deer Foundation is a national non-profit 501c3 organization, with over 10,000 members. MDF’s mission is to ensure the conservation of mule deer, black-tailed deer and their habitats. For information about the Mule Deer Foundation please call 1-888-375-DEER (3337).
The tree-stand was located in a multiforked oak tree about 30 yards from the pond. The opening day of archery season would most likely be the best chance to arrow a nice buck. It doesn’t take long after the first disturbance before the bucks shy away and only does continue to drink at the water’s edge by daylight.
Rob, my brother and hunting partner, sat in the stand as a four-point buck cautiously approached the pond and began to drink. As he ranged the distance to the buck, Rob was surprised that it took the buck so long to drink his fill. The buck’s antlers were unusual, as four by four bucks are rare in the hills of the East Bay where Columbia black-tailed deer live short lives in habitat limited in size and quality.
The buck stood at fifty yards – a longer shot than Rob wanted to take. He waited to see if the buck would move closer to the stand. Unfortunately, the buck simply reversed his path and exited the same way he arrived. Rob hoped the buck would return another night, but it did not. The buck remained unseen for the rest of the archery and rifle deer seasons.
As the last weekend of the rifle deer season descended upon us, neither Rob nor I had bagged a buck. I was on our ATV driving slowly along our canyon road, checking culverts on my way to pick up a guest, who was still-hunting the road ahead of me in one last attempt to find a buck.
A mountain lion appeared in the road ahead of me at 20 yards – a very large cat, as large as any I’ve seen. He saundered across the road in front of me, fully aware of my closeness, but seemingly unimpressed. Off the road and into a narrow wash he passed – still very close.
He was so close I could not only see him, but also feel his arrogance. If this event had taken place in almost any other western state, I might have had a permit to shoot this lion, but all mountain lions are protected in California.
He showed distain for me and I didn’t like him either. It would have been so easy to grab my rifle and shoot. He’s eating our deer, I thought to myself.
He stood motionless in that crevice for maybe a minute, took two more steps and then vanished. The interaction had been a special event. He was a magnificent animal, a symbol of wildness and I had been fortunate to have the opportunity to interact with such an elusive creature at close range.
The season passed without further ado. Rob returned to the ranch a week later to work on the culverts we’d been concerned about. As he passed the pond where he’d seen the buck during archery season, he noticed something floating on the surface – and an antler.
With a rope he removed the buck carcass from the pond. It was the fine four-point he’d hunted for all season. Cougar-inflicted tooth marks on the buck’s neck belied its fate. In Rob’s mind he envisioned the struggle as the lion rode the buck into the pond. In the heat of the rut, the buck must have exposed himself to danger while following a doe in estrus as she drank at the pond.
Most likely the buck had leaped into the pond with the lion on his back. Struggling in the water, life had left the buck before he could discourage the determined cat. But, the lion accomplished only half his mission. The deep water had prevented the cat from enjoying the fruit of his labor, leaving the buck to float while awaiting some other fate.
(Caption: After the cat passed, I photographed his track in the dusty road. It’s not a perfect track and it appears that the rear foot slightly blurred the print where his front foot stepped, not typical practice for a wild feline walking. Maybe he was nervous, but it didn’t show in his eyes.)
Posted in Archery hunting, Big game hunting, Deer hunting, Farm Management, goose, Hunting, Hunts with a Professional Hunter or Outfitter, Land Ownership, mule deer, outdoors, Ranch Management, wildlife conservation, Wildlife habitat, wildlife management on January 26, 2008 | 1 Comment »
On a recent hunting trip in Alberta, I was surprised to learn that in Alberta, the government does not permit land owners to lease hunting rights to other people, in other words the hunting rights cannot be segregated from the land and sold to somebody else on a periodic basis. However, my guide could hunt on any landowner’s property by gaining permission and, because the landowner had no way to generate income from hunting, the likelihood of getting permission was (unlike California) very good.
Some landowners would turn down requests for access because somebody had abused them in the past and others were apparently opposed to hunting. In some cases people just didn’t want outsiders on their property. However, many of the landowners where open to letting us hunt and I was able to see many great mule deer bucks on private farms. I failed to bag the trophy I was looking for – but that’s another story.
It appears the lack of hunting leases works in favor of the blue-collar hunter who cannot afford to pay for access to land. However, I had to wonder if it wasn’t working against the wildlife. For example, if hunting leases were in place, the financial incentive would create motivation to improve or maximize wildlife habitat.
One of the main incentives for draining potholes and plowing every possible square foot of land is to maximize farm income. If, on the other hand, if farmers could generate income through hunting leases, the potholes and bush patches would be a source of revenue via the expansion of wildlife populations and hunting opportunity.
I recall this issue coming up at some point in the past when a waterfowl hunter explained to me why Ducks Unlimited invests so much money in protecting potholes on the Canadian prairie. DU works to encourage landowners to place conservation easements on the land and in some cases purchases conservation easements and develops potholes. After traveling in Alberta, the value of DU’s habitat work is much more clear to me.
One of the likely ways to overcome the lease issue would be for hunters to purchase Alberta ranches to gain the right to hunt and also improve the hunting conditions with habitat improvement. Unfortunately, non-citizens must have a guide while hunting big game in Alberta, limiting another avenue for wildlife habitat improvement.
When I mentioned this to my Outfitter in Alberta he suggested that there is a way to form a partnership between non-resident alien hunters and outfitters. Such as partnership might be one way to own land in Canada and create a way to hunt there on land that you improved for wildlife yourself. Although possible this type of arrangement would require a great deal of thought, legal research and expert council. I found out later, discussing this issue with an Alberta real estate agent, that hunting waterfowl and upland game does not require an outfitter and also that there are many ways to set up trusts so that non-resident aliens can enjoy the benefits of land ownership.
In the meantime I’ve heard stories about some great sounding waterfowl hunting trips to Canada at a reasonable price. Maybe next time I’ll try a combo trip – mule deer and ducks. For now, it looks like you don’t need to own land in Canada to go and have a great hunting experience.
Posted in Big game hunting, boar, deer, Deer hunting, Deer hunting, Ecology, elk, Endangered species, Endangered species, Hunting, Land Ownership, Mountain lions, Mountain lions, outdoors, Ranch Management, real estate, tule elk, turkey, wildlife, wildlife conservation, Wildlife habitat, wildlife management on January 18, 2008 | 1 Comment »
My brother spotted a deer in Mocho Creek last week. It was a doe. Having lived along Livermore’s Mocho Creek for much of our lives, we know that spotting a deer in the creek is unusual. So unusual that the last deer we saw in Mocho Creek was over 40 years ago.
Our previous deer sighting occured on a warm day, probably in the fall of the year when Rob and I were hiking in territory outside our normal haunts. In what seemed like a remote area southeast of town, we found a dump where the landowners were leaving yard trimmings, old furniture and miscellaneous stuff.
As we approached the dump, a young buck blacktail jumped from cover along the trail. My best guess is that I was about 11 at the time, so that makes it 47 years ago and even then deer were scarce that close to town. The site of that deer observation was where the Livermore Rodeo grounds have since been built.
Unfortunately deer habitat in our area is in serious decline. Housing projects, vineyards, and small-lot rural development have fragmented habitat. Habitat that may have been good for deer fifty years ago has been rendered less healthy by an inability to manage habitat with prescribed fire.
With an inability to manage the mountain lion population, hungry predator populations are trimming the remaining numbers of deer to the point where lions are forced out of their habitat and into the edge of town where they may find alternative food sources.
For hunters, matters are even worse as more and more land that is deer habitat comes under ownership of public agencies that don’t allow hunting. The East Bay Regional Park District is one, and the City of San Francisco via its watershed lands is another.
And, the future is not bright for hunting opportunities in the East Bay. As time passes more and more land will secede to land-owning agencies that do not allow hunting. Why? Pressure from the anti-hunting groups is only part of the problem. The bad public image of hunting is also a factor. Safety and liability issues contribute as well.
However, hunting makes tremendous sense as a viable and compatible use with much of the land owned by these agencies. Hunting produces revenue. Hunting leaves a minor footprint on the land. Hunting is strictly limited to open seasons, which occur during brief time frames. Hunters are licensed and trained in firearm safety. Restrictions on method of take can be used to create safe conditions. Game animal populations need to be managed – currently problems exhist with wild pigs and Canada geese.
Thousands of acres of public lands are sitting out there wasting away. Yes there are a few cattle out there and some of our local ranchers are making ends meet while keeping up their rodeo skills, but why not get some tangible additional benefits from the land?
Now, as mitigation for loss of wetlands and impacts to endangered species escalates, more land will be placed into conservation easements or turned over to agencies. If the current trend continues, these new conservations lands will be removed from private ownership and placed under management of people who do not wish to see hunting continue. It’s time for a change to this trend.
Hunters need to look for new avenues to insure that lands will continue to be hunted. Those that own land can help create solutions by looking for future owners who will continue to see that land is hunted. If park distircts continue to refuse to allow hunting, the State of California can be called upon to purchase lands through the Wildlife Conservation Board or new land owning non-government organizations can be established to replace the East Bay Regional Park District as a recipient of conservation properties outside the urban limits.
It’s time for hunters to create a roadmap.