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.

Fate of A4 Deer Hunt Yet to be Determined

Sent my A4 to back to the license and revenue branch thinking there was no hope that the closure of Devil’s Garden would be reversed.

However rains during the last few days may have opened the door a bit. If the closure is lifted or modified in a way that creates real deer hunting, I’ll be heading to Sacramento to retrieve the tag.

The next few days will tell the tale.

The A4 deer hunt is not the only hunting in jeopardy. The Clearlake Reservoir antelope hunt is also up in the air. And, the September elk hunt is not out of the woods either.

Obviously, the deeper into fall a hunt takes place, the better the chance the closure will be over.

According to Ken Sandusky the public affairs office for Modoc National Forest, another factor is that Modoc is hunter country and many of the people involved in decision making are hunters themselves.

We’ll see what happens. Here are a few Devil’s Garden scenes.

Looks Good for Ground Nesters

Been seeking some successful nesting signs for turkey, pheasant and quail. Here is some evidence.

Last week I ran into three hen turkeys at the ranch. looks like they had a couple of poults each. That’s pretty good success on our ranch where there are lots of predators.

DSC_0152[1] turkey flock

It’s not always easy to pick out the poults this time of year. Size varies, depending upon when the young hatched.

Driving to work on my trailer at Mayberry Saturday and Sunday, I bumped into a half-dozen pheasant broods. The seemed to have between four and six poults in each. Once again that looks pretty good to me.

DSC_0164[1] pheasant poults

Seems that the number of quail chicks is also very healthy. Maybe there will be some successful upland game bird hunting this fall.

Devil’s Garden Fires Threaten Hunts

Had a great trip to Modoc to scout for deer. And, we did find some. Take note, they were in a burn.

Burns are a vital ingredient of deer habitat. The fires return the climax forest growth to a new start of the plant succession. Mule deer do best in habitat with young plants that sprout after a fire removes the timber that shades out new growth.

bucks in northeast Devil's Garden

We also witnessed several days of lightning a an accumulation of small wild fires that began to expand.

Upon our return home, we were greeted by a notice of closure of most of the Devil’s Garden for the remainder of the fire season (October 1) See link.

Modoc fire closure order 8-1-17-1

Here’s a map showing the closure area.

Modoc Fire closure map 8-1-17-4

The closure is for northeastern Modoc National Forest in the Devil’s Garden area. Unfortunately, that’s where all the mule deer spend their time on the summer range along with most of the antelope and elk. For deer it’s a no-brainer and I’ve already send a letter in to the License and Revenue Branch requesting a reinstatement of my preference points.

Appeal letter

For antelope and elk it’s not as clear. There are some antelope and elk that hang out in the southern portion of the Garden,in summer, but most of the antelope appear to hang out near Clear Lake Reservoir.

aantelope at Clear Lake DSC_0079

Just to make sure I wasn’t missing out on an opportunity, I contacted Collins Company. Collins Company, AKA Collins Pine. Collins owns owns a large portion of the summer range in northeastern Modoc and has a long track record for providing public access to hunt and camp.

The Collins Forest Manager said, “Find another place to hunt.”

That effectively closed the last potential opportunity for a deer hunt. If my appeal is granted, my preference points will be reinstated and my deer tag forteited.

IMG_3557 burn pano

So, these events are a double-edged sword. While some of the areas scared by fire will produce only junipers and cheat grass, other areas will provide a fresh succession of preferred plant growth that will enhance the habitat of Modoc deer for years to come.

Hunter’s Inventory

Early summer is a great time for taking stalk of the annual wildlife production, especially if you’re a hunter.

A hunter can’t help but notice the young of the year that begin to expose themselves during late spring and early summer.

While flocks of larks, blackbirds and magpies are noteworthy, it’s the game species that catch the hunter’s eye and so it was this weekend as we focused on hunting at the ranch.

Our primary thoughts were centered on preparing for our August archery mule deer hunt – A4. Knowing that we need to prepare, we decided to spend the weekend hunting for our ranches limited population of pigs while also setting up targets and honing our shooting skill.

This morning we set out early in search of the dozen or so pigs that live on our 2,000 acre ranch, knowing that we might catch them out in the open grassland when they are easy to spot.

IMG_3255 ducklings

Signs of a good mallard hatch have been abundant.

The pigs were elusive, but at the second pond we checked, my brother, Rob, couldn’t help but notice that a mallard hen and its brood of four ducklings were huddled up on the pond’s dam, a good sign that four young of the year had survived long enough to create a sense of optimism about their chances of reaching maturity.

We recalled that last year a hen mallard (maybe the same one) on that same pond had lost its entire brood.

We moved on searching for the pigs, but they were not cooperating. We couldn’t help but notice that deer numbers were dismal. The drought of 2014/15 had a drastic impact upon the number of deer on our ranch and we covered three-quarters of the ranch without seeing a single deer. Finally a lone yearling doe stuck it’s head up out of the annual grasses.

On the other hand, flocks of quail were diving into the brush everywhere we went, especially when we drove through a 200 acres brush patch that provides the most security for quail. I’m sure we saw several hundred quail, in every size and shape. Prospects for quail season hit the roof.

Valley quail

Prospects for quail in 2017 are excellent.

In general, game birds seemed to be doing well. Quail and dove especially, but we also came upon a group of five gobblers that were following a hen around. Seems a little late, but they didn’t want to give up. One of the five toms had a beard that looked to be eleven inches long and was quite thick.

Although we didn’t find the pigs, we think they are around the area somewhere. In the meantime we filled our archery targets full of holes,  set back the local ground squirrel population and I managed to get started on sighting in the rifle that I intend to use on a late-season mule deer hunt next fall.

We also avoided an impending disaster when Rob opened up the Kawasaki Mule and discovered that rats had built a nest inside and nearly destroyed the wiring that controls virtually everything. It was also a fire hazard in the making.

We also confirmed our date for scouting the X2 zone, enjoyed a few cocktails and barbecued some of last season’s venison.

The big disappointment was seeing no bucks, but that was somewhat offset by the fact that the does appear to have multiple fawns. Maybe the predator population is down as well and if so we will have deer again in a few years.

DSC_0077[1] doe and fawns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archery Pig Hunt

Had a chance to hunt pigs for a day so I hopped into my truck and buzzed down I-5 to Highway 41 and turned west to Jack’s Ranch Cafe. That’s where I met up with my guide for the day.

The temperature was perfect, hovering around 101 degrees all afternoon while I shot my bow and prepared to spend the night on the mountain hoping to have a dumb pig walk up to me in the morning.

 

 

Sure enough, as I stood next to my pickup truck and waited for enough light to see, four pigs appeared in the cut barley to the north of me. But they were not dumb. They fed around a bit, about 200 yards away and didn’t stick around long. Once it was light enough to see they lined out and headed for safer territory.

By 8:00 AM with the temperature heading back towards 100, I departed for home. This was the shortest pig hunt ever. Did see about 25 pigs, but they were all leaving.

The photos show the landscape along with few pigs I drove past on the side of the road, a green gopher snake (bull snake) and a (killed by others) boar that was hanging in camp on the way out.

It was a bit of an adventure seeing country I’d not seen before and sleeping in the back of my truck on top of the mountain.