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.

Cargo Trailer in Action

Put the cargo trailer into use last week. It worked better than expected.

IMG_3558 CT at home

Ready to roll. Kawaski “Mule” inside along with camping gear.

The cargo trailer ways about 6,000 pounds loaded. (Trailer 2,500)

The eco boost engine and tow package on my F150 towed it well. I didn’t drive fast, 55-60 mph, and had no issues. They load transfer bars eliminated any bouncing around. It was worthwhile purchasing and installing them – and not hard to do.

IMG_3562 getting the mule out

The mule was a little tight, but loaded and unloaded without any big issues. Strapped it down to the floor and e-track. The e-track was quite handy.

IMG_3564the mule is out

The mule seats six.

IMG_3566 ready for camping

When the trailer is empty, it works well as a place to sleep and get out of the rain. The solar panel provided enough electricity and the fan kept me cool on a couple of hot nights.

The solar panel, lighting, fan and e-track all worked well. It is a very versatile piece of equipment. I may add an additional 12V battery and purchase a small generator for backup electricity. Other than that, it’s perfect.

I am very satisfied with this trailer and I expect to use it quite a bit this duck season.

Modoc Critters

We were looking for bucks all last week at Devil’s Garden. We found some, but also a bunch of other animals of interest.

We also came across a lot of cattle and a couple other domestic or feral animals.

Saw four bull elk, but they did not stick around for a photo. Three of them were spikes and the other was big, but didn’t see his antlers. Didn’t photograph the cattle, but now I wish I had. Saw lot of tracks – bobcat, deer, elk, coyote, great blue heron, raccoon and observed a few elk rubs.

Coyotes didn’t stay for a photo. Neither did one herd of eight wild horses.

Observed a great horned owl, ospreys and vultures. Don’t recall seeing any eagles.

Heard many bullfog in lakes and streams. Night hawks seemed to be everywhere making the noise they do with their wings when the dive.

Fished a bit in Janes Reservoir. Caught some small bass a crappie.

Plenty of bugs.

Of course I’m leaving a few things out.

 

Lassen Gray Wolves

Can’t help but wonder about the wolf I saw crossing Highway 89 near Almanor West last June. It’s been over a year now, but I kept hoping that I’d hear that somebody else saw him – didn’t happen.

Now there’s an entire family of wolves in the area. Apparently related to the infamous OR7, the same wolf that fathered the Rogue Pack. Didn’t take them long to propagate. I have no plans to go to Almanor this summer, but you never know. If I do visit, I’ll try to spend some time scouting around the area where I saw the wolf last summer.

The wolf crossed the road heading south and headed into Collins Pine Timber Company property. I checked a couple dusty roads down stream from where I saw him, but couldn’t pick up his trail.

Would be cool to hear him howl.

https://www.gohunt.com/read/news/new-wolf-pack-confirmed-in-california

Scouting for Mule Deer

Scouting can take many forms. A very important aspect of scouting is reading the California Department of Wildlife (CDFW) Big Game Hunting Digest. The statistics they provide regarding success rates for the various hunts is very telling. The way you utilize the Hunting Digest should have a significant impact upon your hunt selection

Because I had an Open Zone Tag last year, I scouted three Units. First I scouted during the archery season. I had my bow in the truck, but I wasn’t interested in hunting unless I came upon something that absolutely caught my eye. That didn’t happen and I never took the bow out of its case.

My main objective was to prepare for the muzzleloader seasons. Therefore the scouting I did during the archery season and rifle season was mainly to learn how to access the three areas.

The first step in scouting was acquiring maps and gathering information. I started with a Delorme Gazetteer. This map book is reliable, current and comprehensive within Northern California.

National Forest and BLM maps were significant, but cumbersome to use and not as accurate. Other special purpose maps were helpful for details of a specific area. I would include CDFW and 7.5 ‘ topo maps in this category.

On their web site, CDFW provides maps of every hunt unit.

Significant parts of the early season scouting were driving the access roads and speaking with people on site. Occasionally I found a hunter or rancher who was willing to spend some time telling me what they had seen recently,  such as good habitat, water sources or deer sign.

 

One of the issues with scouting for a late season hunt is that the deer are probably not where they will be during October or November dates which likely fall during or after the migration. Learning the location of a big buck in August or September may or may not be valuable. You won’t find out until your hunt season begins.

On the other hand you may be able to find our where and when the deer migrate or where they congregate for the rut. Game wardens and biologists can be a good source for this type of information. You’ll have better luck contacting them if you do so prior to the opening of deer seasons.

Since the units I hunted last year were completely new to me, I tried to drive the boundaries of units (or close) to know generally where they were located. Last year I never got stuck, but almost. It’s a good idea to check out some of the side roads, but remember that once October and November comes there may be mud. Swamps are dry in September, but might not be later on.

A very valuable resource is a reliable hunter who has experience in the unit you are hunting. Talking to other hunters and building relationships can be a great asset. Ask your friends and acquaintances if they have hunted the unit. You’ll find that other people may have hunted several of the X-Zones regularly forty years ago. Although times have changed, good spots then are probably still good spots today. Having contacts can make a huge difference.

The most valuable information you can have is gained by personal experience. That is why hunting the same unit as frequently as possible is an asset. If you’re hunting with a party, of three or four people, you may be able to combine your scouting and contact resources. That could be very helpful.

The group I hunt with is planning a fishing trip in the unit where we’ll be hunting during the August archery season. We’ll also have our bows along so we can do some archery practice. It’s also a dry run for planning purposes. Getting the kinks out of camping equipment, trailers, ATVs etc.

Stay patient and alert. Know what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a good one, the odds tell us that you’ll be lucky to see one shooter buck.

Good luck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

\

 

Fish Finding

 

Fish finding is not necessarily the same as fish catching.

The fish finder can be a bit frustrating. Captain Bob has been making some changes to our tweeting fish finder and it has been helpful. Yesterday our fish finder “runnethed¬† over”, but the fish did not follow.

Here are a couple views of our fish finder yesterday morning.

First we tried the entrance buoys at Half Moon Bay. Here’s what we saw.

IMG_3378 Half Moon Bay

You can see our lonely downrigger balls, but not much else when we first lowered our bait. That’s the bait hovering at about 29 feet.

Ironically, despite a lack of visuals, we managed to catch a salmon of about 7 or 8 pounds after an hour of trolling. Then word came in that fish were stacked up at the Pacifica Pier – about 15 miles north.

We were on the move and when we arrived near the Pacifica Pier, here’s what we saw.

IMG_3415 Pacifica

The “low chirp” (lower frequency) view, on the right, is outrageous. This is the most stuff I’ve ever seen on our fish finder. The upside down Vs are fish. The other stuff is bait fish. The wiggly lines through the midde is our bait.

Once again you ran see the path of our two downrigger balls and single lead ball. You would think that we would have had a triple hook-up. Amazingly, after about 3 hours fishing near the Pier, we had caught only one fish –¬† a shaker about 15 inches long. And, we had a couple other fish on for a moment.

About 1:00 PM we departed back towards the Half Moon Bay dock. Near the entrance buoy we trolled again, until about 2:30. Not much going on and no fish.

We arrived at the dock to learn that at about 2:00 PM, the fishing at the Pacifica Pier went wide open with many people catching limits in a hurry.

Not only do you need to find’em. You need to find’em when they’re hungry.

That’s fishing.