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.

Rattler and Ground Squirrel

Every once in a while a rattle snake happens to appear and attract the attention of one or more ground squirrels. The snakes prey on the ground squirrels, but the adult squirrels also fight back. It is common knowledge (meaning that it is unverified by me) that adult squirrels have an immunity to the rattle snake venom.

Here is a video taken last Friday while we were sighting in our rifles up at the ranch.

MDF-NEF Event a Success

Took a while to get it together, but the pain was worth it as 40 guests and ten knowledgeable tour leaders traveled from one location in the East Bay Area to another for two full days.

Tours included a first class trophy room, various wildlife barriers in the Altamont Hills and open space lands of Southeastern Alameda County.

Here are some photos taken by the participants on Friday.

 

 

Saturday morning brought on a new day of travels as the group slit up in eight four-wheel-drive trucks to tour lands of the SFPUC, EBRPD and private properties owned by Fletcher Ranch Road Properties, LLC. Here are some photos taken by the crew on Saturday.

 

At the Saturday night dinner, the group donated over $130,000 to the Mule Deer Foundation National Endowment Fund. How about that!

 

Just Another Day at the Ranch Continued

(Continuing from my previous post, “Just Another Day at the Ranch”)

I stood looking at the mother ground squirrel wondering what it was doing. As I watched I realized that my camera was in the truck about 50 feet away. Would I be able to grab it and return before the squirrel departed. So far it had stood quite still unable to determine what to do.

I walked to the truck and grabbed the camera. When I returned to the squirrel, it had not moved. Apparently it couldn’t make up its mind about how to proceed. I looked at the squirrel again and the baby squirrel wiggled in the mother squirrels mouth. Now I was certain that the mother squirrel meant no harm to its baby. Occasionally the mother would put its front foot up and push the baby back into its mouth. I realized that it was likely moving the baby squirrel from one site to another.

I began to take photos of the squirrel as it moved slowly around me. It was heading towards the creek and also towards my daughter, grand son and son-in-law. I took several photos.

The squirrel passed within a few feet of the others and they got a close up view of what was going on. The squirrel disappeared into a pile of boulders and later came back out retracing its steps and probably returning for another baby to transport.

Why would it do this? The only thing that makes sense is that something like a gopher snake had invaded its nest and the mother squirrel was rescuing as many young squirrels as possible.

Seeing the hairless and sightless baby exposed to the elements was a rare occurrence.

 

Just Another Day at the Ranch

Took the family to the ranch today. Cold and Windy. Not the kind of day that you want when looking for critters.

My grandson is wild about anything that’s alive. Everything is new and exciting. As he and his father wandered up the creek from where we parked, I began a slow walk up another draw. A ground squirrel appeared and if there had been anything else around to watch, I probably would have paid it no attention. But, I did look and it appeared that there was something in its mouth, so I raised my field glasses and looked.

This is what I saw.

ground squirrel mother DSC_0998[1]

Very compelling and one of the best subjects I’ve ever seen.

Mock Turkey Hunt

Turkeys were spread out in smaller groups yesterday – a good sign if you’re a turkey hunter. With the big flocks divided up, it’s a lot easier to find a callable bird.

For me, it was not a hunt. But, I couldn’t resist bringing my box call. I stopped above camp and made a few calls. Nothing.

When I reached camp, I again pulled out the box. One set of yelps and a gobbler answered from the property to the west. I moved to a controlling position overlooking where the gobble had come from and sat down.

Then I yelped again. The gobbler answered immediately. He wasn’t far away. I waited. He gobbled on his own twice. He was coming.

After a period of minutes, I yelped and he answered. Now closer. I scratched the box softly a couple times. He didn’t answer, so I waited to see him.

He appeared at about 50 yards and walked up hill directly towards me. He came to 30, then 20. I had my camera up, but since I was nearly laying down, grasses twigs were preventing me from getting a good focus.

Finally at ten yards, I got a pretty good focus and snapped a decent photo.

DSC_0962 wanna fight

Mr. Ugly and a serious fighter, this bird looked like he’d been to war.

Then, because he couldn’t get through the fence next to me, he turned and walked down the hill about 40 yards to a better pathway. There I got some good photos as he strutted and wondered where the calling hen had gone.

His harem of four hens followed about 30 yards behind him.

DSC_0995 member of the harem

At this point there wasn’t much left to do, except wait for him to leave so I could begin doing the chores I was there for. After I while he continued on this way looking for the mystery hen.

Apparently the four hens that followed him didn’t need his services any more on this day. Not sure why they were hanging out with him.