Note: All photos come from ranches hunted by Adobe Lodge Also: Click on an image to enlarge it.
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.
3-31-19 Spring turkey season opens this weekend in our part of Texas. But for the first time in twenty-some years, we have no hunters in camp. It's a sad time around the old Adobe Lodge.
Back in August of last year when it became clear that once again, for the third year in a row, our hens had produced a virtual zero-hatch, we cancelled our 2019 spring turkey hunting and refunded all the deposits we had received from booked hunters.
Now that the season is upon us, the cancellation was the right thing to do. Yes, we do have turkeys as you will see in the photos below. But we are putting out signs at all the feeders to instruct the gobblers and the hens:
BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY
Hopefully they will bring forth a bountiful crop of babies in June. All our landowners are on alert to be on the lookout for the little ones in early summer.
Very preliminary reports from a few local turkey hunting pundits report a slow beginning to the season. We hope for the best, but for sure, 2019 won't make the record books.
Max Sanders, our ever-faithful trail camera amigo, has been monitoring several feeders where the birds congregate during the late winter. He has been collecting images of unusually large numbers of foxes. He admits to forwarding only a few, but Max says he is impressed by how many he sees. Indeed, some of the contestants in San Angelo's varmint-calling contests during the winter months will collect 50-60+ foxes in just one night of calling. Could the spike in the fox population cause the decline in our area's low rabbit numbers?
Our West Texas pastures are now as colorful as they have been in years. Wild flowers are as good as we've ever seen. Most all of these plants are highly nutritious and palatable for both wildlife and livestock. We are all hoping for rain to keep things lush.
As a side note, my recent email regarding the Oregon mule deer and elk hunting produced much interest. Here are the only open dates left:
Mule Deer Oct 2-5 $6500/ea. 2 slots open
Elk Oct 23-27 $6000 1 slot open
Call or email and I'll put you in touch with that rancher. He has neither a website nor a brochure. But when you talk to him on the phone, you will quickly learn he knows his animals and how to hunt them.