Non-native wild horses are overly abundant in many western states, including California. Their presence has a negative impact upon the habitat of many native species including mule deer.
Another species is now present in California that may also have a negative impact upon mule deer. Concerned about predation by gray wolves, I asked a biologist friend if he thought gray wolves would impact the California mule deer population.
His response may have been only half serious, but he said the wild horses might have more to worry about than the deer.
In an effort to do some research and establish parameters for continuation of this discussion, I conducted an internet search for more information. I searched for “Wolves and wild horses” on Goggle Search.
This was my answer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b2ZMwxMsXM
Not satisfied with this answer, I modified my search and came up with information provided in the following link. I believe the second link is more accurate and realistic: http://washparkprophet.blogspot.com/2007/09/lions-wolves-and-horses.html
For each horse that feeds a wolf, we’ll probably gain about ten mule deer. Wolves or horses? It’s a close call.
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I was jazzed about the opportunity to hunt mule deer with my muzzleoader in Nevada. After great debate, I decided to hunt the Robert’s Creek Mountains first and follow up with the Diamond Peak Range and finally the Cortez Mountains if all else failed.
My friends Pat and Jerry Lowery came along for company and support. They were a welcome sight when they showed on Saturday morning, the first day of the hunt. They left Reno at 3:00 AM and made it to camp by 10:00 AM.
Our camp was located at about 7,000 feet elevation and we hunted up hill from there. Roads were everywhere and it seemed as though a big buck would have very few places to escape hunters. We came across several other deer hunters and many grouse hunters as it was the opening of sage grouse season. That didn’t help our chances.
We did find does and a few small bucks.
Although I wanted to bring home some venison, I wasn't inclined to kill one of these small bucks which stood around about 100 yards from me and my ATV.
I spoke to a couple grouse hunters who told me they’d had limited success on bucks in this area. It seemed to have more activity from people than other places I’d visited while hunting deer in the Nevada desert.
By Monday morning I was convinced we needed to move on, so we headed for the Diamond Mountains. It took bout two hours to travel to a likely spot. By late afternoon we picked out a camp site on an open ridge overlooking many acres of good looking deer country.
We set up the cook stove in between the vehicles to cut the wind and slept out in the sage brush as the weather was mild. Both Pat and Jerry spoiled me with excellent meals.
We glassed the mountain tops and also cruised around in the sage brush areas to locate deer. We still could not locate any bucks that made me excited.
We carried folding chairs on our ATVs so we could sit and glass for extended periods of time. Pat and Jerry are experienced mule deer hunters.
I got within range of these two bucks, but they were not what I was after. I considered shooting at them anyway, but in the end, watched them walk away.
Pat and Jerry have taken their share of big mule deer. Both have killed 30 inch bucks and Jerry bagged a 202 inch typical with his muzzleloader. I had experts on my side.
Wild horses were sighted every day.
However, it was not to be. On Tuesday afternoon Pat and Jerry headed back to Reno and I hunted on. Although I spotted another dozen deer that evening, none of them were shooter size bucks. Wednesday morning was another bust, so I headed for the Cortez Mountains, an area I’d hunted before. But the weather was continuing to warm and I was losing my enthusiasm.
On Tuesday evening, I stopped long enough to record this beautiful sunset.
I arrived in the Cortez Mountains in the early evening. Driving strange, steep and isolated roads in the Nevada desert can be a little intimidating. At one point I had to stop, unload the ATV and unhook my trailer in order to back down the mountain to a spot where I could turn around. I was a little nervous.
Like much of Nevada, the Cortez Mountains have been hit hard by fire and a cheatgrass regime. This photo could have been taken in any of Nevada's mountain ranges.
Thursday morning came and I checked out some familiar places in search of a buck. I found seven or eight deer, but no horns. By noon the temp was about 85 degrees F and my will to continue the hunt was gone. I was ready to head home to my comfortable bed and home cooked meals.
There were shooter bucks to be found, but they were not where I looked. I could have done more research ahead of time and that might have helped, but I did a fair amount of prep and thought I’d find my buck. Maybe next time.
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