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.




Bobcat on a Limb

A few weeks ago I was leaving the ranch when a young bobcat appeared on the road in front of me. Unlike most wild animals, this cat decided to walk and run down the road in front of me and continued to do so for several hundred yards.

Eventually I decided that maybe I’d get a chance to photograph the cat and moved my camera onto my lap where it would be handy.

Finally the cat decided to leave the road and as I passed its location I spotted the cat standing on the limb of a downed tree. I grabbed the camera and made an attempt to photograph the cat before it disappeared into the woods.

Not expecting the photo to turn out, I didn’t even review the shot when I got home.

While glancing through photos on my computer yesterday, I noticed that the cat photo was interesting. Here it is.

DSC_0214[1] bobcat

I like the silhouette and the one eye. You can’t be sure when a photo will be worthwhile. Just keep firing away and maybe something good will happen.

Another Day at the Ranch

Yesterday was a good day at the ranch.

The day got off on a good note when I spotted a group of tule elk bulls feeding along the side of highway 84. I did you U-turn and snapped a few photos.

Not often does one see tule elk along a major highway.

Not often does one see tule elk along a major highway.

Here they are again.

Here they are again.

Impressive animals.

Arriving about 8 AM, the first item on the agenda was a whipsnake survey. Unfortunately I found only a western fence liizard for my efforts, but did snap a couple more photos.

Basking in the morning sun, every rock had either a meadow lark, horned lark or some other bird on top of it.

Basking in the morning sun, every rock had either a meadow lark, horned lark or some other bird on top of it.

A morning dove perched on the dead limbs of a blue oak.

Morning doves are sleek.

Morning doves are sleek.

It has been a good year for some wildflowers.

The Mariposa lily is a plant that has done well this season.

The mariposa lily is a plant that has done well this season.

We had a crew of eager helpers

We had a crew of eager helpers.

This larvae has almost no dorsal fin, shrinking gills and muscle development in his legs. We expect that he will leave the pond within a few days to a couple weeks.

This larvae has almost no dorsal fin, shrinking gills and muscle development in his legs. We expect that he will leave the pond within a few days to a couple weeks.

On the way home, a bobcat walked across the road in front of me. I snapped a photo before he went out of site. I think I’ve photographed him before.

Took this photo from about 100 yards.

Took this photo from about 100 yards.

Lola Meets Mr. Bobcat

A little over two years ago, Lola and I came across a bobcat while walking our normal hiking route. The cat didn’t hang around very long and Lola became quite excited, but that was the end of it.

A few days ago we were walking the route again, and Lola began barking in the exact spot where the cat had been hiding on the previous encounter. I immediately reached for my iPhone and you can see for yourself what happened. This is a testimony to the fact that wild animals have places where they hang out repeatedly over time. This cat was probably laying in the same spot as on the previous encounter over two years prior.

Although Lola probably outweighed the cat by 25-30 pounds, the cat was the taller of the two and seemed to have little fear of the dog.

Cats and Dogs

Sometimes dogs and cats get along, but only when they get to know each other at an early age. This fearless tom cat named Spike was friendly to my old hunting partner Valentine.

Dogs and cats were created to be different. Lola likes our two Siamese cats, but they hate her. She tries to play and all they want to do is run away or scratch her eyeballs out.

Lola thinks just about everything is her friend, but that doesn’t stop her from chasing it when he runs or retrieving it after its dead.

Here’s one that didn’t get away from Lola.

I’ve huned enough with Lola to know when something is up.

Last week we were hiking in familiar territory. We took a lesser-used ridge, with no trail, down a hill. It was only about 200 yards between trails, but as soon as we left the beaten path, Lola became animated. she put her nose to the ground and then jerked her head up as if expecting to see something, but nothing was there.

Not wanting her to get carried away, I gave her a soft comeon and she turned in the direction I was heading, but then she gained speed and before I knew it she was face to face with, and five yards from, a full-grown bobcat.

This cat was similar in size to the one Lola discovered.

The cat stood as tall as possible and Lola let out a sound that can only be described as hounddoggish. The cat tried to high-five Lola and they broke off. The cat jumped off a steep bank and my hollering stopped Lola from following.

For the rest of the hike, I could tell Lola was a bit off her game. I think she felt like a baseball player after taking a fat pitch. She’d liked to have had the opportunity over again.

No labs around this house.

Pond Repair at the Ranch

The key to life at the ranch is water. It comes in somewhat limited supply and anything we can do to improve water sources improves the habiat not only for livestock, but  for wildlife as well.

With 18 ponds over the 2,000 acres, we do have good water supplies, but over the years the ponds have suffered from a lack of maintainance. This year we decided to bring them up to speed. Obtaining permits from the state was a challenge, but we did manage to obtain permits to work on seven ponds that were not on “blue line” streams. Blue line means streams that have some year-round water.

Here’s an example of the work.

repairing the pond cropped and resized

With a D6 Catapillar bulldozer, dirt was scrapped from the adjacent hillside to create a source of fill. The large breach in this dam took several hours to fill. After filling it, we laid timbers and block to create a cascade effect in the spillway. We’ll be going back to rock in the remaining dirt portion. We seed the scarp with native grass seeds and cover the area with rice straw or jute matting. Rice straw contains few, if any, seeds from plants that can survive in the hills. Therefore we hope we’ve not introduced any unwanted new species.

We had a biologist on hand throughout the period and his job was to inform the bulldozer driver and other laborers (us) about any possible “take” of endangered species. He did a good job. Species of the most concern were the California tiger salmander and the California red-legged frog. This pond was very dry and there was not sign of any of the aforementioned critters.

As cousin Wes and I drove to pick up some blocks to use in the spillway, we came across this bobcat and I snapped a photo as it looked back at us.

bobcat looks back (3) cropped