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.

California Red-Legged Frog Egg Mass

California red-legged frogs are listed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened where ever they are found.


This is an adult California Red-legged frog.

Around March 1 is the time of year when we see California red-legged frog egg masses in our ponds. Here is an egg mass photographed on February 26.

IMG_2877 CRF egg mass

This red-legged frog egg mass stands out because it is covered with silt from the murky pond water. The egg mass was photographed on February 26, 2017.

These eggs will produce larva (tad poles) which will eventually morph into frogs by July or August. We see the juvenile frogs in the ponds into late September. During the fall they will disappear from the ponds and move into underground burrows or other hiding places to endure the winter months.

juvenile red leg frog cropped

Juvenile red-legged frogs live in the ponds until fall when they will depart for underground burrows which provide winter security.

The Big Buck Contest

Next Saturday, is the date of the local big buck contest, an annual event and as usual I’m looking forward to it. I don’t think I’ve missed one in the last 25 years.

All the usual characters will be there and the format will be familiar.There will be three categories of the bucks, local, all California and out of state. For the last few years, the contest has been held on a weekend and it has a family flavor, but that hasn’t always been the case.Winning the contest at least once is on everybody’s bucket list.

This weekend the event will be filled with wives and children and attendance numbers will be higher than ten years ago, when this story took place and probably there will be a little less drinking and the crowd will be more subdued.

Ten years ago this was an all-male event.

A good friend of mine has attended the big buck contest almost every year for longer than I have, but misfortune overtook him about a dozen years ago and he had a stroke. Unfortunately for him, he laid on the floor for quite a while before he received help and the effects of the stroke became permanent, leaving him disabled.

As is still the case, he was able to walk a short ways in those days, but not far and generally traveled by wheel chair. His friends, myself included, made an effort to include him in events whenever possible and the big buck contest was an event that he almost never missed.

My brother, Rob, and I took pleasure in assisting him to the big buck contest where he was popular with the guys, especially those who didn’t have the opportunity to see him but once or twice a year.

Over time, the inability to exercise as well as his propensity to consume food led him to become somewhat overweight, but what the heck, he had to enjoy something. The stroke left him paralyzed on one side and hampered his ability to communicate, but he could carry on a limited conversation and worked hard at it.

The guys could usually figure out what he was trying to say.

On one particular night, the big buck contest shifted to a new venue. The room was upstairs and we had to take my friend to the second floor in a small elevator. It was a tight squeeze and there was no room for a second person in the small space. We were a bit anxious as the door closed and he disappeared upward. Without trouble he made it to the top and the door opened.

As we arrived his many friends moved in to visit and offer him drinks, which he accepted with a smile. Everything seemed to be going well, so Rob and I dispersed into the room to say our own hellos.

The night wore on and all was going well, when I checked in to see how my friend was doing. He indicated that he needed to use the toilet. Now we were entering uncharted waters as I’d never had to accompany him to the toilet on our previous ventures.

I just assumed it would work out fine as I wheeled him to the John. I got the wheelchair in place helped him raise his 300 pound body into the air. So far so good. Standing behind him I helped him move into position, leaving the wheelchair behind. I helped him get his trousers down, clear his underwear and use his good arm to take aim. At that point I offered to leave him on his own to do his thing and he seemed to accept my initiative.

I backed out of the small room and closed the door most of the way, acting like a body guard watching over a crime boss.

All of a sudden a major thud rattled the room and I immediately knew what had happened. When I looked around the corner of the entry to the narrow room, I could see him lying on his left side, face next to the toilet, not moving. Somehow he indicated to me that he was OK.

I told him I’d get some help because I couldn’t lift him by myself. Retreating into the room I grabbed the first two young men I could find -two guys who were not oversized and looked capable. It wasn’t long before they were in the bathroom lifting back onto his feet.

Amazingly, there seemed to be no damage. The two young men who had helped melted back into the crowd and before long my friend was back at his table ready to continue the party. As before, I left him mostly alone with our mutual friends who continued to buy him drinks. Naturally I suggested he hold it down. He was not normally a heavy drinker, but the situation was ripe.

Dinner was served and the awards were presented. All the while my friend was surrounded by buddies having a great time. As the end of the event neared, it became apparent that we needed to get my friend home sooner rather than later and as we approached the elevator, we once again grimaced at the prospect of putting him in the elevator alone, especially in his inebriated state.

We were in a bit of trouble when the elevator stopped at the bottom floor, but the door would not open. After a bit of panic, we finally succeeded in releasing him at ground level and soon we were rolling well and in the parking lot.

I was driving a new Hummer at the time and I really enjoyed that vehicle, but it wasn’t the perfect car for transporting a 300 pound partially paralyzed former deer hunter who was very inebriated. We muscled him out of the wheel chair and got him to step onto the running board and eventually into the passenger seat.

Once again we were relieved and thinking we were out of trouble. I walked around the car, opened the driver-side door, stepped in, pushed my key into the ignition switch and started the vehicle.

For some reason, which I do not remember, I decided it was necessary for me to exit the vehicle and go back to my friend’s door. As I stood next to the door, my friend wobbled back and forth and then with a fairly powerful motion he leaned out with his right elbow and hit the lock switch. Clunk, all the doors locked in unison.

The key,  the only key, was in the ignition. All the windows were up. My paralyzed and inebriated 300 pound friend sat in the passenger side of the vehicle nearly motionless.

Yelling and beating on the door produced no positive sign. He could not unlock the door. Now I was wondering how bad this might get. I did not have my cell phone in my possession, so I borrow a cell phone from a friend and called the phone number for ONSTAR a GM service that boasted an ability to open the door of cars which carried the ONSTAR package, particularly valuable if the owner’s key was lost or locked inside.

This would be our savior. Like magic, a voice came on the line. “Hello, this is ONSTAR.” I provided the necessary security information and the voice on the line said something like, “OK we’re ready to open the doors, make sure you don’t interfere because we have only one chance of making the happen.”

I replied OK and turned towards the passenger door just in time to see Rob yanking on the door handle exactly at the same moment that the attempt was made to use the ONSTAR door-unlocking method.

Oh no! What option was left? We had blown our remaining chance to  release my paralyzed and passed- out friend. Time to find a lock smith.

As I stewed and paced while looking for a lead to a midnight lock smith on the borrowed cell phone, I noticed movement in the Hummer. It was my friend who was now swaying back and forth in the passenger seat. All at once he leaned to right, much like he had at the beginning of this issue. His elbow once again came down on the door lock and clunk, like magic the door was unlocked.

We were saved. And, that should be the end of the story.

But not quite.

As the three of us drove towards my friend’s house, he once again rocked in his seat. This time rather than sideways, he rocked forward and back. With a tremendous belch, vomit shot from his belly. It was a mammoth shot from deep within his large body. As is typically the case it was not just one belch, but two or three.

It was quite a sight when his wife came out the back door to get a report on the results of the contest. You might think that she would be upset, but she took it in stride like an angel, she accepted the fact that this was just another of life’s trials.

Why We Love our Firearms


While hanging around the clubhouse with four or five club members as a guest at a Grasslands duck club last season, firearms seemed to be the lowest common denominator of our discussion.

Thinking about my firearms in the general sense led me to introspectively consider which firearms were my favorite and then I began to wonder why I have such affection for my shotguns and rifles – nearly all firearms with which I hunt.

I decided to propose a question to the group. The question was this: “Why do we have strong emotions about our firearms? Is it that they are beautiful? Or precise? Or is it something else, less obvious?”

Having sipped down several glasses of red wine each, the discussion was earnest and thoughtful, but not fulfilling and by the time we moved on, nobody had come up with the  answer.

For a day or two, I continued to think about my favorite firearms. My emotions about them were very positive, but they are inanimate objects, unlike most of the things we love. But I had to admit, love was not too strong of a description for the emotion I have for my favorite rifles and shotguns.

I wondered about my best archery equipment and my favorite fly rods. I appreciate their value and practice with them to improve my hunting or fishing effectiveness. For many years I only hunted with bow and arrow. I have spent at least as much time in the woods with my archery equipment as with my rifle. Yet, I do not have the same kind of emotion for the former.

This comparison helped me understand that my love for the firearms I own has nothing to do with their physical makeup, their beauty or their performance. Finally I had discovered where I was going wrong.

The reason I love my firearms has everything to do with self-pride. I am proud that I am permitted to own such a powerful tool. I am humbled by the fact that I am trusted to be the custodian of something that has the ability to do tremendous damage if mishandled.

I use the utmost caution when handling my firearms and I do my best to set a standard for safety that others can follow. I never take safety for granted and I recognize the responsibility and power granted to me, an individual, by our constitution.

My firearms are a symbol of what is great about being an American.

Western Hunting and Conservation Expo 2017

 The Salt Palace was full of conservationists from all over the country last week. I was witness to the event, which was impressive in size and quality.
Spent time with many friends including  Colter, Rocky and Lorell Heckman of Montana Safaris who joined MDF Director Emeritus, Alden Glidden and I for dinner at both of the banquets.
Also notable was a visit with six-time Olympic medal winner, Kim Rhode (who also visited  MDF members  in 1997 at the Sacramento Expo and MDF Convention). As we waited for the shuttle to the airport on Sunday morning, she told us the story of her first dove hunt which took place in Arizona when she was seven years old.
When a warden approached her and asked if she had shot the doves  that were laying at her feet, she replied. “yes.”
Unbelieving, he asked her a second time and she responded by swinging on a flock of doves overhead and dropping a double.
He turned and walked away. Even a warden would be impressed by that.
Also spent some time with familiar faces from outdoor TV, Dan Harrison (Remmington Country and formerly Tred Barta’s frequent guide, currently an MDF Director) and Freddy Harteis (the Hollywood Hunter) whose Colorado archery mule deer hunt donation sold at the auction for $19,000. They were friendly, very approachable and a kick in the pants to hang out with.
Here’s a copy of the post-event news release from The Mule Deer Foundation and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.
WHCE Logo 2017_news

For Immediate Release: February 22, 2017

Contact:  Miles Moretti, (801) 230-2207,
Troy Justensen, (801) 557-3352,


Salt Lake City, Utah: After four days of a busy show floor and successful evening auctions, the 2017 Western Hunting & Conservation Expo (WHCE) closed its doors on Sunday afternoon. The show, hosted by the Mule Deer Foundation and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and sponsored by Ammo & More and ACI, has become the biggest consumer sport show designed for the western big game hunter. Now in its 11th year, the WHCE has continued to exceed expectations with 46,000 attendees walking the exhibit halls and raising over $6 million for wildlife conservation efforts.“The Western Hunting & Conservation Expo continues to grow every year, and this year was no exception,” said Mule Deer Foundation President/CEO, Miles Moretti. “We had 46,000 attendees come through the show which is great for our exhibitors who were busy the whole show. Exhibitors frequently told us this was their best show of the year. With many of them already signed up for booth space in the 2018 show, we can unequivocally say that Hunt Expo is a resounding success.”

The evening events drew large crowds who took part in the banquets and auctions as well as listened to keynote speakers John Wayne Walding and Kim Rhode; Saturday night’s banquet was sold out with more than 1,700 people in attendance. The auctions featured over 140 items up for bid including governor’s tags, limited edition firearms and artwork, and much more. Top auction items this year included the Antelope Island mule deer tag that sold for $250,000 and the Arizona statewide mule deer tag that sold for $280,000. Combined with other incredible once-in-a-lifetime hunts, the auctions raised more than $4 million and 93 percent of those funds will be dedicated to habitat and conservation programs on the ground. In addition, attendees had the opportunity to enter drawings for 200 special big game tags offered by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources for just $5 a tag. Those funds quickly add up, and are dedicated toward conservation and mission accomplishment for Utah Division of Wildlife Resources as well as MDF and SFW.

The traffic through the show floor was steady and broke records each day throughout the four-day show. The 2017 WHCE boasted an exhibit hall of over 400,000 square feet, an increase of 70,000 square feet from the previous year. The show featured top-quality outdoor manufacturers and retailers, incredible taxidermy, and first-rate guides and outfitters. Throughout the course of the weekend, attendees browsed some of the latest gear available on the market and could book their dream hunting experience. The WHCE is a family-friendly event and that was obvious with the many children of all ages walking the show floor proudly sporting their M.U.L.E.Y. antlers. Every child had the opportunity to participate in the Youth Wildlife Conservation Experience (YWCE), trying their hand at shooting, archery, fly tying, wildlife identification, and much more. Throughout the course of the weekend over 5,000 youth went through the YWCE and had a chance to enter their names into a drawing for either a hunting gear package or a guided Utah deer hunt donated by Majestic Valley Outfitters.

“Once again, the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo is proving that there are many hard-core western sportsmen and women who appreciate coming to a show to book hunts and buy gear,” commented Troy Justensen, president of Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife. “We are proud of how this show has grown over the last decade and hunters can rest assured that we will continue to build and improve the event.”

The 2018 Western Hunting & Conservation Expo will run from February 8-11, 2018 and it is expected to be even larger than this year’s event. Mark your calendar for next year’s event and stay up to date on planning through the WHCE website at

About MDF 
The Mule Deer Foundation is the only conservation group in North America dedicated to restoring, improving and protecting mule deer, black-tailed deer and their habitat, with a focus on science and program efficiency. MDF is a strong voice for hunters in access, wildlife management and conservation policy issues. MDF acknowledges regulated hunting as a viable management component and is committed to recruitment and retention of youth into the shooting sports and conservation. Get involved at or call 1-888-375-3337.About SFW
Headquartered in North Salt Lake, Utah, Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife is a charitable, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. The mission of SFW is to promote the protection and enhancement of wildlife habitat, assist in providing quality wildlife management programs, educating the public about the role hunters play in wildlife conservation, and perpetuating the family tradition of hunting and fishing. Visit or call 801-936-1386.

The “Perfect” RV (Part 3)

The inside dimensions of the trailer are 16 feet by 7 feet. The roof has been raised by one foot over the standard 7 foot high ceiling making it 8 feet tall inside. This will accommodate the Rhino (side by side). I suspect it will accommodate all ATV models, but didn’t confirm that.

There will be four – 12 VDC LED dome lights centerline on the ceiling. They will be powered by one 12 VDC battery which will be stored inside the trailer. The battery will primarily be charged by a solar panel on the roof. Did not opt for 120 volt AC.

Decided to add two five gallon propane gas cylinders and regulator on the tongue. The spare tire will be mounted above them.

Added four E-track rails, two on each side of the trailer. E-track is a tie-down system for trucks and cargo trailers. It will create a great deal of flexibility for how the trailer can be used. You can find information about it readily on the net.

Besides tie-downs for the ATV and boat, the E-track rail will provide support for furniture, primarily beds which can be put up and taken down (easily I think). Or, they could fold up and be stored against the sides of the trailer – or both. I’ll decide on that later. Also had six rings installed in the floor for additional tie-downs.

The floor will be covered by heavy-duty rubber matting. I want it to be easy to wash out if necessary so I also had a one foot high kick plate will be installed around the perimeter of the floor. The matting extends down the ramp as well.

I decided that insulation was important, so everything but the floor has R7 insulation.

The standard metal door will be replaced by a 36 inch RV door which will have a window and screen. Three additional windows will be added appropriately. They are 30 inches x 22 inches and will pop out per safety standards. I added a few extra running lights and a light by the door.

The trailer will have a “straight axle” upgrade that will create four inches of additional clearance and two boogie wheels should help reduce damage to the rear end of the trailer if (and I will) I drive over sharp inclines like when I take it one the ferry to Webb Track and the tide isn’t perfect.

Went with scissor jacks on all four corners to make it more convenient to keep it level. A cable hatch will allow me to breach the wall with wires or hoses as necessary without making additional holes in the wall.

In order to load my Boston Whaler, I’ll need to build a boat dolly and remove it from the current boat trailer. I’ve been looking at options and going through some mental gymnastics. I’m pretty sure it will work out. I may have to take the 20 HP Mercury motor off each time I load it, which will be a pain. I’m hoping it will squeeze in.

I also have a twelve-foot aluminum boat that would be easy to load, but the whaler is a much better option.

The cargo trailer will also be an option for storage in cases where there is a short-term need such as remodeling and needing a place for furniture storage.

There should be enough room for three people to sleep inside, but they’ll be getting to know each other quite well. I had a Fantastic Fan installed so at least there will be good ventilation.

I would have posted the plan, but it is property of the builder, Forest River, Inc. Wouldn’t want to made anybody mad at me.

Decided to be conservative and go with gray exterior paint.

That’s about it for now. I’m waiting to hear how long it will take to build it. Will post some photos at that time.