Snake Den

While touring the ranch with a friend, I suggested that we check out a known rattle snake den. April and May are good months to observe snakes and the most interesting spot is at the den site where large rattlers hang out together – warming themselves and (I imagine) doing what snakes do to propagate.

A perfect snake den has a southern exposure, large rocks with cracks, brush and is often surrounded by ground squirrel colonies. The rock pile in the photo below is a perfect site.

IMG_1941 snake den

DSC_0373 rattler at den 2016

In the above photo you can see a light colored snake and part of a darker snake laying next to it.

DSC_0371 rattlers at den 2016

In the next photo (above) you can clearly see both snakes. These are large rattlers. Didn’t want to mess with them as they get very testy if you disturb them. I get nervous when they get nervous.

Eagle and Ravens

On the way home from the ranch last week, I spotted two ravens and something else in the grass about 150 yards off the road. I figured it might be something interesting so I began taking photos before I’d identified the target.

Turns out it was a golden eagle guarding a ground squirrel that it had just killed.

eagle and ravens on squirrel carcass DSC_0207 cropped

Eventually the eagle spotted my truck and got nervous. He took off with the squirrel in his grasp, but it wasn’t long before he dropped it.

I snapped a  couple shots as he flew by.

eagle in flight DSC_0211[1] cropped

I felt bad that he left his meal behind, but I’m sure the ravens made short work of it.

 

Photos of the Week

Here are a few of the best photos of the past week.

Ran into some great wildflowers at the ranch and photographed a horned lark surrounded by wildflowers. The light could have been better, but here is what I got.horned lark singing and wildflowers DSC_0181 cropped

lark bee and wildflowers DSC_0199 cropped

In the second photo a bee jumped in.

Spotted an eagle and red-tailed hawk soaring together. The red-tail was harassing the eagle.

eagle and redtail DSC_0168eagle and redtail DSC_0169 cropped

Here’s a blowup which demonstrates how much larger an eagle is than a red-tail.

Got a couple good turkey photos today. Here’s one of them.

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Lola’s Limp

For several years, Lola has occasionally limped. Off and on, usually more in cold weather, but the limp has always dissipated and eventually gone away.

Last fall, during duck season, the limp didn’t go away and continued to become more obvious.

Not wanting to admit that my dog needed help, I waited too patiently for the limp to leave. Finally, my wife, Linda convinced me that it was time to go to the vet. The vet didn’t have an answer, but once he was involved, there was no more putting off action.

X-Rays revealed some arthritis in Lola’s front right leg and also in her back. Arthritis was something with which I was familiar.

The vet suggested several paths that we could take. I was reluctant to give her treatment, but we began to give her pills that could possibly reduce inflammation. The pills may have helped a little, but the limp eventually grew more pronounced.

After a few months without significant progress, we decided to give Lola a series of shots. At first she received two each week. After four shots, we reduced the shots to one per week.

One night she vomited violently and was quite ill. After a few days of rice and cottage cheese, she was better, but we decided to quit the shots. The cure seemed worse than the problem.

In the meantime we reduced her exercise to about half of what we had normally done. Taking her for walks every other day and shortening the length by about 50%.

I also purchased a leg brace believing that restricting the motion of her right front leg would limit the effects of the arthritis. The brace seems to be helping. Here’s a video of Lola with the leg brace on.

And here’s a close up of the brace on her leg.

IMG_1846 brace on leg

The brace originally had three straps that wrapped around her leg, but it didn’t fit her right and the bottom of the brace dug into her foot. I sawed off about an inch of the brace and now use tape to wrap the bottom of the brace to her leg. It seems to be working and she’s not limping as much.

Lola’s nine now and I know from experience that all dogs suffer from some malady as they grow older. I’m just hoping that we can keep this issue under control and that she can continue to hunt next season. Time will tell.

 

 

 

A Wolf Story

In  about December of 2011, a radio-collared wolf moved into Northern California. It took over four years for a different wolf to reach my home. In between those dates, wolves have settled in California and at least one pair of wolves has raised a litter of wolf pups.

During 2012 through 2014, I became somewhat involved with wolves in different ways. While volunteering for the Mule Deer Foundation, I served on a committee of wolf Stakeholders. I did my best to make my opinions known to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as they created a Wolf Management Plan. (https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Mammals/Gray-Wolf/Stakeholders)

While hunting in locations where wolves are common (Canada, Alaska but primarily Montana) I gradually became more familiar with wolves in the wild. During Montana hunts in 2013, 14 and 15 I heard wolves howl and eyed tracks almost daily. All the hunters in our camp possessed wolf tags in anticipation of having a shot opportunity.  A few hunters in our camp had sightings of wolves, but no shots were fired.

On those Montana trips I observed mule deer, elk, moose, a big-horn ram, black bear and two grizzly bears – but no wolves. On one occasion a wolf howled very close by. My guide and I expected to see the wolf, but did not. Later we found the tracks of two wolves that had been standing about 150 yards from our position.

Wolves have become a reality in my life, but I have yet to see one alive.

At the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo in February of 2014, I attended a Friday afternoon auction where a trapping experience was auctioned. I purchased the trip with a bid of $1,500. The donor was Trent Packham of Groat Creek Outfitters. Trent lives about 60 miles north of  Edmonton, Alberta.

Eventually we scheduled the trip for early January in 2015 and I purchased ticket to Edmonton for January 3rd, 2015. I began building up my wardrobe of cold-weather clothes.

I expected temperatures as low as any I’d ever before experienced, but it was still a shock to my system when Trent called the day before my departure and told me that it was minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit in Edmonton. I told him I planned to be there the next day.

Then I laid awake that night and envisioned the drive in my rental car in sub-freezing weather through sixty miles of unknown territory. I have to admit that I didn’t want to take that challenge on and in the morning I cancelled my trip.

No regrets, but a couple weeks later, Trent sent me a photo of wolves he had trapped. He said that one of them was the largest wolf he had trapped up to that time. I mulled it over and concluded that maybe I should have a trophy from the trip I did not take.

I called Trent and asked him the price of the cape of that wolf. He came up with a number – $882 USD out the door. Then I asked if he knew a taxidermist who could do a good job of mounting the wolf – life size. He said that Scott Holman was the go-too guy and gave me his contact information:

SCOTT HOLMAN TAXIDERMY
661 24TH ST.
BRANDON, MANITOBA, CANADA
R7B 1X8
204 725 4474
sholman@westman.wave.ca
http://www.holmantaxidermy.com

Now it was quite a trip from Alberta to Manitoba and then to California, but this wolf puts OR7 to shame when it comes to miles traveled. The cost of taxidermy:$2205 USD. Just in case your thinking you might want to do this, here’s the breakdown.

 

Invoice Image (25) cropped

Scott sent me photos of various poses and this is the one I selected.

pose IMG_1840

Scott built the wolf and occasionally checked in. A couple months ago the wolf was finished, but then he had to wait for a CITES permit. Cost of the trip from Manitoba to Livermore: $671.04 USD.

It took about three weeks for the crate to make it through customs in North Dakota and then on to California. The crate arrived last Friday March 19, but it will be a while before I am ready to open it. Here’s a photo of the finish product as taken by Scott Holman.

wolf mountIMG_0091

Can’t hardly wait to open my present, but it may take a while to finish creating his final resting spot.

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Turkey Season March 26th

IMG_1065-1 Brett with gobler resized

Son-in-law, Brett Kelly with his first gobbler – three seasons ago.

There’s a lot to talk about this spring. Rutty deer meat, the arrival of my full body wolf mount, planning my trophy room and purchase of an Open Zone tag are popular topics. But mostly the big news is that spring turkey season opens in 11 days.

We have about 12 to 15 turkeys living on our ranch. I see a few of them each time I go there, but they are not always the same birds. Of the turkeys, my best guess is that about half are adults and the rest poults.

Of the six or seven adults, I think two are mature toms and the rest are hens. Of the poults, probably half of them are Jakes, but I don’t want to shoot a Jake this year as the overall population is down. However, bagging a mature gobbler would be a satisfying feat.

Based upon past experience, the best day of the season to bag a mature Tom is on opening day. With a shotgun it is almost no contest. But, I’ve proven that that’s not the case with bow and arrow. In fact, I’m zero for forever on gobblers with my bow.

On he other hand I’ve got loads of experience (failure) and it’s almost a sure thing that I’ll get a shot opportunity on opening day.

The best tactic will be to set up my Double Bull blind in one of the known turkey hangouts with Jake and hen decoys about 15 yards away. Once a gobbler responds to my hen yelps, it’s almost a lock that he’ll come in strutting. Typically the gobbler will go eyeball to eyeball with the Jake decoy or maybe even knock it down.

At 15 yards, you’d think the shot would be a slam dunk, but turkeys are constructed differently from  anything else you can hunt with bow and arrow. Their vitals are low and back – nothing like deer. And, about half of the target is feathers. It’s easy to draw feathers without drawing blood. It’s also easy to poke a hole through a turkey and not recover the bird.

I’ve done this the wrong way before, but I plan to do it right this year.

I’ll be shooting a bunch of 15 yard practice shots during the next ten days.