Lassen Gray Wolves

Can’t help but wonder about the wolf I saw crossing Highway 89 near Almanor West last June. It’s been over a year now, but I kept hoping that I’d hear that somebody else saw him – didn’t happen.

Now there’s an entire family of wolves in the area. Apparently related to the infamous OR7, the same wolf that fathered the Rogue Pack. Didn’t take them long to propagate. I have no plans to go to Almanor this summer, but you never know. If I do visit, I’ll try to spend some time scouting around the area where I saw the wolf last summer.

The wolf crossed the road heading south and headed into Collins Pine Timber Company property. I checked a couple dusty roads down stream from where I saw him, but couldn’t pick up his trail.

Would be cool to hear him howl.

https://www.gohunt.com/read/news/new-wolf-pack-confirmed-in-california

Scouting for Mule Deer

Scouting can take many forms. A very important aspect of scouting is reading the California Department of Wildlife (CDFW) Big Game Hunting Digest. The statistics they provide regarding success rates for the various hunts is very telling. The way you utilize the Hunting Digest should have a significant impact upon your hunt selection

Because I had an Open Zone Tag last year, I scouted three Units. First I scouted during the archery season. I had my bow in the truck, but I wasn’t interested in hunting unless I came upon something that absolutely caught my eye. That didn’t happen and I never took the bow out of its case.

My main objective was to prepare for the muzzleloader seasons. Therefore the scouting I did during the archery season and rifle season was mainly to learn how to access the three areas.

The first step in scouting was acquiring maps and gathering information. I started with a Delorme Gazetteer. This map book is reliable, current and comprehensive within Northern California.

National Forest and BLM maps were significant, but cumbersome to use and not as accurate. Other special purpose maps were helpful for details of a specific area. I would include CDFW and 7.5 ‘ topo maps in this category.

On their web site, CDFW provides maps of every hunt unit.

Significant parts of the early season scouting were driving the access roads and speaking with people on site. Occasionally I found a hunter or rancher who was willing to spend some time telling me what they had seen recently,  such as good habitat, water sources or deer sign.

 

One of the issues with scouting for a late season hunt is that the deer are probably not where they will be during October or November dates which likely fall during or after the migration. Learning the location of a big buck in August or September may or may not be valuable. You won’t find out until your hunt season begins.

On the other hand you may be able to find our where and when the deer migrate or where they congregate for the rut. Game wardens and biologists can be a good source for this type of information. You’ll have better luck contacting them if you do so prior to the opening of deer seasons.

Since the units I hunted last year were completely new to me, I tried to drive the boundaries of units (or close) to know generally where they were located. Last year I never got stuck, but almost. It’s a good idea to check out some of the side roads, but remember that once October and November comes there may be mud. Swamps are dry in September, but might not be later on.

A very valuable resource is a reliable hunter who has experience in the unit you are hunting. Talking to other hunters and building relationships can be a great asset. Ask your friends and acquaintances if they have hunted the unit. You’ll find that other people may have hunted several of the X-Zones regularly forty years ago. Although times have changed, good spots then are probably still good spots today. Having contacts can make a huge difference.

The most valuable information you can have is gained by personal experience. That is why hunting the same unit as frequently as possible is an asset. If you’re hunting with a party, of three or four people, you may be able to combine your scouting and contact resources. That could be very helpful.

The group I hunt with is planning a fishing trip in the unit where we’ll be hunting during the August archery season. We’ll also have our bows along so we can do some archery practice. It’s also a dry run for planning purposes. Getting the kinks out of camping equipment, trailers, ATVs etc.

Stay patient and alert. Know what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a good one, the odds tell us that you’ll be lucky to see one shooter buck.

Good luck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fish Finding

 

Fish finding is not necessarily the same as fish catching.

The fish finder can be a bit frustrating. Captain Bob has been making some changes to our tweeting fish finder and it has been helpful. Yesterday our fish finder “runnethed  over”, but the fish did not follow.

Here are a couple views of our fish finder yesterday morning.

First we tried the entrance buoys at Half Moon Bay. Here’s what we saw.

IMG_3378 Half Moon Bay

You can see our lonely downrigger balls, but not much else when we first lowered our bait. That’s the bait hovering at about 29 feet.

Ironically, despite a lack of visuals, we managed to catch a salmon of about 7 or 8 pounds after an hour of trolling. Then word came in that fish were stacked up at the Pacifica Pier – about 15 miles north.

We were on the move and when we arrived near the Pacifica Pier, here’s what we saw.

IMG_3415 Pacifica

The “low chirp” (lower frequency) view, on the right, is outrageous. This is the most stuff I’ve ever seen on our fish finder. The upside down Vs are fish. The other stuff is bait fish. The wiggly lines through the midde is our bait.

Once again you ran see the path of our two downrigger balls and single lead ball. You would think that we would have had a triple hook-up. Amazingly, after about 3 hours fishing near the Pier, we had caught only one fish –  a shaker about 15 inches long. And, we had a couple other fish on for a moment.

About 1:00 PM we departed back towards the Half Moon Bay dock. Near the entrance buoy we trolled again, until about 2:30. Not much going on and no fish.

We arrived at the dock to learn that at about 2:00 PM, the fishing at the Pacifica Pier went wide open with many people catching limits in a hurry.

Not only do you need to find’em. You need to find’em when they’re hungry.

That’s fishing.

 

 

Hunter’s Inventory

Early summer is a great time for taking stalk of the annual wildlife production, especially if you’re a hunter.

A hunter can’t help but notice the young of the year that begin to expose themselves during late spring and early summer.

While flocks of larks, blackbirds and magpies are noteworthy, it’s the game species that catch the hunter’s eye and so it was this weekend as we focused on hunting at the ranch.

Our primary thoughts were centered on preparing for our August archery mule deer hunt – A4. Knowing that we need to prepare, we decided to spend the weekend hunting for our ranches limited population of pigs while also setting up targets and honing our shooting skill.

This morning we set out early in search of the dozen or so pigs that live on our 2,000 acre ranch, knowing that we might catch them out in the open grassland when they are easy to spot.

IMG_3255 ducklings

Signs of a good mallard hatch have been abundant.

The pigs were elusive, but at the second pond we checked, my brother, Rob, couldn’t help but notice that a mallard hen and its brood of four ducklings were huddled up on the pond’s dam, a good sign that four young of the year had survived long enough to create a sense of optimism about their chances of reaching maturity.

We recalled that last year a hen mallard (maybe the same one) on that same pond had lost its entire brood.

We moved on searching for the pigs, but they were not cooperating. We couldn’t help but notice that deer numbers were dismal. The drought of 2014/15 had a drastic impact upon the number of deer on our ranch and we covered three-quarters of the ranch without seeing a single deer. Finally a lone yearling doe stuck it’s head up out of the annual grasses.

On the other hand, flocks of quail were diving into the brush everywhere we went, especially when we drove through a 200 acres brush patch that provides the most security for quail. I’m sure we saw several hundred quail, in every size and shape. Prospects for quail season hit the roof.

Valley quail

Prospects for quail in 2017 are excellent.

In general, game birds seemed to be doing well. Quail and dove especially, but we also came upon a group of five gobblers that were following a hen around. Seems a little late, but they didn’t want to give up. One of the five toms had a beard that looked to be eleven inches long and was quite thick.

Although we didn’t find the pigs, we think they are around the area somewhere. In the meantime we filled our archery targets full of holes,  set back the local ground squirrel population and I managed to get started on sighting in the rifle that I intend to use on a late-season mule deer hunt next fall.

We also avoided an impending disaster when Rob opened up the Kawasaki Mule and discovered that rats had built a nest inside and nearly destroyed the wiring that controls virtually everything. It was also a fire hazard in the making.

We also confirmed our date for scouting the X2 zone, enjoyed a few cocktails and barbecued some of last season’s venison.

The big disappointment was seeing no bucks, but that was somewhat offset by the fact that the does appear to have multiple fawns. Maybe the predator population is down as well and if so we will have deer again in a few years.

DSC_0077[1] doe and fawns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salmon Success at Last

Captain Bob and I made our first salmon attempt out of Half Moon Bay in April. Then we tried Monterrey Bay and out the gate to the South buoy. After three trips we were still stuck on zero. The closest we came to paydirt was a boat-side miss on the Monterrey trip.

Monday we finally turned it around. Three of us landed four of the seven fish we hooked and I was fortunate enough to land a 20 pound plus king that made me proud. Captain Bob and  his guest Paul landed the other three which were all between six and ten pounds.

We caught the fish on a trip to the north, almost to Point Reyes and within a few miles of the Farallon Islands. Here’s a photo of my fish. You can see Point Reyes in the background. We used anchovies trolled with a triangle flasher.

IMG_3364 Rich 22#

We had a great day with good salmon action,  light seas and many interesting critters – whales, porpoise and seals – around to keep us entertained.

According to reports we gathered, the fishing was generally about a fish per rod, with one notable exception, a ferry boat that fished away from the pack and caught limits around.

Archery Pig Hunt

Had a chance to hunt pigs for a day so I hopped into my truck and buzzed down I-5 to Highway 41 and turned west to Jack’s Ranch Cafe. That’s where I met up with my guide for the day.

The temperature was perfect, hovering around 101 degrees all afternoon while I shot my bow and prepared to spend the night on the mountain hoping to have a dumb pig walk up to me in the morning.

 

 

Sure enough, as I stood next to my pickup truck and waited for enough light to see, four pigs appeared in the cut barley to the north of me. But they were not dumb. They fed around a bit, about 200 yards away and didn’t stick around long. Once it was light enough to see they lined out and headed for safer territory.

By 8:00 AM with the temperature heading back towards 100, I departed for home. This was the shortest pig hunt ever. Did see about 25 pigs, but they were all leaving.

The photos show the landscape along with few pigs I drove past on the side of the road, a green gopher snake (bull snake) and a (killed by others) boar that was hanging in camp on the way out.

It was a bit of an adventure seeing country I’d not seen before and sleeping in the back of my truck on top of the mountain.