Are There Wolves in Devil’s Garden?

The Gray Wolf population in Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon  has increased to the point that they are no longer listed. In both these areas wolves are now being managed to limit livestock loses.

Both Oregon and Washington maintain web sites providing the public with information about wolf activity.

Washington Update:  http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/updates/update_on_washington_wolves_20170725.pdf

Oregon Update: http://dfw.state.or.us/Wolves/wolf_livestock_updates.asp

California now has at least two breeding pairs of wolves. You can read about them here: https://phys.org/news/2017-07-gray-wolves-northern-california.html

Last June a wolf ran across the highway in front of me while I was driving home from a fishing trip near Lake Almanor. Now we have reports about a breeding pair in that area, so my sighting was not surprising.

It is also not surprising that two wolves tried to run down three bucks I was stalking last week. It happened right in front of me.

It was day two of the 2017 archery deer season in the Devil’s Garden when I decided to hunt a particular spot believing that a buck would show up.

More so than in most places, mule deer bucks in the garden tend to have favorite hangouts and I thought I may have found one.

Leaving my car parked about a mile from the location I was hunting, I started out about 3:00 PM. Walking slowly, I was cautious about making noise or spreading my scent. The wind was blowing up the canyon and I knew that the wind shift would take place some time in the early evening and after that it would steady out. So, with luck, I might have a chance for a stalk without the bucks detecting me.

At a range of about 700 yards from the area I expected that bucks to show, I sat down wearing my guilly-suit that made me very had to pick out. A black cow walked up the draw and when she was about to step on me, I spoke to her and she looked at me quizzically. Then she made her move around me and continued on her way.

While glassing the ridge-line where I expected a buck to come from, two deer appeared – both small bucks. I was pleased to see some action and got up to close the distance between me and them to about 530 yards. There I sat against a tree stump and studied the bucks.

A third buck appeared and apparently it had been there the entire time. It was a big buck and was turning gray. Now I was excited because this third buck was the kind of deer everybody wants a shot at. He appeared to be about 25 inches wide, tall and four by four. But he stayed in the shadows and mostly behind a patch of timber that blocked my view while the two younger bucks remained mostly visible.

The wind did not show any signs of shifting, so I remained at this position for about a half hour while monitoring wind direction.

Without any warning, what first appeared to be two gray coyotes, came charging at the deer that were up wind of them. However it didn’t take long to figure out that these two canines were not behaving like coyotes.

In case you don’t know, I’ll tell you that coyotes and mature mule deer coexist very well with each other. On occasion a buck will become nervous around a coyote, but coyotes weight about 30 pounds which is approximately a quarter the weight of a mature mule deer buck.

A typical encounter between a coyote and a mule deer buck would be that the coyote would hardly pay any attention to the buck. The dog typically would sniff around looking for ground squirrels or voles without showing any interest in the deer.

The buck might face off with the coyote and make sure it doesn’t cause him trouble, but it would hardly run away. Does with young fawns may run from a coyote, but typically they only do that to lure the coyote away from their fawn.

So, back to the wolves. They charged at the buck trotting at attack speed. (I’ve never seen a coyote trot.) They were on a laser path to the bucks when they disappeared from sight at the edge of the small timber patch where the deer were feeding.

For a moment, there was no indication of what was going on. Then the bucks busted out  of the timber at the down-wind side. They were running as fast as a buck can run. They climbed to the top of the small ridge and disappeared in seconds.

Bucks don’t run from coyotes.

I didn’t say anything about wolves for a couple of days. Then a coyote crossed the road in front of me at about 30 yards. He was dinky. That’s when I decided my story was definitive.

The first wolf was coyote colored, but it had short hair. I’ve never seen a short-haired coyote. Maybe scraggly, but not short-haired. The following wolf was slightly smaller than the lead wolf, but its coat was long very similar to most coyotes.

A follow-up phone call verified that two wolves had been sighted in the garden recently, just a few miles from where I saw them.

Wolves are not longer just a thought or a vision in California or Devil’s Garden. They are part of our lives. Forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Arrow Head

Wednesday morning, the fifth day of our Devil’s Garden hunt was a little rough. I got to my spot and waited for the sun to light up the scene so I could advance without spooking deer, but it was to no avail as another hunter arrived and chased the deer out of the woods.

That’s what happens when other people discover the deer you’ve been coveting. You have to expect it to happen once or twice each time you hunt in the public domain for a week or more.

The other hunter chased five bucks out of the nearby timber and I spotted them on a ridge top. They were obviously nervous. That’s when I realized exactly what was going on. I spotted the hunter and his driver friend who picked him up in a white dodge truck after he had completed his chase.

It had rained the previous day and tracks on the ground were very easy to follow, so I decided to pick up the trail of the five bucks – a couple of them big ones- and give it a try. I didn’t really think I would track them down, but I wanted to find out if I could.

The wet ground provided a great medium for the tracks. Here’s a photo I took of one of the buck tracks. They always look bigger in mud and the hoof sinks in farther than with dust.

IMG_3584 deer track

After about three or four hours of following the bucks, but never seeing them again, I gave up and began the walk back to the timber where I intended to still-hunt for bedded bucks.

I’d been looking at the ground all day, so it’s no surprise that I kept on looking and then a shiny black piece of obsidian appeared. It was a nice looking point, but unfortunately the tip was broken which is often the case. I snapped a photo of the arrow head.

IMG_3599 arrow head

I have to say that the find lifted my spirits a bit and gave me some energy, which may have contributed to the next days success.

 

The Boss

On the next-to-last evening of the hunt, my cousin Wes and I were sitting in camp and something landed in a large yellow pine above us. The critter was obviously a large bird and it began to chirp loudly.

Before long we figured out that it was a bald eagle and it was giving another eagle a bad time. When the other eagle left, the mature “boss” bird stuck around for a longer visit.

On the last trip out of the campground with my cargo trailer in tow, the eagle appeared again and landed on a large branch of a close-by yellow pine. I was fortunate to snap a few shots of the magnificent animal.

OK. You Tell Me

While hunting and associated travels, I took some wildlife photos whenever I wasn’t too absorbed in finding a buck.

On the way to town one day, I snapped a few photos that had little promise, but I was just firing away.

I must have hit the wrong button on a few, because my Nikon decided to take charge. The result was interesting, but I haven’t taken time to figure out what happened.

Devil’s Garden Archery Hunt

The bottom line. It was a terrific hunt. Had a great time and we all saw bucks.

Yes I got a buck. Here’s the story.

On day six of the season, I had seen quite a few bucks and the numbers seemed to be holding. But, I was a bit worn out when I rose on Thursday. Decided to glass for bucks from the roads.

About 7:30 AM, I spotted three bucks heading up to a mountain top which I was familiar with. I carefully watched as they cleared the rim and took note of the place where they disappeared.

On some occasions I might have gone after the bucks and tried to watch them bed down and then stalk them in their bed. In this case, I decided to conserve my energy and wait until late afternoon to go after them.

About 3:00 PM I parked my truck about a mile from the spot and carefully stayed out of sight of the bucks. After 30 minutes, or maybe and hour, I reached the crest of the hill and stopped to study the area.

Within minutes, a buck appeared to my left. He was walking down wind and cross wind from me. I knew right away I was in a very good position. I raised my range finder and proceeded to range the buck as he neared.

The first range was 60 yards. The next 59 yards, then 42 yards and then 37 yards.

He turned broadside and stepped beside a downed log. There I considered a shot and decided it was good. As I prepared to draw my bow, the buck pawed the ground, circled and circled and laid down.

What a bummer. Now I had no choice but to stand still and ready until the buck stood up. How long would that be?

I found out in almost exactly and hour.

The wind had been steady, coming into my left shoulder. Then, I felt cool air on my right shoulder. The wind was circling and about about to shift direction. I knew the buck would soon get my scent.

That happened almost immediately. I was ready with knocked arrow as the buck stood and looked intently in my direction. But, it did not me.

My fortune was good so far, but the next move was his and it was critical as I didn’t have an open shot where he stood.

Apparently because he could not see me, the buck took two steps forward and again looked in my direction. When he took the first step forward his head went behind a small dead tree and I drew my bow.

With bow draw, he looked directly at me as I place my 30-yard sight pin on the top of his back and released. The buck did not move until my arrow clanked off a rock.

For a moment my heart sank as the sound was probably an indication of a miss.

I struggled up the hill, while dealing with legs that had been motionless for an hour.

When I reached the spot where he had stood, I looked for the arrow hoping that it would be close by.

The arrow was there and it was red. It was the reddest arrow I’ve ever seen. Relieved, I flopped on my back and laid still for what seemed like ten minutes, allowing my body to relax. I knew from the look of the arrow that the deer was probably already dead.

When I stood up I realized that I might be able to see the buck with my field glasses and not have to track him at all. Sure enough, after about five seconds, I saw the buck laying on it’s side.

IMG_3601-1 Rich's 2017 buck

There is more to tell and I’ll be posting again soon, but I just got home and I’m ready for bed.

 

 

Opening Day A-Zone

Spent the A-Zone opening day preparing for the A-4 hunt. Deer numbers on our ranch are so low that it’s really hard to get fired up.

First time I’ve ever hunted with my bow during rifle season. After target shooting for a while, I headed out to look for a buck.

While I was setting up, I got a text that Rob had just shot a 100 pound boar that was cooling off in a pond and he had to wade in chest deep to retrieve it.

Spent the rest of the afternoon waiting patiently at two locations. Never saw a deer until the ride back to camp when I came upon five deer, two of them spikes.

There will be time to hunt the A-Zone later on. Right now I’m focused on preparing for Modoc. Not enough time to do it all.

The mule is loaded in the Cargo Trailer and my check list is nearly complete.