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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Tracking Blood – The Wall, the Cliff

Waited for a few minutes and realized that there was no need to wait. This buck would not be found alive, but would it be found?

That’s always the question. This is not TV. Bucks don’t stop and drop.

As this buck passed out of sight, he was running like a race horse. He plowed through a barbed wire fence, breaking one of the strands. And, unfortunately, he was heading down hill.

It was 3 PM and hot. I grabbed a bottle of water, my field glasses, some trail marking tape and my swing-blade knife. That was all I wanted to carry. I hoped it would end quickly.

Searching for first blood is always painful. I walked the trail – nothing obvious.

I walked about 100 yards down the most likely route. Nothing obvious. Why couldn’t he just be there, lying on his side?

Doesn’t happen that way.

Looked at my phone for the time. I was already drenched in sweat. Thought about asking for help. Rob and our friend Terry were somewhere on the ranch, working on projects. Maybe I should text them?

At 3:18 PM I sent a message: “Just shot a good one.”

Then I went back to tracking. Put on my reading glasses and found a drop of blood. Then another and another. The trail began to line out.

Amazing how much easier it was to see blood with the readers on. I moved out at a decent rate. The blood was steady, but limited.

Most of the drops were on dead leaves, rocks branches or on the wild oats.

At 4:11 PM, almost an hour after my call for assistance, my cell phone sounded. It was Rob. He replied, “Cool,  pond on 26?”

I replied, “Yes, still tracking.”

Rob asked if I wanted help? I felt like saying, “Are you kidding?” but only responded “Yes.”

About 100 yards from the start of the trail, I was still on blood, but it was tough going. It was wickedly hot. Occasionally I’d walk ahead and search the area with my field glasses.

I got a break when I found a drop of blood about 50 yards down the trail. Kept thinking I’d find him on his side at any time, but he wasn’t there.

Then I found my arrow. It was covered in blood from one end to the other. It was clear that my arrow had penetrated through both sides of the buck, but it had remained in him for nearly 200 yards. This was a good sign.

At 4:34, Rob texted that he was at the pond. I told him to come straight down the hill and he’d find me. Now I was about 200-250  yards from the pond, but I couldn’t find any more blood.

Rob and Terry arrived and I was quite relieved to have help as I was hitting the dredded wall. I was reaching the point where my concentration was declining. Rob found blood where I couldn’t.

Then we got a big break. The buck had back-tracked for about 20 yards, leaving the main trail and Rob spotted his hoof print. As the buck was heading down a steep incline, his hoof marks were clear. Combining his tracks and drops of blood, the process began to speed up.

We began to notice that he was wobbling, bouncing of brush and trees.

He was off the main trail. Terry moved ahead of Rob and I. It was now about 6 PM and it was cooling off a little. I didn’t have much left, but we knew he wasn’t far away. The question was, would we find him before he spoiled?

Terry was standing on the edge of a cliff, and said matter of factly, “He hit the ground right here.”

Rob and I were about 25 yards behind Terry and abandoned the blood trail to walk to Terry’s side. That’s when Terry looked over the 20 foot high cliff and spotted the buck. He had gone over the edge and landed on a boulder about half way down.

He was surrounded by a patch of poison oak, but he was ours. I would not have recovered him by myself. I just wouldn’t have had enough stamina.

Probably would have found him the next day – after the buzzards worked over his stinky body. We arrived at the site of his demise after nearly four hours of tracking. He probably covered that same route in less than a minute.

I climbed down to the boulder and pulled him off into the poison oak. Terry and I drug him to a shady spot where I could work on him.

We took photos. I was so tired that I could barely hold my head up.

We couldn’t drive an ATV to  this spot, so after the photo session,  I began the process of boning while Terry and Rob climbed the hill to retrieve my pack, game  bags and water.

It was all I could do to wrestle the intestines from the deer, cut off his hind quarters and remove his back straps.

Terry returned and helped bone out the hind quarters and finish the front quarters. I assisted, once again thankful for the help.

Rob returned about 7 PM and we were almost done with the meat. Next I sawed off the buck’s antlers and we loaded the pack. Climbing the hill with the meat would be my final job.

It was slow going as my legs felt like they might explode.

Finally the truck and more water. My legs were cramping, but the test was over.

From the top of the ridge I called home. It was  9:04.

PS: I’ve eaten barbecued back strap the last two nights and the meat is excellent!

Ranch Bucks 2012

For the first time I can recall, an entire deer season and post season has passed without sighting of a large buck. Typically we’ll see at least a couple of big bucks during the hunting season or at te very least during the post-season rut.

This was a slim year for bucks. Maybe it was due to limited forage related to low rainfall or maybe something else. We didn’t fire a shot this year as none of the bucks we saw justified shooting. We could have killed  forked horn bucks, but decided to pass. Here are a couple of photos of this year’s larger bucks.

This buck was following does in November.

This buck was following does in November.

The buck is a little hard to see, but if you click on the photo to enlarge it, you’ll see him in the center of the photo behind the yellow grass. He’s bigger than any we spotted during the hunting season.

Here’s a buck we saw frequently and he lives in the middle of the ranch. We passed on many opportunities to shoot him. We’re hoping he’ll live long enough to grow some better antlers.

Hopefully he can avoid the mountain lions for a couple more years.

Hopefully, this buck can avoid the mountain lions for a couple more years.

There are two bucks in the photo. The one behind is smaller than the centered buck. Maybe we’ll get better horn growth this year and these bucks will tempt us in 2013.

 

How Many Mustangs can a Gray Wolf Eat?

Non-native wild horses are overly abundant in many western states, including California. Their presence has a negative impact upon the habitat of many native species including mule deer.

Another species is now present in California that may also have a negative impact upon mule deer. Concerned about predation by gray wolves, I asked a biologist friend if he thought gray wolves would impact the California mule deer population.

His response may have been only half serious, but he said the wild horses might have more to worry about than the deer.

In an effort to do some research and establish parameters for continuation of this discussion, I conducted an internet search for more information. I searched for “Wolves and wild horses” on Goggle Search.

This was my answer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b2ZMwxMsXM

Not satisfied with this answer, I modified my search and came up with information provided in the following link. I believe the second link is  more accurate and realistic: http://washparkprophet.blogspot.com/2007/09/lions-wolves-and-horses.html

For each horse that feeds a wolf, we’ll probably gain about ten mule deer. Wolves or horses? It’s a close call.