Note: All photos come from ranches hunted by Adobe Lodge Also: Click on an image to enlarge it.
March 30, 2021
Here is another great group of turkey photos from our ranches. Season will be starting next week at the Lodge. We are looking so forward to dive into our first season.
March 15, 2021
Looks like we are getting some great pictures of those toms. The number of turkeys in general is looking outstanding. The first photo your going to see is one that Tony Keiffer sent to me after the trail camera crew set out to gather the SD cards. He said this is exactly what the gang was doing. HaHa, made me chuckle. The second photo is of Tony himself, i'm sure he was just making sure the camera was on, and it was. Say cheese Tony. The third picture is of what we now call the ellusive jack rabbit, they have become so scarce these days. It's a treat to see one, some say that the fire ants have depleated the rabbit population by swarming the kits when they are new born, some say a rabbit plague wipped them out. Who knows, but it is nice to see one.
The remaining Pictures are some great shots of turkeys. Those toms are struting their stuff. The anticipation is building for season to start.
Below is a link that Tony shared to me the other day about rio Grande turkey hunting. He said that there was a special spanish lyric by Skipper. Hopefully the link works:
The trail cams are up and shooting, shooting silent shots for your viewing. Haha! We made it through the Texas "snowvid" and things are getting back on track for a sucessful turkey season. The bad storm didn't seem to faze the turkeys, or really any of the wildlife except the poor little tweety birds, many of them froze. Season is just around the corner and the birds are out in full. Here's a little snipit from an email I received from our guide Tony Keiffer, who is so graciously helping with the trail camera "adventures". As per Tony's words:
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words.
So, these four pictures tell the story. When Dick (a.k.a. Cecil B. DeMill) set up the trail camera at the DMZ feeder, as you can see from photo number one, it was perfectly aimed. Sometime during the first night the camera was operational a deer came by the camera stand and bumped it enough to change the angle of the camera. As you can see from pictures two and three the camera was now aimed a little high. The next 100 or so pictures are of the feeder barrel. Apparently, the tree you see behind the feeder would move enough in wind to trip the camera shutter. However, all was not lost as one turkey did come by and check out the camera and took a selfie.
Buryl and I pulled the SD card from the DMZ trail camera this morning, put in a fresh card and re-aimed the camera. The amount of turkey sign at the DMZ feeder is crazy. The turkeys are hitting that thing hard, scratching up the dirt and eating all the milo. No doubt this area has plenty of turkeys. Hopefully, by about Friday, we will have ample photographic evidence of that fact.
Thanks Tony for the entertaining story! So, in addition to those four photos we did receive plenty more. Below are the cream of the crop photos for your enjoying. Take care, I'll be posting pictures hopefully once a week.
Believe it or not it was a chilly 45 degrees here this morning and it felt every bit of it. Yesterday we had a real hot day, 100. Hopefully that is the last of the hot days and we are into fall weather now. This morning, Jim and 8 guides left out to have a guide day for maintenance and repairs of blinds and feeders. The count down is on and its time for the push to get all the last chores tied up for a successful season.
Still we are getting lots of great trail camera pictures of the deer. Looks like the bucks are a bit rambunctious, and the does are having a bad attitude. In one of the pictures we got bit of a surprise, it has provoked much talk and debate as to what it is. It's definitely of the canine family, but is it a coyote, lost dog, or could it be a wolf? Well I'll just throw it out there, my vote is a Wolf. I've done a little research, and come to find out, the fish and game has been doing some DNA testing in TX on some suspected "canines" and the results are returning DNA of the red wolf. Very interesting stuff. More than likely it was just passing through and we were lucky enough to get a picture.
Alrighty, y'all take care! Till next time
The last time I posted we had received 4" of rain, well it continued to rain and rain and rain. We ended up with 10" in 72 hours! I can not express to you how much we needed it, and once again it came a critical time. It looks like a jungle out there. We were going into fall and the forage for winter was looking really poor. With the rain we received the deer and cattle will be able to stay healthy. The Middle Concho river, that is on the home ranch, filled up, it was bone dry. Jim and I married many years ago down at the river and it always had water. Now we get so excited when it fills up. I read an article that the rivers and lakes around Tom Green county collected 3.8 billion gallons of water. Unbelievable, I personally, have never seen it rain that much in TX.
I'm so excited to show you this bobcat picture, I have been trying to catch him in a photo for weeks. While out horse back riding I see his tracks every time I ride in a certain spot. I was scrolling through the pictures and literally had just told Jim that I was never going to get a bobcat picture, and there it was. I did give a little cheer.
The bucks are continuing to shed their velvet, and are looking very healthy. Its only 5wks till season begins! Time is flying.
Till Next Time
Yet another week has come and gone and we are that much closer to hunting season. We are so excited for it to come. Our prayers have been answered for rain, we received 4" here at the home ranch, and Jeri is reporting around 6" in town, through the night and are expected to get more tomorrow. What a blessing! It's a brisk 53 degrees right now and feels darn right cold, being that it was 95 yesterday.
But on to the great pictures we are getting on the trail cameras. Some awesome bucks are coming in and some are hard horned and some in velvet still. This triggered a question in my mind, what is the determining factor of when a buck will start to shed velvet? From what I'm finding online, it is called photoperiod ( shortening day length ) that is the single most important factor. It is wired in a bucks genetic make up, and each buck is a little bit different. Hmm, well that's interesting to me, maybe y'all already knew that, but if not there you go. We're starting to see javelinas come around at certain cameras, I love seeing all the different critters like this because where I was raised we sure didn't have anything like that. I had the privilege to guide a hunt some years ago for Skipper and one of my hunters shot a javelina and I graciously carried it back to the truck for her, but man o man did I learn what they smell like.
Just this last weekend we had the annual guide meeting. It was great seeing all the guys and getting to meet a few that are new. Everyone filled up the hunting schedule and that is one more thing to check off the to do list. I know I said it before, but we are getting so excited to kick off the season.
Till Next Time
Well Another week has passed and the trail cameras are seriously giving us some spectacular shots of some incredible bucks! I want to give a ton of thanks to Dick , Tony, and Buryl for all their hard work and time they spend rounding up the SD cards and making all the adjustments necessary to get these great pictures, so thank you guys.
Being that we have been away from the hunting camp for a while, I am absolutely amazed at the number of bucks there are. Take a look at one of the pictures, there is literally a screen full of bucks. Not only have we been getting photos of deer, this last week we had a variety of animals passing through. There was a little debate about the shot of the cat, some thought mountain lion, and some thought bobcat. My vote is a definite bobcat, what do y'all think? There is a shot of what looks like a pic of an entire family of raccoons. I tried counting them and maybe came up with 5, but in the back ground I see some little eyes coming in. I tell Jim when we're out driving around that I wish I had a dollar for every coon track we see, I'd be a millionaire.
The weather has been so HOT these last few weeks, its been above 100 everyday. That being said, it is so dry and dusty, we pray for rain everyday. But the deer are still looking great. There is a shot of a close up horn and it looks like the velvet is starting to wither, we should start getting so cool pictures.
Things around the lodge and ranch have been busy, one of the big projects this last week has been moving the water tank behind the lodge. Over the years the ground where Skipper originally placed it has been eroding, and therefore was slowly starting to fall into the old pit. Jim and Darren got it moved and secured in its new place, with a little help from me.
One more thing, I shot a picture of a flower, which is really probably a weed, when I was walking through the parking area at the lodge. It really just struck me as beautiful. With the heat and dust we have had recently it was a reminder of the beauty that can be hiding anywhere. Till next time
Finally I'm back on the site! So sorry for the long delay between posting pictures. The darn internet at the lodge has been so frustrating, needless to say we'll be calling them again tomorrow. Honestly, I can't figure out how Skipper found the time to post so often, every time I would attempt to get on the site and get it done, someone would come in a say "could I get your help for a minute'. Well, its a quiet Sunday evening, Jims over at Blakes, they get together and watch their favorite show, Yellowstone. The boys went into town for dinner so I'm finding the perfect time to get something accomplished.
I wanted to share these first two pictures because I love Texas Sunsets and rises, they are one of my favorite things about living here. The cameras have been giving us great shots of bucks! Look at all those horns. If I were to name this entry it would be horns galore. Of course we get a 1000 shots of buzzards, I never really thought about it, but we had a guest here a couple weeks ago from another state and were talking about buzzards and they had no clue what we were talking about. I came to find out other locations in our country call them vultures, hmmm, what do y'all call them where you live? In one of the pics there is a bird new to Jim and me, it looks like a hawk, but the beak is just so large so we googled it, and came to the conclusion it is a Northern Crested Caracara. If we are correct in our assessment, an interesting fact is it is the National emblem of Mexico.
Here at the lodge the roof has been completed, now we just need some good rain and give a test drive, it looks wonderful. The fence around the lodge has been completed. Jim and Darren had to finish it up cause the boys all have steady full time jobs. Bummer cause we lost some good help, but happy for them, they just need to find a rental house now. It's the time of year when calves are weaned, and so the ranches babies went to the sale barn. The mama cows have been bawling for a few days but are slowly quieting down. Such a bitter sweet time of year. Jim and I are big into doing most cow related tasks horse back and the ranch cows are adjusting nicely. At first some were very curious and some were in disbelief, but they have all gotten used to us and things are going so smoothly. I am blessed to do what I love, horses, cows, and hunting. We hope y'all love the pictures, till next time, (hopefully it will be sooner than later)
Well we're up and running with the trail cameras thanks to Dick Irons. We're looking so forward to see what the cameras yeild for pictures.
The past few weeks we've been working around the lodge just giving it some TLC. When Jim and I moved back, Cody and two of his freinds, Nate and Jordan, also made the big move to TX and have been stayng at the lodge until they all got jobs. I'm happy to say they are all finally employed. But during the last month while looking for jobs they've been earning their keep at the ranch. We've painted the fence around the lodge, painted the skinning shed doors and are putting some kick plates on, Jims been working on the hunting vehicles getting them ready, and lots of misc. stuff.
Most exciting at the lodge is a new roof for both the lodge and skining shed. Blakes roofing company did and excelent job!
So, on to some trail cam pictures! Looks like we're getting some great pictures of deer. Jim and Darren have been out inspectng blinds and making note to all the repairs that need to be made. Jim got a cute picture of a baby buzzard, he said he knows why we sometimes call them turkey vultures, because that little guy got up and took off running just like a turkey. Haha
Looks like the racoons have been enjoying a dip in the water troughs to escape the heat. We got a shot of Tony Keiffer checking out a camera, but I really find it comical that a deer and Tony both got the same shot.
For many of you that don't know me, I spend a lot of time horse back. I love getting out early in the mornings to beat the heat and ride the ranch. I see so many cool things and just cant seem to whip my camera out fast enough. I saw a huge bobcat a while back and was so impresssed with it, it jumped a fence just like that and took off. I'm really happy to say that our fawn crop this year seems incredibly vast, they are always popping up out of the grass spooking my horses. Yesturday morning I saw a flock of turkeys, had to have been 50, but in all reality it was probably more like 25. You know how the story goes, 50 just sounded so much better telling Jim when I got back.
10-27-19 We have been looking forward to, and getting ready for this day since early September. Why? Because today our first hunters of the 2019 season arrive in camp.
These weekly trail camera photos and brief reports will cease until early February. Instead, following each hunt during the entire season, I will be posting reports and photos collected during the event. I hope to have this first hunt's news and info ready to view by Friday morning, November 1. When February gets here, attention once again will return to the trail cameras to see what we will learn about the upcoming spring turkey season.
The first photo below was taken during the final helicopter census. The next five were taken by my trusty Canon one day when I looked out the back door of the lodge to discover a whole herd of deer underneath the lodge feeder. Just now, the deer are typically wild and will scatter as the back door of the place opens. But as the season moves along and activity increases out back, the deer will hardly look up. They are far more interested in the corn to be found.
The next several photos came from a trail camera set up by Dick Irons to see just what might be coming to camp in our absence.
The feeder is set to go off around-about the time hunters are returning after the evening hunt. The collection of deer to be found there are great teaching tools for young or inexperienced hunters so they can learn to distinguish mature does from button bucks, young bucks from older bucks, and "shooters" from those not yet worthy. Hunters who have been looking at deer for hours from their deer blind still enjoy watching even more deer out back of the lodge.
As has been mentioned all too often in earlier reports below, much can be learned from trail camera photos. We get to see classic mature does with their long, skinny neck. At the kickoff meeting this afternoon, we will be telling the hunters this very thing. That doe and her neck are much, much different from the button bucks they will see. Yes, we need to harvest the mature does; no we do not want to see the button bucks put down. So it is important to learn there are different kinds of antlerless whitetails. In the photos below, the mature does are easy to pick out.
The age of a buck can be revealed, as well. The older a buck gets, the larger his neck becomes. A male with a fairly respectable rack might be only 2 1/2. His neck size is the clue to study, as you will see in this week's collection.
Finally, I have posted a few photos of our guides at work cleaning the skinning shed of a year's accumulation of dust and debris. That afternoon, in anticipation of pending bad weather, the world-champion crew scampered to get the next round of feeders filled with corn before the wind got up and the temperature went down the next day or two. Although we have the task of filling corn feeders down to an exact science, it is still a daunting task to get 100+ units loaded, each with seven sacks of corn. The timer and battery are checked, as well. The last thing any of us wants to hear are these dreaded words: "My feeder didn't go off."
There is even a photo below of the head "Feeder-Checker," burning ever more gasoline in his Gator as he looks for activity underneath the lodge feeder.
10-20-19 The rain which came ten days ago, as was feared, did precious little good. A few spots now show some green forage, but there's not enough of it to provide for the family milk cow and a couple of pet sheep. We need a multi-inch soaker. But last night at a gathering, a friend who follows the weather closely told me he is selling his cows in a week or two for the simple reason that "you can't feed or starve a profit out of them." If Mother Nature doesn't provide, get rid of them, he has learned.
The same concept applies to deer management, as well. Of course, the option of calling a truck to haul the deer to an auction doesn't exist. But your challenge is the same as the livestock man: reduce numbers. All the helicopter census numbers are now in. Doe numbers are up on almost all the ranches we hunt, despite the fact that we really hammered-down on the antlerless group a year ago. The biologist's recommended doe harvest numbers will be a huge challenge. But it will be extra-important to try to reach their quotas for the reasons mentioned above. Reduce numbers. The fewer deer there are, the better all of them will do. One wise observer once declared: "The more does you shoot, the bigger and the better the bucks get."
Here's another way to look at the issue: say there are two families living side-by-side. One family has two kids; the other has ten kids. With everything being exactly equal, which family will have the fattest kids?
This concept is lost of those who are anti-hunters. If they had their way and outlawed hunting, wildlife such as deer and elk would soon eat-up all their resources and starve themselves to death. A grim way go.
While I'm on my soapbox, there is one other point on the subject before I quit: The entire issue is Biblical. Genesis, Chapter One, for crying out loud. "And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." We are supposed to care for what we are given. Which includes the harvest of our precious whitetail resource here in West Texas, where the annual rainfall can vary from <10 inches to more than 40. Boom or bust - that's us.
The weather has been stable this past week with chilly mornings when a vest is needed to warm afternoons where a tee-shirt is plenty. If you are running your pickup's heater in the morning and your air-conditioner in the afternoon, chances are you are hunting with Adobe Lodge.
One week from today, our first hunt of the 2019 season gets under way. Are we ready? Of course not. Every time I check something off my to-do list, I have added three chores to the bottom. On Thursday, the truck which was to be loaded with corn two miles away failed to start. Another truck was pressed into service. But at the distant barn, the forklift also failed to start, even though our mechanic had checked it out thoroughly. I told the guides that I would not be buying a lottery ticket on such an unlucky day.
Finally, our trail cameras are finding some turkeys. Good news. On my recent travels to all the blinds and feeders, I have seen several bunches here and there. But they are not yet near their traditional winter sanctuaries. Once the season starts and we have hunters in the various blinds to scout for us, we will have a better idea of the turkey situation. Yes, we could monitor such locations with trail cameras, but having trail cameras where rifles might be shot doesn't seem to be such a good idea.
In the collection of photos below, there is a good photo of a skinny doe. Compare her body condition to some of the bucks you will see. No doubt, the doe drew heavily on her personal resources to provide for her fawn(s). When the fawns are "kicked-off," she will quickly recover. Some hunters have refused to take-down a doe with a fawn at her side. But such thinking is erroneous, as outlined extensively above. That fawn is easily able to make it alone without mama anymore.
The photo of the exceptional buck was provided to us by Matt Hudson, one of our landowners. Check out those eye-guards. Impressive, eh?
With hunters being here a week from today, this might be the final "Trail Camera" posting for a while. Or there could be one more as Dick Irons, our trail camera guru picks-up all the cameras for winter storage.
10-13-19 It was a wild week, weather-wise in our neck of the woods. On Thursday, the 10th of the month, our local temperature set a record at 96 degrees. One wag called it "the 75th of July." The next morning, we awoke to a most unusual sound: thunder. Haven't heard that in a while. Probably scared all the babies under six months of age and some breeds of dogs. We used to find our Whippet (small greyhound) shivering under the bed after a clap of thunder.
Anyway, the temperature never got out of the 40s all day. Most area rain reports were from a half to a full inch. The powder-dry ground quickly soaked up every drop. Will winter weeds now germinate? Good question. Maybe only in the low spots which caught some extra runoff.
Despite the dry weather and lack of green forage, the deer we see in the trail camera photos, and those we see driving the various ranches we hunt, are in prime condition. Fat and sleek, they are. Venison this year will be excellent. And plentiful.
Regarding the sighting of deer: during the past week, I visited every feeder on a 10,000 acre property we hunt. The recent deer census tabulated 577 deer on that land. During the ten-hour tour, I saw only two does. Anyone unfamiliar with the ranch would swear there wouldn't be a hoof on the place. But there is. Lots of them. We know because the helicopters and trail cameras tell us so. And so do our hunters. A frequent comment from a first-timer: "I never saw so many bucks at one place."
Speaking of helicopters: Kyle Lange, who owns one of the helicopter companies which flies some of the ranches we hunt, sent the photo you will see below. He had recently flown across the trail of the tornado which passed over the area last spring. Earlier reports on this site had photos of the damage. Now that we are traversing the land regularly in the countdown to deer season, the extent of that windstorm is impressive. Kyle's photo seems to indicate the damage was perhaps 50 yards wide. But on the ground, we have found mesquite trees, a foot in diameter, twisted and mangled 150 yards on either side of the center of the path. The power of Mother Nature is sobering indeed. One of our deer blinds was completely destroyed and rendered into splinters. Several deer feeders have required repair and replacement of various components.
Trail camera photos for the week are, as always, instructive. One malingering old boy has yet to rid his new headgear of their tailings. Others, however, are slick as the proverbial hound's tooth. Tine-length on some bucks is encouraging. And a photo or two will show how much forage can be found in areas. We are finding ever more locations that need to be mowed. For two reasons: a hunter might not see a deer in the tall weeds; a deer might not be able to find the corn scattered in the mat of grass. Furthermore, ranch roads are, in some locations, almost impossible to see due to the tall broom weeds. Good grief: one hopes that our hunting guides will not get lost.
Among the photos posted below, some bucks might appear more than once. But it never hurts to see those antlers from a different angle.
10-6-19 Last week, an email showing some photos of bucks taken during a helicopter census was sent to everyone on my list. If you did not get this email and would like to be on my email list, please send me your contact information and I will get you included. Just click the "Contact Us" button on the left menu. But I'm betting most readers of this page got that email and saw those bucks.
Shown below are some different bucks taken on another ranch. So far anyway, buck quality on the top-end seems to be better than last year. One thing to notice in the collection of photos below is the great body condition of the bucks. They all look gobby fat. The doe with the two fawns, however, shows us what a poor body condition looks like. Yes, she is mighty skinny, but hasn't she done a great job raising those two young'uns? She will soon be kicking them away and will begin to rebuild her own flesh.
Most all the census data is now in and tabulated. Only one ranch left to go. So far, the numbers are great. Fawn crop percentages indicate the health of the deer herd. Dry, tough years produce fawn crops in the 20%-30% range; super years 80% and up. We have tabulated so far 67%, 63%, 61% and 94%.
The past twelve months have seen the widest moisture swings in memory. A year ago, we were getting inches and inches of rain. We could hardly get our feeders filled with corn. Ranch roads were impassable, many feeders were inaccessible, and some feeders were actually under water. I remember being able to use only 16 blinds and feeders of the 32 that were on a particular ranch.
This year, we have gone mighty far in the other direction. Yes, it can stay dry longer. But it simply cannot get any drier. On my ranch, for example, no meaningful/useful rain has come since back in June. Historically, September is one of our wetter months. We got a total of four-tenths last month. You could hardly tell the dust had settled. Livestock, however, look plenty good, what with all the grass that grew last spring and early summer. As do the deer. To be sure, both species have different diets, but all have had full bellies for a long time. Hence the good body condition and offspring numbers.
In some of the photos below, you will see the sheer amount of vegetation around some of the feeders. For this first time in history, we have actually had to take our tractor and shredder to mow certain areas. Sitting in a blind, a hunter would find it impossible to see a deer due to all the forage. In other words, there is a lot of peeling to get to the fruit.
But as we get into fall, and as dry as things are now, there is no germination of winter plants. No green, no where. Yes, the acorn crop is good, but those treats won't last long. Our corn feeders will be attracting deer from two zip codes away. Bucks won't let the does come; does won't let their fawns come. It's every man for himself. Last season's hunters during that wet time would tell of seeing nary a deer around a feeder. Conditions were just too good. This year, we are 180 degrees away from that. What a difference a year makes.
When you look at the photos below, do you see the photo of the raccoon? And in looking at him, did you see the buck way over to the left? As with so many things having to do with hunting and wildlife, it pays to really look around. No telling what you are not seeing.
The biologist taking photos from the helicopter said he got one of the rarest photos ever. He actually documented your friendly webmaster doing some genuine physical labor instead of pecking away at his computer.
9-29-19 Photos posted this week show numerous classic ten pointers. A month or so ago, there seemed to be an absence of them. Now, all of a sudden, here they are.
Some Big Eights are shown, as well. Is it better to have eight points and long tines, or do you like a sho'nuff ten even though he has shorter tines? Years ago, a Big Eight kept being seen at a certain blind. Over and over, hunter after hunter passed on him because he had only eight points. A ten was their goal, and this eight was easy to count - he clearly lacked # 9 and # 10. Time passed. Finally we rotated back to this area and a hunter got to put his tag on this monster eight. When taped, he had 148 inches of horns - one of the best of that season.
In this week's collection of photos, a number of interesting things can be found. One old boy is terribly un-tidy with his antlers. He has velvet hanging everywhere. Does old velvet have an unpleasant odor?
There is a photo of a much older buck. How do we know he's old? Standing there at a water trough, his belly hangs way, way down - like a pot-bellied pig. Just like many senior-citizen men, older bucks are not as slim and trim as they used to be. Looking at buck's belly is one of the best ways to determine his age.
There is also a photo of a definite cull buck. He needs to be taken out of the herd before breeding season begins. His rack is a decent size alright, but he has only six points - kind of like a big forkie with eyeguards. But his age gives him away. If he was a year-and-a-half old, he might be forgiven. But clearly he's older than that. And with an inferior rack, he will be moved to the hit list.
Here we are with only a day-and-a-half left in September. Range conditions remain mighty dry. It's the first topic of conversation when us agricultural-types get together, like last night at an 80th birthday party for an amigo. A year ago, our area was inundated with a foot or more of rain. Now, we are 180 degrees away. We've had no meaningful rain since back in June. Huge cracks can be found in the ground. The dry grass and weeds crunch when you walk in the pasture. And it's been hot, too. Mid-90s or more every afternoon. We'll see what October might bring. If it stays this dry, the deer will be three deep around every corn feeder.
Speaking of deer: we have received some census counts on three of the ranches we hunt. Deer numbers are up, which means we'll have to be diligent with our doe harvest this fall. The No. 1 goal of deer management is to keep the herd from getting too large. This bountiful year (until July, anyway) resulted in fawn crops of 60-90% - excellent news for the deer herd as a whole.
We still have two single slots open on a couple of hunts just before Thanksgiving. Hardly ever do any dates appear during this time of our season. Spread the word to any hunters you know who don't yet have plans for this fall.
9-22-19 How many of us have been in a deer stand for a long, long time without seeing anything that was of interest. What we are looking for is a set of horns to make our hormones bubble, our breath to quicken, our pulse to start pounding. But all too often, the opposite happens. We see nothing that melts our butter.
The same disappointments can come from trail cameras. An entire week's collection without anything remarkable. And from several different locations, too. Dick Irons, leaving town for a few days, left the photos below while admitting he had found nothing to get excited about. They are posted below just to give you a look at some different scenery.
The final three photos come from our recent cattle roundup for pregnancy-checking our cows and weaning their calves. As dictated by "The Code of the West," the gathering crew was on the back side of the mile-square pasture at daylight to pen the 50+ grown females plus some calves. It took that helicopter less than 20 minutes to move the entire group to the corrals. Charles Goodnight, the legendary pioneer cattleman and the first to bring bovines to the Texas panhandle back in the 1880s, is turning in his grave.
Just last night came the first census report from one of the ranches hunted by Adobe Lodge clients. This early look shows some remarkable numbers. Get this: buck-to-doe ratio of 1:1.24 (or 10 bucks for every 12.4 does). The fawn crop is an astounding 94%, indicating the health and well-being of the deer herd as a whole. An average fawn crop is around/about 65-70%. In a super-tough year, it can go down into the 20s. But this year's number is about as good as we've ever seen.
Over the next month, more helicopter flights will count the deer on several more ranches. Each time, we learn many things about our deer herd. But getting such optimistic numbers from the very first report is super-encouraging.
In this outfitting business, cancellations are unavoidable, due mainly (and sadly) to health reasons. We now have a couple of single slots open on a couple of hunts before Thanksgiving. Check the "Deer Dates - 2019" page. Maybe one of them will work for you.
A few hours after this message above, a deer census from yet another of the ranches we hunt came to us. Their Buck:Doe ration was 1:2.1; their fawn crop was 77.7%. Both numbers are outstanding. Indeed, the count showed three times as many mature bucks as we had planned to take.
9-15-19 September his half-over, proving once again that time flies. Our first hunt begins October 27, a date which will be here mighty soon, given that flying time phenomenon. By the way, we still have one slot open on that date, just in case you can make it.
Before he moved all the trail cameras to new locations, Dick Irons furnished the photos below. This will be our last look at the cottonseed, the High Lonesome water point and the River Pasture trough. The photos were collected during the first days of the month, and it's easy to see the variation in the horn growth. Some bucks are already in hard-antler; others are still wearing their velvet.
Other photos have a variety of interesting things to note. One fellow has what appears to be a growth of some kind near the tip of his tines. Might be a trick photograph of course. Who knows? We also get to see a classic "crab-claw" ten-pointer, still in the velvet. The drop-tine buck hasn't changed all that much, with that lower appendage about as long as it's likely to get.
Encouragingly, Dick collected a photo of a super-tall ten-pointer with a small neck, an indication he's a relatively young buck. No telling what he might grow into as a mature animal. Another seems to have near-10" G-2s, more good news.
The photo of the two small bucks in a fight is interesting because it was one of three-in-a row of the same scrap. The duration between shots is unknown, but the fight seemingly lasted a long time. The photo of me in the Gator shows that the camera waits some brief period of time when motion is detected before snapping the photo. Otherwise, the photo would be only of the front part of that machine. How that all gets done is way above my pay-grade.
One photo says the current temperature was 108 degrees. To be sure, one of the afternoons earlier this month reached that level. Indeed, hot, dry weather continues unabated. No rain is mentioned in the forecasts for the next several days, either.
When this month stays this dry this long, I always have to call my friend, Andy Smith, to get him to tell me "The September Story" one more time. Kind of like "The Christmas Story" or "The Easter Story," there is a strong message to take to heart.
The history lesson comes from a super-dry spell fifty-some years ago. Andy was ranching family land, but it was mighty dry. Things were plenty tough with nothing positive on any front. The pastures were as bare as was the bank account. Livestock markets were in the tank. Day after day, the heat and the dust continued. A neighbor asked about leasing Andy's big ranch. It was his escape route from disaster. At least he could scrape by somehow with the lease money. So a deal was made. Legal papers were drawn up to finalize the agreement.
Andy remembers when he signed the document in the lawyers office, as he was dotting the "i" in "Smith," he heard thunder. Over the next two weeks, it rained about 15 inches. The lamb market went from 11 cents a pound to almost double that amount. If only he had just waited a little longer.
So when we start with a dry September, I always get Andy to tell me "The September Story" all over again from the beginning. Somehow, it gives me hope.
9-8-19 I apologize for my failure to post new photos last week. Reason: Jeri and I went to Colorado to see family and friends. Their bow season started while we were there which reminded me that our own Texas deer hunting is not far off. The pre-hunt paperwork to all our booked hunters was mailed the Tuesday after Labor Day. I trust that all this information arrived by now. So that's the first big event of the new year.
The next important annual affair is our staff meeting where each guide selects the hunts to work during the season. We also review other topics such as changes to blind locations, lock combinations, and phone numbers. The hamburger lunch was excellent, but the afternoon's dove hunt was poor. The birds were here in droves thirty days ago; now they are scarce. Imagine that. I guess they are called "migratory" for a reason.
After the sad death of my trail camera buddy, Max Sanders, our guide Dick Irons volunteered to take up the task. The photos below are his first submissions, and as most always, much can be learned from studying trail camera photos.
We'll start with the final photo below. A very distinct rub on a tree in a remote corner of the ranch was discovered three weeks ago. It was a super-large tree, too. But whitetails don't start making rubs in mid-August, do they? What in the world? The trail camera answered all our questions. An axis buck was the guilty vandal, a despoiler of valuable trees.
Feral axis deer are common in central Texas, around Junction for example, having escaped from high-fence, exotic ranches. But our area has very few of them. Our farmer, who often plows at night, has seen 4-5 of them down by our river. Other sighting of these spotted critters have been within a half-mile of the river. The photo of the axis was at least three miles from the river, so that was big news. Axis deer, for those who don't know, grow and shed their antlers the year around, unlike whitetails. A group of axis bucks might find one just shedded, one in the velvet, and one in hard-antler. Similarly, axis fawns can be born in any month of the year.
Anyway, now we know why that huge rub appeared in mid-August on that far hill in the High Lonesome pasture.
Dick Irons had to wade through hundreds of photos to find the ones below. His instructions were to keep the biggest and best bucks, plus any critters he might find, plus any large grouping of bucks. Dick noted there are oodles and oodles of immature bucks, good news for the coming years. From studying the photos, it is easy to distinguish a mature buck from a younger one by comparing the size of their necks. Older bucks also exhibit sagging bellies, too, kind of like us older guys.
Here in the first quarter of September, things are mighty dry. Not a green sprig anywhere. Wildfires are now a huge danger, what with the large amount of forage on the ground from last spring's bounty. Sage bushes are blooming, a good sign for a future rain, and a front is predicted for next week. We all have our fingers crossed that rain will be coming to germinate the winter plants.
8-25-19 Following the sudden and unexpected death of my long-time friend, Max Sanders, who had, for the past dozen years, graciously taken on the task of managing the trail camera photos, his family gifted his collection of cameras and paraphernalia to me. I have posted an obit about Max elsewhere on this website, but I will today change the formal wording of the obit to the text of my remarks at his funeral.
Recent pictures have come from only two locations - the pile of cottonseed and a nearby water point. A new location is added this week, and it provides some excellent, clear photos. Like the other water trough, there were scads of buzzards to delete, one right after the other since they usually flock to the water in the middle of the day when deer are not to be seen.
Several things are apparent from the new location: 95% of the bucks are still in the velvet with only a couple of small hard-horns being seen. There are oodles and oodles of modest sized eight-pointers, a fact which foretells a bright future for buck numbers in the coming years. In choosing photos for the website, most of these little fellows are not picked by your friendly webmaster in the belief that viewers are more interested in seeing the better end of the bucks. Indeed, probably 90% of the photos of bucks collected by the trail camera are of bucks that would be passed-over by 95% of our hunters.
But the plethora of "average" bucks found by the trail cameras reveals an important fact. It has been said that it is easy "to see what is there." It is more difficult "to see what is NOT there." As said above, mostly the largest and more impressive bucks are normally shown here. But as the countless "average" bucks are reviewed, what is not seen are small, inferior bucks this year. Very, very few "forkies" (4-pointers) have been found by the cameras. To date anyway, nary a spike has been found.
Such news is indicative, seems to me, of the kind of year we've had up to now. Nutrition for deer over the past 12 months has been nothing short of spectacular. Some deer biologists will tell you that spikes are more of a function of nutrition than is their genetic makeup. Such a subject is, to be sure, most controversial. Other pundits with similar credentials refute this claim. If you want to get a lively conversation going, just bring up the subject in a gathering of professional deer biologists.
Yes, there are probably some spikes out there somewhere this bountiful and legendary year. But the few trail cameras we are using have not yet found them.
Please check out the revised obit I am posting elsewhere for Max Sanders.
8-18-19 - Hit the bobcat jackpot this week. Four photos, even one with a bobcat/raccoon standoff. Who would win that fight? Are all the kitty-cat photos the same animal? As always with trail cameras, there are more questions than answers.
For the past several weeks now, there have been only two trail cameras at work. Although they are only about a quarter-mile apart, the really-identify-able bucks at the cottonseed are not being photoed at the water point. The only one that consistently shows up at both places is a cull six-pointer. It's impossible to distinguish the does, of course, who appear on the cottonseed location most always at dusk and dawn. During the dark of the night, most images there are of bucks.
At the water point, countless, countless photos of buzzards are collected. Who knew buzzards had such a thirst? You'll see 2-4 in lots of pictures, all during the daytime, as you would expect. And a few does and fawns frequent the water during the day, as well. Every now and then, a daytime buck will be seen, but not often.
What with the daily temperatures reaching 106 or so, it might be a good idea to put cameras at other water points, just to see what's happening. We are now in the last half of the lunar month with no rain in sight. Century-mark temperatures are predicted as far as their forecasts go. If the dry weather hangs on into the fall, the deer will need to make early reservations for a spot at our corn feeders.
8-11-19 Here we are in the Dog Days of August, and it's plenty hot. Usually gets to 102-105 every afternoon. However, things aren't as hot after the sun goes down as other times we might remember. Anyway, the photos collected this week of our deer herd show, as always, numerous interesting sights.
The pile of cottonseed is never visited during the middle of the day - only from dusk to dawn. The drop-tine buck from last week is still around, as is the old boy with a couple of kickers on his left G-2.
Many, many images are collected of bucks still firmly "in the velvet" with antlers which look very soft and rounded. Most of these appear to be two-year-olds. There are many, many eight pointers, but this week, a few more ten's were found. Some of those soft-looking antlers might still be sprouting additional tines before the growth stops.
Over 600 images were collected at the cottonseed - deer only. No other bird or critter is ever captured on the trail camera. But the deer just love the cottonseed. Indeed, there were dozens of photos with 4-5 bucks at a time nibbling on the pile. Whereas a few does and fawns might be seen in the early morning light, most all the images are bucks-only in the dead of night. Encouragingly, only one buck with clearly inferior antlers comes.
Trail camera nuts get all excited anytime an image of a cat is collected. This week's batch found a dandy bobcat at that water trough passing by in the middle of the day when there is extra-good light. Like my old rodeo buddy Hal Churchill used to say: he'd rather be lucky than good, any day. The same applies to owners of trail cameras.
One thing for sure: raccoons just cannot seem to get along. There are always images of scraps and fights if more than one of the varmints is there at the same time. Most coon visits are at night.
Mid-day images of buzzards are quite common, as well. They come only in the middle of the day. It's not unusual to get two or three in the same photo.
Another rare photo is a fawn nursing his mother. But we got one at the cottonseed pile. Maybe I need to go buy a lottery ticket today?
On the new page "Latest News," photos will be posted later showing a prescribed, controlled fire on 539 acres on the Duncan Ranch, the purpose of which was to kill prickly pear.
8-4-19 I am indebted to Matt Hudson, one of our landowners, who furnished four of the photos below. The first three were taken from the window of his house. Matt entitled the fourth one "Rattle Snack." At first glance, I thought the bird that had fallen victim to the serpent was a whitewing dove, of which there are many on Matt's ranch. Zooming in, however, the unfortunate creature appears to be something else, perhaps some species of ground-nesting bird, according to Steve Nelle, our deer biologist who admits to knowing little about birds. Maybe we'll learn by next week, but it's too late for this week's issue.
The fifth and sixth photos below present a genuine showdown between a young buck and a raccoon. Gunfight at the O.K. water trough, so to speak. Before scrolling down to see the result, try to guess who won.
Water points are good places to find all types of wildlife, from birds to varmints, to deer. Best not to put a camera where domestic livestock might happen to be. For some crazy reason, cattle love to examine the camera. Horses will knock it over. But here in normally thirsty West Texas, a source of water is a mecca for all living creatures. Back before the days of windmills (now solar and electric pumps) when water could be found only in rivers or natural depressions, there were simply not as many critters back then. The development of water by ranchers has been a benefit to all. This fact goes unrecognized by many who hate cattle and are anti-ranching.
Here at the beginning of August, some good antlers are beginning to be seen. Many are still firmly "in the velvet" and will continue putting on inches for a while. Look closely at the images below. I saw a small drop-tine; there was the same buck from last week with a pair of kickers on his left G-2; and now the final photo shows a buck with a curled G-1 on his left side. Curious. What causes such things anyway?
The pile of cottonseed draws many deer. Over the past five days, 618 images were collected. Many, many of the frames will have three-four bucks. One picture was found with five of them.
7-28-19 To follow up on last week's prediction: the sage bushes were right. It did rain a wee bit most places when a cold front passed through. A few, small areas got up to an inch; most of us got only a couple of tenths. Those purple blooms don't promise an amount - only that rain is coming.
With Max Sanders still red-shirted from his trail camera duties, your bumbling webmaster collected photos from only one camera. The memory card in the other camera was not inserted correctly. Get well quickly, Max.
In sorting through the 810 photos collected over the past week to find the 20 shown below, here are a few observations:
There are a few 10 point bucks now to be seen, but 8-pointers dominate. Will they grow additional points, or are they done?
A close look shows the array of antlers to be in various stages of growth. Some seem to be approaching "hard-horn" status whereas others still seem to be round and covered with velvet - clearly still growing. These might the ones to put on more points.
When the trail camera overlooks a pile of cottonseed, we collect images mostly of deer only. One roadrunner passed by, but that was it. Thankfully, raccoons are not drawn to the cottonseed - neither are most other animals and birds.
There was a photo or two of bucks using the cottonseed as a bed, but not as many as last year.
One buck with a pair of kickers on his left G-2 was seen a few times. Another buck with extra-long eye-guards or G-1's comes often.
There were only a couple of photos of the deer fighting.
Probably 95% of the images are collected at night. The few daytime photos are sharper and clearer, but there are just not many of them.
A couple of fawn photos are shown and we are all expecting an above-average fawn crop when the census work is done this fall. Just now, you can hardly see a fawn due to all the broom weeds which are almost as tall now as a mature deer.
Please check out the new page elsewhere on the website. Interesting photos and/or activities will be posted on "Latest News" from time to time when there is something worthwhile to report. This week's subject was a huge cattle roundup where dune buggies instead of horses have been used to gather the cattle for the past ten years.
7-21-19 I'm looking forward to the day when Max Sanders can resume his job as Adobe Lodge Trail Camera Superintendent. Below is a photo of his worthless, no-count, good-for-nothing replacement in the Ranger. At least the trail camera got that image when the subject came into view.
As you will see, the deer are all looking good - fat, even. Except for a doe and a buck where their ribs can be seen. Are they aged and on the downhill slope, or what?
Got a photo of a fox this time, too. And a photo of a buck with an apparent left ear which is deformed. No doubt he will be easy to spot anywhere he goes this fall. It will be interesting to see if we get his image elsewhere.
But the real prize is the photos of the mama turkey with her brood of poults. We are seeing them often now. The young ones are about as big as chickens. Speaking of which: check out the open slots we still have for next spring's turkey hunts. Click "Turkey Dates - 2020" on the left menu.
There are a couple of photos of the sage bushes at the lodge which are loaded with blooms. For the past week or two, daily temperatures have hit the 100 mark in the afternoons, and there are few, if any clouds anywhere. But the sage bushes are great prophets and are reliable in predicting rain. Right this minute, it hard to see how it could possibly happen. Tune in next week for a report on the sage bushes' skills.
Finally, the most interesting photo came to me from one of our landowners, Drew Sykes. Drew, in a former life, was a professional photographer. So he knows how to set up a great photo. Assisting his cousin, Sandra (a.k.a. "Booj"), here was his note accompanying the photo:
Working cattle with Booj this morning. Found this rattlesnake in the pens and it was fat! Booj dispatched it and I dissected it. An adult Cottontail rabbit. Not many times one can have rabbit soup and rattlesnake steaks for dinner with one bullet. ;-)
Note the credit card in the lower right hand portion he used for scale purposes. Very well done, Drew.
7-14-19 To make up for posting so few photos last week (because I inadvertently deleted them), here you will find three separate sets of photos on three different subjects.
To continue with the theme last week, there are photos showing the tremendous amount of forage on the ground. History books talk about our first settlers finding "grass belly-deep to a cow." Now we are getting to see that very thing. Even so, a cow can be seen with prickly pear thorns in her face, clear evidence she has been eating that noxious plant.
We will be visiting all of our 100+ blinds and feeders to check the level of forage. Will things need to be trimmed so a hunter can see a deer? The horses and the bull near the feeder give an indication of the situation. Blind builders Darren Ambrose and Tony Kieffer, standing on either end of the Ranger, give another perspective.
Scroll down for photos of deer blinds being built. Finally, below that you'll get to see some recent trail camera photos of deer.
7-14-19 - Continued from above.
A frequent question from our hunters: what do you do in the summer? Among other things, we build blinds and feeders. Almost always, we build them four-at-a-time because four sheets of "smart-board" can be cut on the same pass with the skill saw. Indeed, three of them will be used to replace the last of our old plywood blinds. We started using Smart Board in 2005 and they have held up remarkably well. Even 15 years later, they look like they were built last week. The fourth blind is needed to replace the one lost in the tornado a month or so ago and photos were posted at the time showing the extent of the damage.
New improvements have come over time. We now have "shelves" in each blind (made from a 2x6) which helps stabilize guns. Windows are now held open with magnets. The new feature this year? Windows are painted black. The idea is that a deer will see virtually the same blind with the window open or closed. Some observers swear that a deer knows when those blinds are open. So we'll see. Spray paint is cheap.
Each blind built carried the initials of the builders and the date. Darren Ambrose, Tony Kieffer and Skipper Duncan were the labor crew in 2019. The 4' x 4' six-foot tall buildings are quite similar in size to the larger "shooting house" shown at our gun range where hunters check the zero on their weapon.
7-14-19 (third and final post of the day)
The trail camera are finding deer, for sure. The third photo in the collection shows a doe, and she serves as a good illustration of determining mature does from immature yearlings (half of which are button bucks.) We always advise doe hunters to look for those deer with long, long noses. This one has a nose that would make Jimmy Durante jealous.
Bucks horns continue to get bigger by the week. Although cottonseed can be found in several locations around the home ranch, most of the activity and consumption is taking place up on a tall hill. And 90% of the photos will be of bucks. Does seem to frequent the lower elevations. Reasons? Cooler relative temperature due to breezes; fewer insects; less ranching activity (cattle, vehicles); or who knows? But when fall comes, the bucks will begin to disperse far and wide. Anyway, having them concentrated for summer photos is handy for the trail camera duties.
Speaking of which: our regular photographer, Max Sanders, has been out of the hospital and home now for a week. His orders: take it easy. Don't rush into doing too much. We heartily endorse the prescription, but we can't wait for him to get back to his camera duties. No one is more eager, however, than is Max.
Although cameras are overlooking feeders dispensing milo for turkeys, we have yet to collect images of the baby birds. But we are seeing a bunch everywhere. So therefore, we will again be offering spring hunts for the Rio Grande birds next April. See the details elsewhere on this website regarding open dates.
7-7-19 Oh what I'd give to have Max Sanders back at his trail camera job. The work has fallen to me, and I screwed up big-time in trying to get the best of the 500+ photos collected this week posted below. I still don't know how it happened. All the photos I had selected somehow got deleted. And I had already erased the four cards. I won't do that again. I'll wait until everything is posted before deleting. Why are lessons so hard to learn, anyway?
So you will just have to take my word for what you would have seen. Here in early July, horn growth is already showing some mighty wide racks. A few eyeguards get longer and longer. Every now and then, a buck will be seen with decent-length tines, but most of them are still growing longer, seems like.
Also found on one of the trail cameras was a small axis deer buck. We've seen about five of them around the home ranch. No telling where they came from.
Also, and you need to send your children out of the room for this one - there was a photo of an unnatural sex act. Honest to goodness, a doe had mounted a small buck from behind. Maybe that cottonseed has properties that are as yet undiscovered?
Max is still in the rehab hospital, but I saw him walking down the hall with his therapists a couple of days ago. He wants to be sure he will get his old trail camera job back. And I can't wait for him to take it back.
The few photos posted below show the sheer volume of forage that is on the ground in West Texas. We have located some of our blinds and feeders in old, dry tank dams or ponds, simply because the visibility in such areas is good. But the rain grew Boone and Crockett weeds. One such spot on the Duncan ranch had to be shredded just to get access. For sure, a deer could not be seen standing under the feeder.
6-30-19 Bad news, amigos. My trail camera buddy, Max Sanders, underwent emergency, major back surgery about a week ago. Max, who has already suffered from a number of similar medical procedures, comes out to the ranch to walk and to check his trail cameras every Tuesday. Faithfully. I cannot remember a Tuesday Max was not there. But he won't be for a while. So I am taking on the job of harvesting photos from each of his two cameras. I always appreciated the laborious task Max had assumed. Now I know why.
Anyway, the buck's antlers are growing nicely, seems like. In a couple of the photos below, you can get a look at the tip-end of a growing antler and it almost seems hollow. Or concave would be a better description. And in a couple of the photos below, already some dandy eyeguard points (or G-1's) are evident. No telling how long they will eventually be. We see bucks fighting, or better said, sparring with their hooves. I doubt those antler-covered horns are used as weapons yet.
The feeder behind the lodge has been filled with milo to, hopefully, draw some turkey hens with their poults. Hasn't happened yet, but some of us have seen plenty of baby turkeys here and there. Just don't have any photographic evidence that will stand up in court.
While the wheat was being combined, our horses made their way through an open gate and located themselves down at the headquarters. Not only did they leaving their horse apples inside the barn, they bent the housing on the feeder behind the lodge and rendered it inoperable for a while. Thank goodness the vandals are now down in the River Trap. But that turkey feeder is attracting scores of doves, both mourning doves and whitewings.
Because of the super hatch of baby turkeys this spring, we will again be offering spring turkey hunting next April. If you are interested in locking-down a date for the big event, give me a holler. We will have plenty of slots open on the first three hunts.
Similarly, if you have questions about our deer hunts next fall, I am as close as your email or your phone. Please never hesitate to contact me anytime. If your call comes during my nap-time, don't worry. I will have my phone turned-off. But I will return your call a.s.a.p. Cancellations can happen at any time and it might be a few hours before I get an open date posted here on the website. So let me hear from you. We might just have a recent open date.
6-18-19 After a couple of weeks, finally a search was made for any damaged blinds and feeders from the tornado which hit a couple weeks ago.
Sure enough, one blind was totally destroyed and two more were blown over with uncertain but probably minimal damage. All this was discovered by our guide, Tony Kieffer who, despite muddy roads and debris, was able to take his four-wheeler to tour the area. Here is Tony's reports from today:
"The Twin Hills West blind looks like a stick of dynamite went off in it. It appears that the tornado picked up the blind and moved it through the air about 70 yards West - Southwest of where it had been standing. When the blind hit the ground it more or less exploded. The base, roof and a couple sides landed in some mesquite brush. Other bits and pieces are scattered around the area. The feeder remained within the pen but got beat up pretty good. The control unit for the feeder was beat to pieces and I had to do some looking to find the timer and battery. I brought the components back to the lodge and they are on a table in the skinning shed.
The Twin Hills East blind was blown over but should be fine once it is stood up again. The feeder is still standing.
The Twin Hills Fence blind was blown about 50 feet south of where it was standing and is laying next to some mesquite brush by the road that runs along the fence line. I will attach pictures of the blind to a separate e-mail.
The East Shack Fence Blind was blown over but should be okay once it is set back up. The feeder took a bit of a beating and I brought the control unit back to the lodge for some repair.
Lots of trees and branches down here and there and a couple of the trails are blocked and we will have to do some chain saw work to make them passable again."
Other news: our mechanic, Lalo Flores, was at the lodge last Sunday. He saw three hens with 12, 14, and 16 poults. Today, I drove under a tree next to a water point that was loaded with babies - too many to count. As mentioned in an earlier report, baby turkeys are almost impossible to see in the super-tall grass.
6-13-19 Max Sanders collected and sent the photos below a few days ago, but your problematic webmaster has been negligent in getting the images posted. Blame out-of-town doctor's appointments and funerals. Plus broke-down equipment at the ranch. While grubbing cedar on the skid steer, it was either a tribe of Comanche Indians or a pack of Islamic terrorists which drove a large mesquite limb through the front door. Glass went everywhere.
Re/funerals: attended a big one today for an 87-year-old rancher. As you might guess, there were many others of that profession in attendance. At the social gathering following the formal ceremony, all those wearing boots and big hats agreed that range conditions are as good as anyone can remember seeing.
There have been a few sightings of baby turkeys, but frankly, with pasture grass 3-4 feet deep in spots, who could see a little one? Even mature turkeys are showing only the tops of their neck and head with the rest of their bodies hidden in the forage. On periodic trips around the countryside, only a few deer will be seen, but they seem to be extra fat. You'll catch a glimpse of a fawn occasionally, but again, the depth of the forage in the pastures hides much of the wildlife.
We have learned that the tornado which so severely damaged the huge, ancient Oak Motte on the Bryant Ranch also found one of our feeders and blinds farther on across the ranch. Haven't yet found either. A search will be made soon to check the rest of the units.
We now have a few slots open on the first date of the 2019 season, just in case you might be interested. Check out the details on the Deer Dates page.
6-5-19 D-Day is tomorrow. May we never forget the events of that date, June 6.
Despite the record amount of rainfall and the abundance of forage for our deer and domestic livestock, we have put out cottonseed in a couple of places just to see what happens. Our trail camera specialist, Max Sanders, was ready to get his cameras back into action. It will be interesting to follow the buck's antler development over the next few months.
Below you will see some of the early photos collected by Max. Horn growth on the bucks is coming along. How big will they get? No one knows. But for sure, their level of nutrition has never been better just now.
We learned today the recent tornado moved across one of our blinds and feeders. Neither has, so far, been located. No doubt, they will have been damaged beyond repair. When, if they are found, we'll try to post photos. Just glad no one was there hunting at the time.
5-26-19 What with all the recent events, it takes two separate postings this week show what's going on.
Range professionals are confirming that the plethora of winter weeds is akin to alfalfa for both livestock and wildlife. So will deer be drawn to cottonseed in the midst of the weed bonanza? Last year, we were able to monitor the horn growth on the bucks by studying the photos taken over piles of cottonseed. To see if deer would, indeed, come, a small pile of the fluffy seeds was dumped behind the lodge. Our faithful and fruitful trail camera amigo, Max Sanders, was "called in off the bench" to place a couple of his units to monitor the feed. As you will see below, in just four days of activity, Max did find a few deer already coming, despite being knee-deep in nutritious and palatable weeds everywhere they look.
No, there were no bucks, but the does shown appear to be super-pregnant and just about to give birth to their offspring. At this time of year, bucks hang-out elsewhere, so yesterday a pile of cottonseed was off-loaded in their sanctuary. Over the coming few weeks, we'll be posting photos of Max's efforts.
As a matter of interest, the daylight photo of the cottonseed shows numerous birds in flight. They are mostly whitewing doves attracted to the milo being dispensed by the nearby feeder. We hope to learn if mother turkeys will be bringing their new poults to this feed. Maybe we can get a handle on the size of the hatch. Turkeys, unlike deer, are most difficult to census accurately.
5-25-19 The post before this one, found below, mentions a storm which moved through exactly one week ago. At the time, we thought there was no damage. Little did we know.
Now that the ground has dried out, a couple of our guides joined me in tourning one of the ranches we hunt - the Bryant - to see if there was anything of note. There was.
In the southwest corner of the 10,000 acre property sits a huge oak mott. It must cover five acres, and sits below a huge dirt tank damn. As guides Buryl Williams, Tony Kieffer and I approached the area, we could see major tree damage to the pecan trees below the Oak Mott - historically a sho-nuff turkey roost. The tops of the trees had disappeared.
As we got closer to the ancient Oak Mott, it became apparant that at least half of it was gone. The giant, majestic live oaks had lost half of their top branches. As had the pecan trees on down the draw.
An old tin shed, formerly used to store winter feed, was completely destroyed. A nearby windmill was torqued and twisted like a soft aluminum can and was totally destroyed. We found tree limbs at least a foot in diameter that looked like so many splinters. Trees had fallen over fences; destruction was abundantly clear everywhere. Much cleanup will be done over the coming days and weeks.
This collection of photos comes from Tony Kieffer who had his camera along on the trip. Thanks, Tony, for "being prepared," like the good Boy Scout promoter he is. The first photo below shows a tin shack, intact, located elsewhere on the ranch. The stong winds completely demolished the structure that was in the path of the tornado. Most expensive damage, of course, was to the windmill tower.
One of our corn feeders situated now well out in the water behind the tank dam has disappeared. We had photos of it sitting in several feet of water after last fall's record floods. It should be seen in the photo of the lake below, but it's not there. The tornado has relocated it permanently to somewhere unknown. Yes, we will find it. May be underwater in the lake. But no, it will no longer be useable. Many of our former hunters have hunted this Oak Mott location on the Bryant and can identify with the location.
Kyle Lange, a helicopter pilot, has photos on Facebook of the path of the destruction he took while on a flight across that area. We'll try to get them to post later.
5-19-19 Before daylight yesterday, a huge storm moved over our Home Camp and on to San Angelo and beyond. Much thunder and lightening, plenty of rain, and damaging wind. A tornado finally touched down about 30 miles east of us.
By the time I got to the Home Camp around mid-morning, the ranch roads were way-too wet to travel, so long overdue chores around the old camp finally got tackled. Our photo-history collection got updated with the 2018 Home Camp Buck of the Year.
Shown below, after the photo of my beautiful wife in a field of flowers, is an overall view of the photos which date back to our first year of operation, 1985. Glare from the cover of the board prevented taking photos of all the different years. But I managed to get decent shots of the first few years, and the most recent four years. You'll notice we had two "winners" from 1992. Reason: the largest was disqualified because the Texas hunter's bullet took off one of the antlers. So Donald Harris from Mississippi got the title. As a matter of interest, we still correspond with Donald who vows to return once again to the scene of his triumph. He is always cautioned to not expect to collect another buck of that caliber.
If weather and road conditions permit, we hope to once again be collecting and posting trail camera photos in the next week or two. With conditions so good just now, deer are not moving around too much, but the few seen show budding antlers sprouting from the tops of their heads. It is always instructive to follow the growth process during the summer.
5-18-19 After posting the text below and after sending it to our consulting biologist, Steve Nelle, here is what he had to say in his reply, all most interesting:
One of the most eye opening things that person can do is to try to hand collect what one deer (or sheep or cow) eats in one day. It gives a great appreciation of what an animal has to do to fill their belly each day. I guarantee that you will give up before you collect one day’s worth of forage. For a 100 lb deer, they eat about 3.5 lb per day dry weight basis. For these weeds which are at least 65% water, that means they eat 10 pounds fresh weight. Try plucking as a deer would eat 10 pounds of weeds and browse. Deer are selective nibblers, eating only a few leaves with each bite.
5-12-2019 Happy Mother's Day as we give thanks for our own mothers and the mothers of our children.
We've often talked about our West Texas weeds and their importance for both livestock and wildlife. Recently on a tour of my ranch, a great illustration of this fact was easy to see. So I took photos yesterday to demonstrate, beyond any doubt, why weeds are such a huge part of a deer's diet.
First, a little background. The NRCS (Natural Resource and Conservation Service - a new name for the old Soil Conservation Service) has an ongoing program on my ranch which calls for, among other requirements, several "Exclosure Pens", which prohibit any grazing by domestic animals or wildlife. Such pens allow you to easily see how much grazing is going on.
There is one such pen up in the High Lonesome pasture. For a variety of reasons, this one-section, square-mile, 640 acre piece of land has had no livestock grazing for the past year. To be sure, there are plenty of deer. Indeed, the fall census counts done from a helicopter find extraordinary numbers of deer in the High Lonesome, primarily due to the heavy infestation of brush - mainly cedar. Deer love such a sanctuary.
The exclosure pen, seen in the photos below, obviously prohibits grazing by most all animals. Yes, yes, rabbits can get in, but these days, we have almost zero bunnies - another story for another day. Since deer are unable to graze the weeds in the pen, you can see how much grazing of weeds they have done OUTSIDE the pen.
The weeds are providing one heck of a level of nutrition for all grazing animals. But their time grows mighty short. When the hot summer days finally get here, the weeds will soon be gone. Cows will begin to eat grass; deer will revert to eating browse and summer forbs.