The Horned Lizard

Or horn toad as we knew them as kids.  What a great creature. As kids they captured our hearts with their seemingly friendly attitude. They were very easy to catch and hold.

We used to find plenty of them in Mocho creek behind our house. But, over the years they have become quite scarce in the Livermore area. Every few years we come across one at the ranch – as Rob did a few days ago. The one is this photo is a magnificant individual. He was about five inches long, which is as large as any I’ve seen.

Horned lizard cropped and resized

The decline of the harvester ant is a major factor in the decline of the horned lizard.

Read about them

Life Estates – They Serve a Purpose

To many of us, the Life Estate appears to be something that we’ll never see. I remember first learning about life estates when I took my first real estate course in 1977. It seemed like a neat trick.

A life estate can be granted to an individual by the owner of a property. First there must be a legal description describing the parcel. Secondly, the grantor of the life estate must have clear title and all the owners must sign on. The person granted a life estate has the right to use the described property during their lifetime.

The owner of a life estate can also transfer the use to another individual during their lifetime, but as soon as they die, the title reverts to the underlying property owner. I’ve been involved in several properties where life estates have existed both as a benefactor and as an underlying property owner.

One problem with life estates is that it can be a hassle removing the recorded documentation from the public record. Once a life estate is created, it is recorded to create public notice that the individual is receiving the right to use of the property until they die. When that person dies, a death certificate must be obtained and recorded to demonstrate that the estate is over.

My experience has been that there are often better ways to accomplish the intent of a life estate than to actually create one. A contractual arrangement can create the same arrangement without creating a recorded document. If you’re on the receiving end, it is probably better to receive the real thing, but if you’re deeding somebody those rights, you might want to consider some other option.

I am currently in the process of searching for death certificates for two individuals who retained a life estate allowing them to hunt deer on our property until their death. In their case, all the recipients did to document the Estate was to state that they were retaining a Life Estate and access rights when they created the grant deed.

It is simply written on the deed and it worked. They have been deceased for years, but the life estate was never removed from title. I recently received a call from a grandson who thinks he can produce the two death certificates I need in order to clear title.

It has taken several months to track down this relative who has good enough legal standing to obtain the death certificates and provide them to me. After I receive the death certificate I’ll give it to the title company and they will then remove the Life Estate from our title report.

In about 1986, a group of us had an opportunity to sell our duck club, but we didn’t have any motivation to sell.  When the buyer told us he’d grant us Life Estates for the purpose of duck and pheasant hunting, we changed our minds.

The ensuing contractual arrangement has allowed us to continue hunting that property for more than 20 years – a very good deal. With luck, some of us may be hunting there for another 20 years.

In our recent partition suit, an agreement between us and one of the other owners helped seal the deal. We agreed to allow him to use a cabin and hunt on the surrounding 320 acres until his death or five years, whichever comes sooner. He’s not in great health, but the arrangement made selling his interest more palatable for him and was acceptable to us. Although this arrangement is not a true Life Estate, it has some of the same characteristics.

Turkey Season Almost Over, Butterflys Abundant and Deer Hunting on the Horizon

One week left in the archery turkey season and I haven’t loosed an arrow. Actually I haven’t hunted since opening day. Last year’s turkey crop was below par and only one gobler is living on our ranch where we generally hunt. However, there are still turkeys in the area and with this spring’s rain promoting good grass growth, I’m optimistic that this summer will produce good sized flocks for next year. I  may still make one more attempt before the archery season concludes next weekend.

It’s the time of year when we conduct Alameda whipsnake surveys and I was out again this week. Although snakes were scarce, I did take a few photos and here’s a sample. According to Rob, this first photo is of a buckeye butterfly.

butterfly at creek cropped and resized

checkerspot 5-7-09 (2) cropped and resized

This checkspot butterfly posed nicely. This is most likely a chalcedon checkerspot. 

redtail soaring cropped and resized

Redtailed hawks rode the thermals. You can tell this bird is mature because their tails don’t turn red until they’re a couple years old. 

taranchula again cropped and resizedThis taranchula ducked into a hole when I lifted up the board he was under.

indian paintbrush cropped and resizedThe wildflowers are still blooming. Here’s an indian paintbrush.

It’s time to start planning for deer season. It looks like I’ll be hunting Nevada and California again this year. Time to tune up the bow and start shooting  more often as the coastal archery season is only two months away.

Mule Deer Foundation Supports California’s Hunting Heritage

On April 24th The Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) contributed $15,000 towards protecting the hunting heritage of Californians and also took a seat on the board of directors of the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA). With MDF President, Miles Moretti, on hand as it’s newest director, COHA held a meeting of it’s members at the Quail Point Gun Club.

Surrounded by Rob Olsen and Jim Waters MDF give COHA check

Caption: Left to right. COHA Director and Delta Waterfowl President – Rob Olsen, COHA President – Bill Gaines, COHA director and MDF President – Miles Moretti, MDF State Chair Rich Fletcher and COHA Director Jim Waters.

During the past few years, these organizations have collaborated on conservation programs while developing a strong working relationship. COHA and MDF  have now sealed the deal – strengthening each organization. Funding from MDF will help pay for the cost of COHA’s legislative programs and Moretti’s experience with wildlife and hunting issues will strengthen COHA’s decision making body. 

MDF is very concerned about political issues affecting California’s wildlife programs. COHA is currently working on key legislation that will protect hunting lands and conservation dollars in the state coffers. Two key legislative efforts that are key for hunters are SB589 and California State Assembly Bill 979.

COHA has been working in the state legislature to pass these bills for several years and this could be the year. SB589 is out of committee with little opposition and will go to a floor vote in the Senate soon. This bill will protect license and tag money by creating additional over site from the hunting community. AB979 will prevent local governments from limiting hunting opportunities on public lands and confirm that over site belongs with the Fish and Game Commission and Department of Fish and Game.

MDF and COHA are working together for the benefit of conservationists in California. The success of both organizations is driven by the passion of outdoorsmen and fueled by sportman’s dollars.  With continued financial and in-kind support for these organizations, hunters we will continue to enjoy diverse and plentiful hunting opportunities in the “Golden” state.

IMG_0487 MDF and COHA croppedMiles Moretti, Mark Hennelly, Bill Gaines, Jason Rhine, Rich Fletcher and Rick Bullock