Blacktail Bucks

Here are a few I found in the archives. You can see that the predominant antler characteristic is forked horn. A four-point buck is unusual.

These are all California black-tailed deer.

Top left: Cache Creek (My brother, Rob, took this one.). Top Center: Golden Gate Park. Top right: Pebble Beach.

Second row left: Sand trap at Pebble Beach.

Second row up from the bottom on the left is another Golden Gate Park buck.

I believe all the rest were photographed on or near our ranch in Alameda County.

The Good, the Bad, the ugly

Weather patterns over the fast five years have created some of the worst conditions for wildlife habitat we’ve seen in our area during our lifetime.

Drought, habitat decline and more drought took the habitat on our ranch from excellent five years ago, to bare bones in 2014/15.

My personal opinion is that deer numbers are down about 75%. I haven’t seen anything official to confirm that. Two years ago deer hit bottom and dropped like flies. A few survived – hopefully enough to make a comeback.

The silver lining is that 2016 has brought excellent rain and the habitat is rebounding. The reduced numbers of deer has created a scenario where the habitat is producing in some areas like never seen before.

Among the benefactors are oak trees. When compared to average years, the number of acorns that are hitting the ground and staying there are unusually high.

IMG_2189 on tree

Deer, rodents and cattle normally scoop up acorns as fast as they fall, but this year the mast crop in exceptional and a lack of deer and other acorn eaters could potentially contribute to successful sprouting of new trees, which is unusual.

IMG_2183 blue oak on ground

Due to this bounty of food, the deer we do have, should be healthy so let’s hope next year’s fawn crop will respond.

A-Zone Opener

Saturday August 13th was opening day for the California “A” Zone – the Central California Coastal zone for blacktailed deer.

The hunting in this zone takes place mainly on private ranches like ours. Standing on our ridge, we can see San Francisco Bay, Mount Diablo and to the east the Central Valley. On the clearest of days, the Sierra Nevada mountains can be seen.

Hunting takes place in weather that averages in the 90’s and it was that way this last weekend.

Our deer herd is down in numbers to about 20 percent of the population from four years ago when five of us could likely kill a buck on opening weekend. It was expected that we would see a half dozen or more bucks apiece.

Weather patterns, especially the drought, seems to be the reason behind the decline. This weekend, my deer count was seven. Two spike bucks, three does, one fawn and one legal buck.

However, the excitement did come about mid-day on Saturday. While still hunting through a likely bedding area, I came upon a buck that was sneaking along about 50 yards from me. For some reason, it seemed like he had not seen me when he stopped and bedded down facing generally in my direction, but not focused on me.

Frustrated that he had not stood still long enough for me to get off a broadside shot, I began to worry a little more than I should have. While generally pretty patient, for some reason, I got antsy and began to look at the buck though my scope. I realized that if I moved about a foot to my left, I might have a shooting lane.

I looked again through the scope and could see his brisket, head and horns clearly. It looked like an easy shot, but a little jolt of buck fever was brewing in my mind. For no good reason I rushed the shot and saw the bullet hit the ground just below the buck.

He was so surprised that he didn’t even move, but stared in my direction looking for me. As I looked through the scope at the buck, I realized that he was giving me a chance for another shot, but as I worked the bolt, he pinpointed my location, rose and sneaked off. I nearly had a chance at him walking, but then he was gone.

This was the closest rifle shot I’ve ever missed, but it points out the fact that shots at lying-down bucks are not as easy as they may appear. My only previous success at a buck while lying down was from a tree stand  where elevation created a much better angle at the deer’s body.

Case of temporary buck insanity was a good thing to get out of the way and I didn’t have to get bloody. Nice to know that I still get excited by a nice looking buck at close range.

 

 

More Fawns?

There are obviously fewer deer on our ranch now, than five years ago. The drought had a big impact on the health of the deer herd. At the peak of the drought, we found deer carcasses on the ground, something that is seldom seen as usually deer die and are eaten by predators and/or scavengers immediately.

As a result of the drought, predators also took a big hit. We have fewer coyotes on our ranch than we had five years ago. Probably mountain lions are fewer as well, but we have no data to support any of these suppositions.

As I snapped a photo of a young fawn, I wondered about fawn survival this year. I hope and believe that it will be greater due to improved habitat and reduced predation. That is the way nature is supposed to work.

DSC_0037[1] fawn ranch road

Rutty Buck

The downside of hunting for big bucks during the rut is that the meat may be less desirable than deer killed before or after the rut. The buck I killed in Montana last November was rutting. And, it’s meat has an after taste that is bearable, but not good.

The buck was processed by a butcher into roasts and hamburger. I like summer sausage and the method I use is to purchase a kit made by High Mountain Seasonings. The kit calls for 80% deer meat and 20% pork. The meat is ground and mixed together. Unfortunately I had 10% beef fat added to my deer meat during the hamburger making process.

I decided to take a risk and use the hamburger straight from the package, using the ingredients and recipe I’ve use previously with success.

The resulting sausage was more like a boloney than summer sausage and definitely not as tasty, but it will work for sandwiches, so the effort was not wasted. Next I’ll be trying roasts by making summer sausage the traditional way. I believe it will be fine, but we’ll find out soon.

 

CDFW Reminds the Public to Leave Young Wildlife Alone

I’ve heard several stories about people making pets of fawns. All of them have turned out poorly. Fawns are cute and fun when they are very little.

As deer mature, they eventually become unmanageable. On one occasion, a friend of mine had a pet deer that was so unafraid of people that he let a stranger put him in his car. That mistake surely came back to haunt the deer-napper and probably led to the deer’s demise.

A pet buck becomes dangerous as it matures. Deer are best suited for a life in the wild and losing their fear of humans is usually a fatal flaw. They do not need personal attention from people.

 

CDFW News

Fawn in grass Fawn in the wild

Media Contacts:
Nicole Carion, CDFW Wildlife Biologist, (530) 357-3986
Carol Singleton, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8962

During spring wildlife are busy attending to their new offspring, foraging food and expanding their habitat. During this season of rebirth, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reminds people to leave young wildlife alone if they see them outdoors. The improper handling of young wildlife is a problem in California and across the nation, especially in spring.

“Many people don’t realize that it is illegal to keep California native wildlife as pets,” said Nicole Carion, CDFW’s statewide coordinator for wildlife rehabilitation. “Never assume when see young wildlife alone that they need assistance. Possibly, the mother is simply out foraging for food. If you care, leave them there.”

A healthy fawn may lay or stand quietly by itself in one location for hours while its mother is away feeding. Once a fawn…

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