A Doe and Two Bucks

doe and two bucks DSC_0001[1]

These two bucks were bedded next to a doe on a few hundred yards off Ranch Road.

On a return trip from the ranch with a couple friends, we spotted a doe under an oak tree in the shade.

Curious, I pulled over and put the glasses on her. She had two bucks with her. The largest buck was laying in the deepest shade. Surprised?

There was something unusual about the big spike-fork. He was in velvet. A stag?

Probably. When I got home I blew the photo up.

cactus buck ranch road

Not only is this buck an old buck with heavy velvet horns. It looks like he is also a cactus buck – a term for a buck with a bunch of small protrusions at the base of the horn. See the mass around the base of his horns? It will grow larger.

He was too far away for certainty. I’ll be watching for him. Maybe I’ll get a closer look.

Here’s a link to some impressive cactus bucks.

http://www.wideopenspaces.com/7-photos-infamous-cactus-buck-syndrome/

The Rut is On

As I drove home from the ranch on Friday, a small buck crossed the road in front of me. Something was odd, so I stopped and got out of the truck to take a photo of the small buck.

To my surprise, instead of a buck, a doe was standing where I expected the buck.

Surprised, I moved a bit to look around a large oak tree. There stood the buck. The doe departed with the buck close behind. This was a good sign that the rut is on.

Generally the smaller bucks get things started, but as the days pass, the bigger bucks will enter the game. Hopefully before the season is over.

I’ll be out there this week giving it one more try.

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.