Note: All photos come from ranches hunted by Adobe Lodge Also: Click on an image to enlarge it.
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.
5-5-19 During the fall hunting season, a frequent question comes from some of our clients: "What do you do when the hunting season is over?"
May and June are equi-distant between last year and next year, but even so, there is plenty to do - just not much involving hunting. Below are a few photos showing activities around the old Home Camp last week.
My grandson, Wyatt, graduated from Texas Tech a year ago, but somehow he had to arrange his fraternity's spring shin-dig. He asked about using our river park, a good choice now that our river actually has water running over the dam. The photos below show what the area looked like. A couple of our neighbors called asking if we had produced another "Woodstock."
Thank goodness I was gone after dark when the "vintage Rock and Roll band from the 1980s" showed up. I could have made a deal with them: if they don't play any of my songs, I won't play any of their's on my guitar. I doubt they know any Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard or Flatt and Scruggs.
Cattlemen who want their calves to start coming in mid-February are just now turning out bulls with their cows. Females are coming in heat, and the bulls are all-too willing to accommodate their grandest dreams. Our neighbor to the east has 19 yearling bulls that escaped their pasture and traveled over a mile to get to our herd of 38 yearling heifers. The rascals were finally found in three bunches - eleven, two, and six. It took two days to get them rounded-up and back home after the fence they had torn down was fixed. Let's hope it stays that way. I now fit a recurring description - "Full of Bull."
Then, one of my bulls got with the wrong set of cows and had to be penned - a monumental chore since he refused to be moved to a set of pens where he could be loaded and moved to a secure location. Had to hire a couple of sho-nuff cowboys and their horses to get this done.
But the bulls go to the vet tomorrow to be fertility-tested. I hope to have them with their respective set of cows by Monday afternoon.
Range conditions are as good as they've been in decades. All livestock and wildlife will benefit. In about a month from now, we should begin to see fawns and baby turkeys. We will have some trail cameras out to monitor the situation.
4 - 22 - 19 With no trail cameras at work, it is pert-near impossible these days to get photos of wildlife of any kind. Reason: as you will see in some of the images below, forage on the ground is almost knee-deep. Beyond keeping critters hidden from sight, most all the weeds are highly nutritious keeping bellies full and movement very, very limited.
Years ago following a prolific wet spell, a photo was taken of the then-normal flow across the dam on our river. Yesterday, a photo was taken of this old picture to compare with what we are seeing now. Yes, the flow is much diminished, but after several years of the old Middle Concho being completely dry, the trickle of water seems mighty nice, indeed.
There are two photos of a turkey hen, but you will have heck seeing her. All you can see are her head and neck. She is just to the left of the large tree which is just to the right of the center of the photo. When Jeri and I were touring and looking on yesterday's beautiful Easter Sunday afternoon, we spotted the lone hen and captured her, barely, on film. As the old-pro turkey hunters will tell you, a lone hen is a strong indication she is out tending her nest. And since it was about 5 p.m., they say the old girl is getting way-toward the end of her egg-laying and will be sitting on her nest soon. We hope she and countless other hens will be doing this very thing to help rebuild our turkey numbers.
There are a couple of photos to show the wild flowers, all of which are nearing the end of their cycle. Jeri is standing out in the wheat to show how tall it is - most unusual for around here.
Next to last is a yellow-headed black bird known locally as a "Rain Crow." Old timers swear their presence predict a coming rain storm. Let'er rip.
Finally, there is another photo of a photo which hangs in the lodge. Several years ago during spring turkey season, two rattlesnakes were filmed while in a desperate two-hour long battle. Literature on the web says it was two males fighting for a female somewhere.
So spring is in the air. All the baby animals are coming. Thank You, Jesus.
4-15-19 Happy Tax Day, amigos. I hope everyone made enough last year to pay taxes.
One week ago today, I had full replacement knee surgery on my right side, so needless to say, I have not been too productive. After kind of over-doing things on Friday, I learned that the best place to be was in my recliner with ice on my leg. The horrendous swelling went down to a reasonable level by this morning and I could hobble about without that walker. First real rehab session later this morning will be instructive.
With a new hip last year and the new knee now, I have had this thought: when my time comes and if I am lucky enough to get as far as the Pearly Gates, the credentials committee might not recognize me and I'll have a fair chance of getting in.
Finally we had a good rain - almost an inch. But large hail stones left dents in all our hunting trucks. Add those to the thorn scratches and there is little to no cosmetic value left in any of them. Thieves will pass them by.
Dutifully, our faithful buddy Max Sanders sent the attached turkey photos. He notes that all the feeders he monitors are now running out of corn and he expects to harvest no further photos. No matter. From his capable efforts, we learned what we needed to know: yes, there are birds to help replenish our numbers. This is the best spring we've seen in years. There is no reason to not expect a bountiful hatch. Our fingers are crossed.
Our Oregon rancher friend still has a couple of mule deer slots and one for elk available. Holler if you know anyone who wants a good chance at an exceptional animal.
4-7-19 This week's collection of photos have nothing to do with hunting, but some of our faithful readers might enjoy a bit of history and news.
The great majority of our hunters over the past 30+ years have seen our beloved donkey, Nevada, along side the ranch road leading to the lodge. Sometimes our guides would stop their vehicle to show their hunters how Nevada would come up to the window in hopes of a treat, such as a slice of apple.
The first photo shows her capture 34 years ago. She died around December 28th last year and was buried in the very pasture where she had lived most of her life. Nevada was completely and totally worthless, never having done an honest day's work her entire life. But we loved her dearly and we will miss her begging for a head scratch and ear rub, in addition to the super-expensive "senior equine" horse feed she received daily. Nevada's history and biography can be found in my first book, "Characters and Critters" described elsewhere on this website.
During the past couple of months, I have learned a great deal about the Butterfield Trail and had the opportunity to photograph a monument on a private ranch which severely limits visitors. No, I didn't sneak in, but was invited by the ranch foreman to see the site of the stage stop. A local historian, in doing extensive work on locating the trail, has determined the stage line ran within a half-mile of our hunting lodge, just across the river. The St. Louis to San Francisco stage line existed only three years until the Civil War began. After the war, the trail was used to drive cattle north (avoiding the dangerous Comanche Indians in what was to become Oklahoma) by Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving, the first to pioneer the famous route.
Finally, there are several photos of our spring flowers. Almost everyone one of them is a delicious and nutritious meal for both wildlife and livestock. All these plants germinated back last fall during that monsoon rain we had before deer season. They are quickly approaching the end of their cycle, but the seeds they produce will be there for years until another super-wet autumn comes along.