Last Weekend A-Zone Deer Season

The last weekend of deer season is some of the best hunting as the bucks are on the move and spending more time in the open. That proved to be the case on Friday the 20th as Rob and cousin Wes saw eight bucks. Wes shot a nice forked horn.

I arrived Saturday morning expecting more of the same, but strong winds seemed to keep the deer out of sight.

 

About 9 AM I moved to a new spot for an hour. Nothing in sight. Tried sitting on a popular water hole. Jumped a covey of quail. Checked a likely draw where the deer move around staying out of the wind. Jumped another covey of quail.

Decided to move to the other end of the ranch and came upon a bobcat.

DSC_0115 bobcat

Not a great photo due to the shade from the tree, but it is a bobcat.

I arrived at my afternoon ambush location about 1:30 PM with the goal of sitting quiet for the remainder of the day. Had a nice view again.

IMG_7280 Mt Diablo

The pond I was watching is quite small, center left in the photo. Mount Diablo is prominent on the horizon.

Sunset would come about 7 PM. The Giants-Braves game came on at 4:20 PM. In the meantime, I studied acorns in the oak trees around me, watched birds – acorn woodpeckers, scrub jays, ravens, starlings, a red-shouldered hawk and occasional buzzards and constantly upgraded the dirt on which I was sitting.

The good news (or maybe the bad news) was that the best solar-lunar period was due to hit at 6:00 PM giving me a possible boost for the last hour of the day. It also meant that I had to stick it out to find out.

I checked the ranges to every interesting point in sight attempting to be prepared if something came by. It was 283 yards to the far side of the pond. That would be a hail Mary. The trail from the pond to where I sat was well used, mostly by cattle, but also by deer and pig. Oh yes, I had both types of tags – but I hadn’t killed a pig on our ranch since 1985.

Finally 6 PM arrived and I sat up a little straighter. Field glasses were at my left. My rifle and spotting scope were on my right. If I couldn’t shoot something, I could maybe view it to death.

At about 6:10 PM, I heard a shot. I texted one of my neighbors and asked him if his party had just shot something. He said no, it was probably another neighbor that I don’t know. He did acknowledge that one of their camp had killed a buck earlier in the day and sent me a photo.

About five minutes later, I saw something move just past the pond – about 300 yards out. With my field glasses I confirmed that it was a large black pig and it was walking towards the pond.

The pig was approaching the pond slowly, but not cautiously. The key to killing a pig, is to be in the right place at the right time. Skill is not paramount, unless you call sitting in one spot for six hours skill.

I considered testing my long-range shooting skill. 300 yards is long range for me. But why do that when he might walk right up to me, so I continued to wait patiently. After taking a short dip in the pond, the pig walked into a stand of oak trees and disappeared for a few minutes. Then he came out and rubbed against a medium-sized blue oak.

After completing his rub, he turned and strolled in my direction. Now he was at 176 yards and I had to seriously consider shooting him. Did I want to get covered in pig blood at this time of day? Managing the pig population by hunting is written into our ranch management plan. That was a good-enough reason to shoot him.

The pigs on are ranch are good eating. That was another reason to shoot him. It looked like no deer were going to show, so I wouldn’t be ruining my deer hunt which would be over in 30 minutes anyway.

Now the pig was forcing the issue. He was inside 125 yards and the next time I saw him he would be at 94 yards – another range I’d verified ten times over the course of the afternoon.

Sure enough, he popped out on the trail at 94 yards. I decided to do it. I put the cross hairs of my 3×9 scope on the pig and waited for a good angle. He was getting closer every minute. Finally I could wait no longer. I aimed for his heart and squeezed.

As the bullet hit the pig, he let out a small squeal and turned up hill at full speed. He then passed out of sight – running all out.

I was confident in the shot. I picked up my gear and headed for the truck. There was a road to the pond and I’d drive it to be a little closer to where he should be laying and also a down-hill pack instead of up-hill.

I parked the truck and headed in the direction he had ran – no sign of him. I circled around. Then I went in the direction it appeared he was headed. No pig.

I decided to drive to the pond to see if he had run towards the water. The sun was going down and I really didn’t want to get into a full scale tracking job. He wasn’t at the pond. I drove back to the trail and took the route he had taken as he approached me.

Just as I got to the spot where he had been standing at the shot, I glanced up a small ravine. There he was. He had run forty yards up the hill and died. Then he had rolled 40 yards down hill back to the point of beginning. Pigs roll well. I was relieved that the pig was found and dead. Of course I gave him a ceremonial kick in the butt. He sure had big testicles – a real boar.

I didn’t want to gut him out so I cut him up working from the outside. I was done pretty quickly. I didn’t keep his head, but maybe I’ll go back and bury it somewhere where the bugs can clean him up. He had modest teeth.

I made it back to camp just after dark and I was surprised to meet brother Rob and cousin Wes on the way back. Rob had shot a nice buck just before sunset. Sonar-lunar tables are good information.

IMG_4752 Robs buck

Rob found this buck with a doe not a quarter mile from camp.

We were both happy to call it a season.

Saw a few deer on the way home the next day.

 

 

 

Photos From the Deck

On this trip to Almanor, I decided to bring my camera and take some pictures of the wildlife around our deck. Here is some wild and some not so wild.

sea gulls waiting

Sea gulls on the lake seemed to be waiting for something.

DSC_0003ground squirrel watching

This ground squirrel was alert.

DSC_0002 boaters boating

Of course boaters were boating.

DSC_0008 steller jay waiting

Like the sea gulls this Steller Jay seemed to be waiting.

DSC_0033 nuthatch pecking

This nuthatch was upside down.

DSC_0006 black bird huntng bugs

Black birds were hunting bugs.

IMG_7096 Rich watching his running shoes

As a breeze freshened, I walked down towards the water and sat while admiring the lake and my running shoes.

The Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered hawks seem to have increased their range over my lifetime. This is an observation and may or may not be true. They are most often seen in riparian areas. They are very vocal and their call is loud.

They are a member of the Buteo family of raptors and their wings appear a bit stubby, apparently to help them fly through trees and brush while pursuing their prey.

Here are a couple of my best red-shouldered hawk photos. These pictures are of the same hawk, that flew to a pond where I was standing with camera in hand.

 

Tri-Colored Black Bird

The tri-colored blackbird is a species that is in decline. Lack of habitat is the basis for most declines. I’ve heard that there are ongoing efforts to reverse the trend, but I don’t know if they are effective.

Here’s a link: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/tricolored-blackbird

On a few occasions I’ve had a chance to photograph them. Here are two photos of tri-colored and another photo of a red-winged blackbird. They are very similar in appearance.

Here is a red-winged black bird.

blackbird 6 CCSF pond 6-7-12

Ranch Photos in late February

Drove out to the ranch last Saturday to do some cleanup around the yard. Took photos on the way in and the way out. Here are a few of them. Click on them to read the captions.

 

 

Lola and the Bald Eagle

 

When the bald eagle (above) attempted to steal a ground squirrel from the golden eagle in the second and third photos, it became an aerial battle.

Yesterday, I feared I’d be seeing another, more personal battle – over a teal that I had just shot. As my retriever, Lola, approached the downed bird, my hunting partner, Tom Billingsley, uttered the words, “Bald eagle,” as he looked upward.

Sure enough a bald eagle had just passed overhead flying in Lola’s direction. It was an eagle we had seen many times in the past. As the bird dropped lower and circled Lola with the dead green-wing teal,  I felt some trepidation.

My next thought was that Lola would probably just give the bird up, but what if she didn’t? I was thinking about firing a shot into the air to scare the eagle away.

Then a pair of teal flew past and I fired at the birds twice. One of them seemed to be wounded and the eagle immediately took up the chase, leaving Lola to retrieve the dead bird that lay in the water at her feet.

IMG_0022 Lola teal by Joe

Photo by Joe DiDonato

 

I was happy to have my dog back unharmed.

No kidding.

Flickers on Bush Hog

About four or five years ago I was sitting in my deer stand about 12 feet off the ground when a flicker landed on the oak tree next to me about 25 or 30 feet away. He was gorgeous.

Flickers are common, but elusive to the lens.

It was my first opportunity to take some serious flicker photos. When I got home and checked them out, they were tremendous.

For some reason, I misplaced those photos and I’ve never figured out how, but they are gone forever.

The wind was blowing hard a few Sundays ago while working on my Airstream trailer. It was the same wind that started the now famous Napa and Santa Rosa fires.

Birds were greatly affected by the wind. A pair of pheasants walked by me without giving me a look. Then this pair of flickers landed on an old piece of farm equipment.

It was an opportunity too good to pass up. It’s not a great photo, but it is my best flicker photo. I’ll keep trying to do better, but for now – here it is.

flickers on bushhog DSC_0032[1]

Flickers on a bush hog.