Bobcat on a Limb

A few weeks ago I was leaving the ranch when a young bobcat appeared on the road in front of me. Unlike most wild animals, this cat decided to walk and run down the road in front of me and continued to do so for several hundred yards.

Eventually I decided that maybe I’d get a chance to photograph the cat and moved my camera onto my lap where it would be handy.

Finally the cat decided to leave the road and as I passed its location I spotted the cat standing on the limb of a downed tree. I grabbed the camera and made an attempt to photograph the cat before it disappeared into the woods.

Not expecting the photo to turn out, I didn’t even review the shot when I got home.

While glancing through photos on my computer yesterday, I noticed that the cat photo was interesting. Here it is.

DSC_0214[1] bobcat

I like the silhouette and the one eye. You can’t be sure when a photo will be worthwhile. Just keep firing away and maybe something good will happen.

Open Zone Mule Deer Road Trip

Spent the weekend driving and looking over mule deer country. First stop, X5a. Lots of good looking deer habitat. Observed about 50 deer during two tours. Here are a couple photos.

DSC_0215[1] roadside four by on private ranch off Horse Lake Rd.DSC_0221[1] X5a doe from roadDSC_0225[1] nice buck at 700 yardsDSC_0247[1] Does & fawns in X5a

Coul

DSC_0241[1] Horse Lake bucks

Could have shot this guy with my bow as archery season was open. He stood there at 20 yards and waited for me to take his photo. Good thing I left my bow home.

Next was Devil’s Garden. Saw only a few deer, but the habitat was stimulating. More deer will move in during the fall.

DSC_0236[1] DG burn

DSC_0239[1] County Road does

And finally, X6b. This is the location of the Doyle Muzzleloading rifle hunt.

IMG_2212

The Doyle hunt takes place in late November. Should be prime time for rutting bucks.

That’s about it. Didn’t see anything too exciting, but did see some great deer habitat and it will look much better during October and November.

Spoke with an antelope hunter who said he’d seen a 29+- incher that morning. Not me.

The Good, the Bad, the ugly

Weather patterns over the fast five years have created some of the worst conditions for wildlife habitat we’ve seen in our area during our lifetime.

Drought, habitat decline and more drought took the habitat on our ranch from excellent five years ago, to bare bones in 2014/15.

My personal opinion is that deer numbers are down about 75%. I haven’t seen anything official to confirm that. Two years ago deer hit bottom and dropped like flies. A few survived – hopefully enough to make a comeback.

The silver lining is that 2016 has brought excellent rain and the habitat is rebounding. The reduced numbers of deer has created a scenario where the habitat is producing in some areas like never seen before.

Among the benefactors are oak trees. When compared to average years, the number of acorns that are hitting the ground and staying there are unusually high.

IMG_2189 on tree

Deer, rodents and cattle normally scoop up acorns as fast as they fall, but this year the mast crop in exceptional and a lack of deer and other acorn eaters could potentially contribute to successful sprouting of new trees, which is unusual.

IMG_2183 blue oak on ground

Due to this bounty of food, the deer we do have, should be healthy so let’s hope next year’s fawn crop will respond.

A-Zone Opener

Saturday August 13th was opening day for the California “A” Zone – the Central California Coastal zone for blacktailed deer.

The hunting in this zone takes place mainly on private ranches like ours. Standing on our ridge, we can see San Francisco Bay, Mount Diablo and to the east the Central Valley. On the clearest of days, the Sierra Nevada mountains can be seen.

Hunting takes place in weather that averages in the 90’s and it was that way this last weekend.

Our deer herd is down in numbers to about 20 percent of the population from four years ago when five of us could likely kill a buck on opening weekend. It was expected that we would see a half dozen or more bucks apiece.

Weather patterns, especially the drought, seems to be the reason behind the decline. This weekend, my deer count was seven. Two spike bucks, three does, one fawn and one legal buck.

However, the excitement did come about mid-day on Saturday. While still hunting through a likely bedding area, I came upon a buck that was sneaking along about 50 yards from me. For some reason, it seemed like he had not seen me when he stopped and bedded down facing generally in my direction, but not focused on me.

Frustrated that he had not stood still long enough for me to get off a broadside shot, I began to worry a little more than I should have. While generally pretty patient, for some reason, I got antsy and began to look at the buck though my scope. I realized that if I moved about a foot to my left, I might have a shooting lane.

I looked again through the scope and could see his brisket, head and horns clearly. It looked like an easy shot, but a little jolt of buck fever was brewing in my mind. For no good reason I rushed the shot and saw the bullet hit the ground just below the buck.

He was so surprised that he didn’t even move, but stared in my direction looking for me. As I looked through the scope at the buck, I realized that he was giving me a chance for another shot, but as I worked the bolt, he pinpointed my location, rose and sneaked off. I nearly had a chance at him walking, but then he was gone.

This was the closest rifle shot I’ve ever missed, but it points out the fact that shots at lying-down bucks are not as easy as they may appear. My only previous success at a buck while lying down was from a tree stand  where elevation created a much better angle at the deer’s body.

Case of temporary buck insanity was a good thing to get out of the way and I didn’t have to get bloody. Nice to know that I still get excited by a nice looking buck at close range.

 

 

Close Call Rattler

While scouting one of our ponds for deer tracks, I was focused on mud around the pond when my cousin Wes said to me, “You just almost stepped on a rattler.”

I turned around and saw that I had stepped less than a foot from a silent four foot long rattler.

I wondered why it hadn’t moved or rattled to warn me off.

IMG_2119 rattler with squirrel inside

I examined the rattler more closely. Then I spotted the large lump in his belly. This snake was full of squirrel.

IMG_2119 rattler belly

You can see that he has a large lump in the middle of him. Apparently he was somewhat immobilized by indigestion.

 

Pair of Golden Eagles in Flight

It has been an unusual summer. Golden eagles have had a good season. Looks to me like the breeding has been very successful.

Today, on my way to the ranch to do some mundane clean-up, I looked up to see four golden eagles circling above. I took a bunch of photos, but only one stands out. Looks to me like the two eagles in the photo are immature, but I’m not certain about both. At the time of taking, I was thinking they were both immature, but the photo is not conclusive.

DSC_0184[1] pair of golden eagles

I waited for quite a while for the two eagles to enter the frame at the same time. The trick was to anticipate the shot enough to get them in the photo. Almost like leading a pintail duck.