Tag Archives: Big Game Hunting

Tales Are Numerous When You Are The Hunter of Big Game

Tales of a Big Game Guide by Russell Annabel, The Derrydale Press

Hound And Hunter By Winslow Homer

 

“Winslow Homer was an American painter, illustrator and etcher, one of the two most admired American late 19th-century artists and is considered to be the greatest pictorial poet of outdoor life in the United States and its greatest watercolorist”. – From  Winslow Homer: 216 Colour Plates, by Maria Peitcheva

 

 

Hound And Hunter, Oil On Canvas, 1892. By Winslow Homer. A Scene Inspired by The Adirondack Region of Upstate New York
On The Trail Of Adventure

 

“The place suits me as if it was made for me by a kind of providence.” – Winslow Homer, Speaking of his love for Quebec

 

Things are definitely going to happen when you put a boy, a dog, and a deer together, somewhere in the waters of the Adirondack Wilds, and no doubt that there is more to the story behind the makings of this scene.  After all, what could go possibly go wrong?

Few artists have ever been able to capture the mood and nuance of a sporting moment like Winslow Homer. His “Hound and Hunter”, completed in 1892,  is certainly a wonderful example of the master’s art. One look, and I am transported to a time gone by, drawn to and within it like a bloodhound to a hot scent.

Like so many great paintings, it begs more questions than it answers, and I for one want to know more. So much more. No doubt you have some questions of your own.

It has been one of my very favorite Homer paintings for many years, and it was one of the very first header images that I ever used to help illustrate Through A Hunter’s Eyes. Apparently I have a good eye, for as it turns out, it may have been Homer’s favorite work too!

Enjoy, wonder, and hunt!

 

By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

“There’s no such thing as too many paintings and prints. Or bronzes of Labradors and pointers and Brittanies and setters. Or glasses with pintails and canvasbacks and salmon and trout flies. Or pictures of you and Charlie with Old Duke and a limit of bobwhites, or a pair of muleys, or a half dozen Canadas, or about a yard of rainbows. Or old decoys and duck calls. There are never too many memories of days past or too many dreams of good times to come”. – Gene Hill, from A Listening Walk, 1995

 

*”Hound And Hunter” did produce some controversy at the time of its release to the general public. The use of hounds to drive deer before the gun was seen as unpopular among many, even then, and Homer repainted parts of it to make it more appealing. Yet, it remains, as Homer  himself referred to it, “a great work”.

 

You Can Read More About Winslow Homer Here

 

You Might also Like Jim Kjelgaard – Patron Saint Of Dogs, Boys, And The Great Outdoors

 

Winslow Homer: 216 Colour Plates (Paperback)

Winslow Homer was American painter, illustrator and etcher, one of the two most admired American late 19th-century artists and is considered to be the greatest pictorial poet of outdoor life in the United States and its greatest watercolorist. Nominally a landscape painter, in a sense carrying on Hudson River school attitudes, Homer was an artist of power and individuality whose images are metaphors for the relationship of Man and Nature. A careful observer of visual reality, he was at the same time alive to the purely physical properties of pigment and colour, of line and form, and of the patterns they create. His work is characterized by bold, fluid brushwork, strong draughtsmanship and composition, and particularly by a lack of sentimentality. Although Homer excelled above all as a watercolorist, his oils and watercolours alike are characterized by directness, realism, objectivity, and splendid colour. His powerful and dramatic interpretations of the sea in watercolour have never been surpassed and hold a unique place in American art. They are in leading museums throughout the United States.

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A Late Night Postcard Of The Best Kind

Seasons Greetings!

Two Bull Elk Feed In Late Winter Snow

Winter is the Tough Time

 

I arrived home past midnight last night, to find a small herd of elk feeding in an open pasture to the west. My neighbor keeps his horses here, and I have an unobstructed view of it from our house on the hill. I spotted them as I walked over to our dog kennel on the fence line, and as I studied them I saw a big cow raise her head, just to let me know that she was watching me too.

 I don’t suppose I will ever tire of seeing elk. They have a way of taking over the conversation, you might say, to make you pause in mid sentence when you spy one, to make you completely forget whatever you had been doing at the time, as if the world is a mere background created just for them. It has always been this way between the elk and I.

 They looked particularly surreal this night, quietly feeding on a blanket of fresh, white powder, surrounded by the mystical light of a high, full moon. I am struck by the picture quality of it all, the sharp crispness of the image frozen in the cold night air. I can only smile. It is a perfect moment in time.

 

A Labrador Retriever In The Snow, Watching For Animals Hidden In The Trees

Watching For What Comes

 

 My dogs knew they were out there, of course, being that they were no more than 100 yards away with just some old wire to separate them. They had probably been watching them for some time, waiting for me to come home, whining nervously, and wishing they could run over and join up. The elk, for their part, paid us no mind, as they pawed in the snow. They had seen this show before and are not as impressed as us.

 We see quite a few elk around our property when the snows grow formidable in the high country. It is one reason to look forward to winter. They especially like to feed at night in a large hay-field below us, and at first light they bunch up and head for the cover of rougher grounds and cedar trees on the properties and public lands to our North.

To my everlasting delight, they like to cross one small corner of our property as they leave the hay fields, and if we are lucky, we get to watch. I often sit in an overstuffed chair behind our big picture window, waiting, hot coffee in hand, enveloped in the approaching day as the rest of the world wakes up.

 

A Large Bull Elk Feeding In The Snow Of Late Winter, Somewhere In The Rocky Mountain West

Without Winter, No Spring

 

 We have seen herds of one hundred elk and more, although smaller groups are most common. One morning I sat transfixed as a herd of about fifty or so lined up to jump the fence at the edge of the field below our house, then crossed our field on a run and passed along our fence line next to the house. I counted seventeen bulls, some small, some large, surrounded by foggy breath when they stopped. I can see it in my mind’s eye, just now.

 At times, a small herd will bed down for the night under our apple trees. Once I looked out to see several lying contentedly in the sun, with freshly laid snow still shimmering on their backs. I’ve seen them browsing in the remnants of our flower garden or standing next to our bird bath, and I wave and say hello.

Welcome, I say, and good morning to you.

 Last night, I reach my door and turn one last time to watch the elk and try to lock this image in my memory bank for all time. It is the quintessential Rocky Mountain postcard, a picture postcard for the soul, and I wish I could send it out to you, to all, with good tidings and cheer.

May the spirit of elk be with you!

I don’t suppose I shall ever tire of seeing elk….

 

An Illustration, Or Postcard, Of A Trophy Bull Elk, Bugling, With Foggy Breath, Silhouetted Against A Starry, Late Night Sky

 

 By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

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Elk: A Postcard Book (Postcard Books) (Paperback)

The elk is perhaps the most enduring symbol of the high country of the American West. These 20 postcards, selected by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, feature breathtaking photographic portraits of elk in the vibrant natural habitats that sustain them.

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A Mule Deer Apparition

 

A Trophy Mule Deer Buck Walks Towards The Camera During The Annual Mule Deer Rut In Western Colorado, Oblivious To The World Around Him. Photograph By Michael Patrick McCarty
Is He Real, Or Is It A Dream…

 

Trophy mule deer can haunt your dreams like a shimmering ghost, fading eerily in and out of a hunter’s reality.

Ready or not, they say, for you may not get another chance.

Still, they wait for us, somewhere…

I don’t suppose I shall ever tire of seeing Mule Deer…

 

Photograph by Michael Patrick McCarty

 

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Let The Quest Begin:

 

 

Mule Deer Quest: Thirty-Five Years of Observation and Hunting Mule Deer from Sonora to Saskatchewan (Hardcover)

A unique collection of mule-deer hunting stories, biology, management, and hunting how-to’s, on North America’s top trophy. Get the inside story on where to find bucks on public lands, and why where is just as important as how.

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Merry Christmas To All – And A Season of Big Bucks!

 

Big Mule Deer Buck Christmas Card With Christmas Wreath and Snow in Background in Colorado
All I Want For Christmas Is A Big Mule Deer Buck. Photo Courtesy of Frank Donofrio

 

Greetings From The Colorado Rockies!

 

All the best for you and yours, and here’s to a funtastic  2019.

May you get to spend a fair amount of it in your favorite hills, haunts, and waters, wherever they may be!

 

A Mule Deer Buck Feeds Contently In the Winter Snow Of Colorado, Seen Outside the Window, With A Christmas Tree In The Foreground.
A Perfect Stocking Stuffer

 

Michael Patrick McCarty

 

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Or, A Man Made Of Meat

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For a Relaxing Winter Read, We Can Recommend:

 

Silence & Solitude: Yellowstone’s Winter Wilderness

 

Powerful, brutal, beautiful, and at times, enchanting, winter in Yellowstone National Park is a world unlike any other. It is a season both abstract and profound, where super-heated water erupts into arctic air, where wildlife pushes snow in a constant struggle to survive, and where silence and solitude dominate the park’s deep wilderness. Photographer Tom Murphy has experienced Yellowstone’s winter wilderness as few others have, skiing far into the backcountry with heavy camera gear, an uncanny ability to weather cold and snow, and an artist’s eye for the sublime. His photographs reveal a majestic land where the air is clean and clear and where a wolf’s throaty howl carries for miles on a still day.

“Silence & Solitude: Yellowstone’s Winter Wilderness” shows us the splendor and force of Yellowstone’s long cold. In 130 photos we begin to understand the lives of the wildlife that must endure it; we begin to feel the inspiring power of a landscape still wild and pure; and we see nature’s beauty in things great and small. These photos are accompanied by Murphy’s thoughtful words that take us into the time and place of each image. The captions allow us to smile at a fox’s serious hunt for a mouse, to understand why bison stand stoically in geothermal steam, and to marvel at a sudden shift of subtle light that brings breathtaking grandeur to a nondescript little tree and just as suddenly takes it away.

As popular author Tim Cahill observes in his foreword, “These are photos that mirror a man’s passion, and I know of nothing like them anywhere. Murphy’s photographs are not simply stunning or striking: they are also knowledgeable and even wise.”

 

Elk On The Range

 

December 7, 2018

 

 

Two Cow Elk Feed In A Sage Covered Meadow Below Snowy Cliffs In Colorado. Photograph By Michael Patrick McCarty
A Good Snack Interrupted

 

In the Rocky Mountains, elk are often most concentrated, and observable, on the lower elevations of their traditional winter ranges. Life is generally easier there, for obvious reasons.

Still, it can be the time of dangerous weather and increased predation, making it the most vulnerable time for elk survival. Without a doubt, the heavy snows, and other trials, will come.

These elk look healthy and content, for now.

For when it comes to the fates, and ultimate survival, only the elk, and Mother Nature, know for sure.

Best Holiday Wishes For The Elk, and To All!

 

A Small Herd Of Elk Feed On A Sagebrush Flat In Western Colorado. Photograph by Michael Patrick McCarty

 

Photographs By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

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For More About Elk Range and Management, We Can Recommend:

 

Where Elk Roam: Conservation And Biopolitics Of Our National Elk Herd (Paperback)

As one of the world’s largest and most social deer species, elk are of immense interest to wildlife enthusiasts.  Their 500-800-pound tawny bodies, sweeping antlers, and fascinating behaviors draw millions to seek them in national parks and other public lands.  So valued are elk for viewing, sport, and table fare, that over the past twenty-five years elk were transplanted from the West to five Eastern states and Ontario, Canada.  These reintroductions helped restore a treasured animal that as recently as two centuries ago roamed from Atlantic to Pacific coasts and Alaska to Mexico.
 
Where Elk Roam provides an inside look at the field studies and conservation work of a federal wildlife scientist who for twenty-two years served as the National Elk Refuge’s wildlife biologist, coordinating winter feeding of 8,000 elk and tracking their births, deaths, and annual migrations throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. It brings to life the joys and rewards of working with elk and other magnificent species–including wolves, bears, and mountain lions–and it entertains and educates while also moving readers toward active participation in conservation.

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Mule Deer In Motion – Hunting For the Rut

 

A Trophy Mule Deer Buck Searches For Does During The Annual Breeding Season In Colorado. Photograph By Michael Patrick McCarty
A Bird Dog with Horns!

 

By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

Mid-November, Any Year

 

‘Tis the season when big Mule Deer bucks began to pour from muted landscapes in search of females, where just days before there were no deer.

‘Tis the time of frost and biting wind, then snow. The moment is filled with purpose and perpetual motion, and the promise of primordial ritual. It is the time of gathering, of courtship, and the battle for the right to breed. It is the annual Mule Deer rut, and it is happening now, all around us.

 

A Big Mule Deer Buck Trails A Doe During the Annual Rut In Colorado. Photograph By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

At no other time of the year are the bucks so visible, so distracted, proud, but yet so vulnerable. You cannot witness the spectacle without being drawn to the precipice, suspended there on the periphery of their stirrings.

I am lucky to live in an area of the West that has more than it’s share of mature and trophy animals. To watch them is to know them, at least as much as a human can.

 

Two Mule Deer Bucks Lock Antlers In A Sparring Match During The Breeding Season In Colorado. Photograph By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

To be there, in and around them, reaches towards the place in the soul where the wild things are. The scene reminds us that there are bigger things going on in the world just outside the limited vision of our everyday lives. It’s raw and it’s real, and it simply must happen. The survival of the species, of their’s, and perhaps of ours, is at stake.

To this I say, thank the heavens for the mule deer. May you rule the Rockies forever!

Good luck, and Godspeed!

 

A trophy mule deer trots quickly across a snow covered field in search of does
Which Way Did They Go? Photo by Michael Patrick McCarty

 

A mature mule deer buck trails a mule deer doe during the November breeding season in western colorado
Herding Cats! Photo by Michael Patrick McCarty

 

Another Big Buck With Something On His Mind

 

A big trophy mule deer buck with doe in full rut in colorado. Photography by Michael McCarty
King of the Day! Photo by Michael Patrick McCarty

Big Bucks Rock!

 

By Michael Patrick McCarty

To See More Trophy Bucks See Our Post A Head Full of Bone

 

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When a really big buck lopes along through the forest, sagebrush, or whatever, he is a sight to behold. The big body seems to churn along smoothly and fluidly. Powerful muscles carry him across rocky hillsides, through heavy brush, and thick forests. As he runs, he carries his head forward and slightly lowered, swaying his glistening rack back and forth to avoid obstructions in his path…A trophy buck sails along like a racehorse, especially if he wants to put some space between himself and something he doesn’t like…It’s interesting that many hunters, perhaps the majority, come completely unglued when they’re treated to the sight of a grand buck… – Jim Zumbo

 

A photograph of the front cover of the dustjacket of the book Hunting America's Mule Deer, by Jim Zmbo
Big Bucks Rut!

 

For Sale:

Hunting America’s Mule Deer by Jim Zumbo. Winchester Press, 1981. Hardcover, in Very Good+ condition, with a short tear to dustjacket. With gift inscription by and signed by Jim Zumbo.

$24.95 plus $4 shipping (in U.S.)

 

We Can also Recommend:

 

Mule Deer Hunting Tactics by Mike Eastman (2012-05-03) (Hardcover)

Mule Deer Hunting Tactics is Mike Eastman’s second book on mule deer hunting. It covers not only the high country, but also the aspen-conifer and arid-sage country of the western states. In this book, Mike gives solid information on mule deer behavior as well as tactics for finding and harvesting a trophy buck. What is in this book: 1. Field Judging Trophy Mule Deer, 2. Research Section, 3. Hunting Strategies & Tactics, 4. Mule Deer Behavior-Early, Mid, and Late Fall, 5. Mule Deer Terrain Hunting Tactics, 6. Antler Growth, Age & Genetic History, and 5 Big Sections and 29 Chapters.

Mike Eastman has been hunting the West for nearly 60 years. He is widely recognized as a leading authority on western trophy big game hunting. Following in the footsteps of his father, Gordon Eastman (A pioneer in the hunting and wildlife filming industry), Mike successfully built Eastmans’ Publishing, Inc., an entity widely know not only as the authority on North American big game hunting, but also for its steadfast fair chase hunting ethics.


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A Man Made of Meat – A Hunter’s Celebration

Tis The Season, To Yank Something Up The Hill, And Build The Hunter’s Fire

 

A Solo Rifle Hunter Drags an Elk Hindquarter Meat Up a Steep Hill in The Winter Snow While Elk Hunting in Colorado. Photograph by Michael Patrick McCarty
Bringing Home The Bacon. Or The Elk

Just in Time For Christmas Dinner.

Oh Joy To The World!

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Man in all his forms has been dragging something along behind him since he first stood upright and made his first staggering steps toward the horizon. Sometimes, it was a big hunk of life sustaining meat just like this.

They say that modern man hunts to fulfill some relentless though mysterious primordial need. Perhaps it is a way to reconnect with mother nature, to feel the wind on our face and remember our true place in the world.

I have another idea.

Perhaps we are just hungry!

Should We Get The Grill Ready?

By Michael Patrick McCarty

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“The real work of men was hunting meat. The invention of agriculture was a giant step in the wrong direction, leading to serfdom, cities, and empire. From a race of hunters, artists, warriors, and tamers of horses, we degraded ourselves to what we are now: clerks, functionaries, laborers, entertainers, processors of information”. – Edward Abbey

 

“One does not hunt in order to kill, on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted…” – From “Meditations on Hunting”, By Ortega y Gasset

 

Mallmann on Fire: 100 Inspired Recipes to Grill Anytime, Anywhere (Hardcover)

Featured on the Netflix documentary series Chef’s Table

“Elemental, fundamental, and delicious” is how Anthony Bourdain describes the trailblazing live-fire cooking of Francis Mallmann. The New York Times called Mallmann’s first book, Seven Fires, “captivating” and “inspiring.” And now, in Mallmann on Fire, the passionate master of the Argentine grill takes us grilling in magical places—in winter’s snow, on mountaintops, on the beach, on the crowded streets of Manhattan, on a deserted island in Patagonia, in Paris, Brooklyn, Bolinas, Brazil—each locale inspiring new discoveries as revealed in 100 recipes for meals both intimate and outsized. We encounter legs of lamb and chicken hung from strings, coal-roasted delicata squash, roasted herbs, a parrillada of many fish, and all sorts of griddled and charred meats, vegetables, and fruits, plus rustic desserts cooked on the chapa and baked in wood-fired ovens. At every stop along the way there is something delicious to eat and a lesson to be learned about slowing down and enjoying the process, not just the result.


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“Time To Slam It In Four Wheel Drive”

 

Happy Thanksgiving To All!

 

 

A Future Young Hunter Drives His Toy Car Through The Woods, With a Stuffed Deer Toy On Top of the Roof. Teach A Child to Hunt - Today!
Just In Time For Dinner

 

You Might Also Like Like Father, Like Son

 

When It comes To Teaching Kids to Hunt And Appreciate The Outdoors, They Are Never Too Young To Start!

 

We Can Also Suggest That You Have a Good Read With:

 

 

The Old Man and the Boy (Paperback)

This classic captures the endearing relationship between a man and his grandson as they fish and hunt the lakes and woods of North Carolina. All the while the Old Man acts as teacher and guide, passing on his wisdom and life experiences to the boy, who listens in rapt fascination.


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A Bad Day To Be a Grizzly Bear, Or A Grizzly Bear Hunter

 

“The roar of a wounded grizzly bear is nicely designed to try the courage of a man. It’s half snarl and half bellow, and it’s full of blood and fangs and murderous rage.”Ben East, Brown Fury of the Mountains, 1940

 

October 28, 1864

 

A Grave Marker For Benjamin Harrison Baird, Killed By a Grizzly Bear On Grave Creek NEar the Rouge River in 1864, and Found In Croxton Memorial Park In Grants Pass, Oregon. Posted By Michael Patrick McCarty
Photograph By James Dolmage

 

“Located in Croxton Memorial Park (in Grants Pass, Oregon) is a large, concrete circle with a number of headstones imbedded in concrete. There are also two plaques that note the names of 90 individuals interred here. This park was once a cemetery for many years but neglect and vandalism forced the city to convert this lot into a city park in 1975. The headstones of the surviving graves were imbedded in concrete to prevent further vandalism and damage.

One of the graves imbedded in concrete is of Benjamin Harrison Baird who was unfortunately killed by a grizzly bear.”

You Can Find More Information Here

California Alta Daily
December 26, 1864
p.1, c. 4

KILLED BY A GRIZZLY — Mr. B. H. Baird, of Jackson county, Oregon, was killed by a grizzly bear while out deer hunting on Grave creek. The following particulars are from the Sentinel: —On the morning of the 28th, about sunrise, Mr. Baird started in pursuit of game, taking his faithful dog, Rover, with him. He proceeded about one mile and a half, when his dog bayed three grizzly bears in their bed. Mr. Baird got within fifteen yards of them, and shot the largest one, only wounding it. The bear pitched at Mr. Baird, who ran about two hundred yards, when the bear caught him and knocked his gun about sixteen feet from him. Getting loose from the bear, he sprang to the limb of a tree, the bear passing under and hitting his feet, went a short distance down the hill, when he stopped to fight the dog. Mr. B. got his gun, re-loaded it, and shot the bear the second time. The bear now came at him more furiously than before, and knocked the gun out of his hand the second time. Mr. B. swung around a bush to keep out of the bear’s reach, drew one of his butcher knives and stabbed the bear in the belly. The bear struck him several severe blows, knocking his knife out of his hand. Mr. B. then drew his second knife, when the bear seized his hand in which he held the knife, causing him to drop it. The bear now got the better of Mr. B., getting him down, biting him in the face, cutting several severe gashes on the left side, tearing out his right eye, and also tearing off all the right side of his face. It bit several large holes in his right side; in fact, bit him nearly all over his body, down to his boots. The bear now turned to fight the dog, that had saved Mr. B. from having been killed on the spot. The bear and the dog then rolled down the hill some distance, still fighting, when Mr. B. gathered up his gun, two knives, the rope with which he had been leading his dog, and started for Mr. Michael’s cabin, distance about one mile and a half, where he arrived, much exhausted, about 10 A.M., and was assisted into the house, when he related the melancholy event to Mr. McDonough. Being conscious that he could not long survive, he spoke of his family, and his desire to see them before he died. He was reconciled to meet his death, and spoke of a future happiness. He died about 8 P.M. of the same day. Mrs. Baird was sent for, and hastened with all possible speed the distance of eighteen miles, over a very rough, hilly road, but arrived about five minutes too late to see her husband alive. He was brought home and buried near the farm, some four miles north of Rogue river, near the stage road. He leaves a wife and sixteen children, eight of whom are but young, and live at home.

 

“…the last officially documented grizzly bear in Oregon was killed along Chesnimnus Creek by a federal trapper on September 14, 1931. According to Jerry Gildemeister’s Bull Trout, Walking Grouse and Buffalo Bones: Oral Histories of Northeast Oregon Fish and Wildlife, however, sheepherders knew of a pair of grizzlies in the Minam drainage on the far western side of the Wallowa Mountains in 1937 and 1938; one of these bears was shot.

Of course, the very last grizzly of Oregon probably escaped the notice of humankind altogether. Whether he or she died in the remote plateau forests flanking the Northeast Oregon canyonlands or the brushy breaks of the Siskiyous—or someplace else entirely—we can only offer a vague, if heartfelt, toast.

Meanwhile, Hells Canyon country has continued to cough up the occasional grizzly rumor over the decades, although it should be noted that many of the black bears here are cinnamon-phase and thus easily confused with their heftier cousins. In Oregon Desert Guide, Andy Kerr reports an alleged sighting from 1979 along Steep Creek a few miles from Homestead, and Gildemeister’s oral histories mention possible grizzly sign noted by a wildlife biologist in 1989 near Smooth Hollow, right along the Snake River below Hat Point.”

From  Oregon Wild, The Last Grizzlies of Oregon By Ethan Shaw

 

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Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance (Paperback)

Alan Precup disappeared while backpacking in the Alaskan wilderness. Days later, searchers found his campsite. In the bushes about 150 feet away, they found Precup’s bare skeleton, one intact hand, and both feet, still booted. In his camera were the exposed frames of the bear that killed him.
Chris Dunkley and three friends were hiking in Banff National Park. Suddenly a grizzly bear mother came galloping toward them. The first of three charges came so close that it broke a fishing rod in Dunkley’s hand, yet none of the party was injured.
Keith Ecklund and Larry Reimer were fishing in central Saskatchewan one spring day when they were attacked by a black bear. Ecklund kicked the bear in the head to hold it off. Reimer came to help, was attacked, and while fighting with the bear, killed it with his filleting knife. An autopsy of the bear revealed parts of a third man, Melvin Rudd, in the bear’s gut. The rest of Rudd’s partly consumed body was found nearby.
What can we learn from these and hundreds of other attacks and non-injurious encounters with black and grizzly bears? Of all the animals in North America’s wilderness, none command such fear, awe, and interest as the bear. Creatures that fear little, bears now compete for survival with the only other animal that can threaten their existence: humans. What do we know about black and grizzly bears and how can this knowledge be used to avoid bear attacks?
For more than three decades, Bear Attacks has been the thorough and unflinching landmark study of the attacks made on humans by the great grizzly and the less aggressive, but occasionally deadly, black bear. This is the sometimes horrific yet instructive story of Bear and Man, written by the leading scientific authority in the field. This book is for everyone who hikes, camps, or visits bear country—and for anyone who wants to know more about these sometimes fearsome but always fascinating wild creatures.

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The Last Mule Deer Doe

“Biology plus politics equals biopolitics and this is what conservation departments are forced to play, often to the detriment of good game management.”William Towell, Director Missouri Conservation Commission, 1957-1967

 

A Mule Deer Doe Strikes a Pensive Pose Against A Background of Grass and Brush, Somewhere in the West
Looking At An Uncertain Future

 

October, 2013

 

I harvested a sleek, young mule deer doe today, dropped cleanly with a fast-moving .270 caliber bullet well before the crack of the rifle had begun to die away in the thin mountain air. It was a fitting end to a hunt that had barely begun, yet at the same time a fine beginning to something so much more. Why then, did it cause a small pang of concern, like I had done something somehow wrong and irreversible?

It had not been a difficult hunt in the rugged landscape around me, where so often in the past it had been exactly the opposite. She had been standing with another doe just above a dirt access track stretching through a small parcel of public ground, and when the bullet hit her she had made one jump and came to rest in the middle of the road. A quick field dressing and a short flip to the waiting tailgate and she was off to the garage to hang and cool, and it won’t be long before some savory steaks and roasts hit the plate. It’s what dreams of wild game dinners are made of.

It was a planned meat hunt first and foremost, and in that respect it was a mission accomplished for which I do not apologize. I am a fan of mule deer for the table, though I do acknowledge that many people would disagree. To be honest, I would also admit that although I do like it, for the most part this western venison is not my favorite big game offering.

Given a choice, I would rather walk a substantial distance for some expertly grilled chops from a properly fed mid-west Whitetail. I would, and have, walked heroic distances for the well-earned privilege of packing back a heavy load of elk meat. I’ve also worn out a considerable swath of boot leather in pursuit of mule deer in all kinds of terrain, mostly in search of the all too few with some heavy horn on top of their head. I have not always been willing to walk so far just for a meal of mule deer.

This past Spring it occurred to me to try something different this year, and I don’t begrudge myself an easy hunt for a change. Lord knows that I and many of my friends deserve something short of an expedition occasionally, and one’s goals do tend to develop over time. I also wanted to give a mule deer a fresh chance in the culinary department, thinking that perhaps it might be best not to judge things on the taste of tough old buckskin taken well past their prime. A freezer full of protein also does wonders to combat the ever rising grocery bill.

The state of Colorado does issue a limited number of antlerless deer permits for the regular rifle seasons, with an emphasis on “not too many”. To my surprise I was lucky enough to draw a license for an area close to my home, which made it all the more enjoyable. The rest, shall we say, is in the books.

What I failed to mention is that they were the only two deer that we saw that morning, in spite of a three-mile hike through some once great deer country and then, later, a short drive to another area. Nor did I say that I could easily see two houses from where my doe had come to lay, and I knew that there were several more not far over the hill.

Such is the reality of things in the ever more settled west. The deer are not always located in some far often mountain valley, and sometimes you must hunt them where they are. And sometimes you hunt them in places that you used to hunt, years before, in a place where not long ago there were no houses to see.

Things are changing rapidly in the Rocky Mountains, and the once vast Mule Deer herds have been dramatically impacted by that change. Populations have been in serious decline in Colorado and other states, for reasons that are not so clear and steeped in worried speculation. To be blunt, Mule Deer are in serious trouble, and their ultimate fate as a viable species is in real jeopardy.

 

A Mule Deer Doe Watches Over Her Two Young Fawns In The Green Grass Of Summer
We Need More of These

 

I, for one, did not have to read a detailed report to come to that sad conclusion. The evidence is everywhere; the end result devastating. Herd sizes have dropped by 50% since I moved to Colorado in the mid 1970’s, and the absence of deer is remarkably obvious. As a result, the number of hunting permits have been severely reduced and tightly controlled, with less than encouraging results.

For some time it is has not been easy for a resident of Colorado to obtain a deer tag of any kind, and when you do it can be difficult to locate a legal buck. Finding a trophy animal can prove nearly impossible for even the best of hunter’s. It’s just not easy being a deer hunter these days.

Unfortunately, the worst may be yet to come. It is debatable whether the herds have stopped their terrifying free fall and reached a period of relative stability. Why then, one might ask, are there any doe tags at all?

What is difficult to pin down are the exact reasons for the decline, and public opinion is wide-ranging and increasingly heated. There is great debate over the effectiveness of the overall state big game management plan, and one wonders if there is really any plan at all. One hand does not always appear to be aware of what the other is doing across state agencies, and I can only hope that in this case the harvesting of a doe somehow contributes to the overall health of the deer herd in this particular game management unit.

I have heard most of the standard theories of cause and reaction. Of course I have a few of my own, or simply evaluate all of the factors in my own way.

Some people are quick to put the blame on an overabundance of coyotes and other predators, and no doubt there is some truth to that. Others blame highway mortality, road building and natural gas drilling, and all forms of habitat loss. More than a few people say that what deer habitat that is left is of poor nutritional quality, and there is an increasing effort underway to remove sections of old growth forest and range and replace them with rejuvenated browse and plant communities. The long-term drought certainly has not helped, and maybe, just maybe, there are now just too many elk.

More than likely it is caused by a combination of all of the above, or perhaps something else entirely. I don’t know how it will turn out for the deer in the final outcome. Nor does anyone else out there really know for sure. It may be that Mule Deer are simply incapable of tolerating or forgiving the daily trespasses of man, and that their loss to history is essentially assured. That would be unspeakably sad.

I do know that the mule deer is a western icon of immeasurable proportions, and the Rocky Mountains would simply be a hollow and soulless shell of itself without them.

Call me selfish, but the possibility of their disappearance is not acceptable. I intend to smile over their big ears and bouncing, improbable gait for however many years that I have left, and I hope that you can too. To watch them brings pure and simple joy. To hunt them is an honor and a gift that should never be taken for granted.

I hope that the current trend of decline can be permanently reversed, for their sake and for our’s. I wish that there will always be Mule Deer to hunt, along with a place to hunt them that remains wild and free. Most of all I would like to shake the sinking feeling that I am hunting one of the last female’s of her glorious and irreplaceable kind.

Thankfully, that is still quite far from the truth, at least for now. It is not too late to help ensure that such an unthinkable day never comes.

In the meantime, I will do my best to use all parts of my animal as gratefully as possible. I look forward to many fine meals ahead, provided by an animal I both respect and cherish. It makes each small bite a most precious encounter.

Got any good recipes?

 

By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

A Large Coyote Carries Away What Remains Of A Deer Leg In It's Jaws Through the Tall Grass
All That Remains

 

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Coyote Predation is without doubt a significant factor in the overall health of mule deer populations. Common sense would lead one to believe that they must certainly be extremely effective at locating newborn and younger fawns. The literature is also replete with the idea that they are quick to make a meal out of the weak and the sick in any group. But are they capable, or willing, to go against a full-grown adult?

That question was answered, to my satisfaction anyway, one spring morning a couple of years later while turkey hunting in a remote mountain meadow of northwestern Colorado.

A friend and I had been hen calling for several minutes, when two coyotes suddenly appeared on a ridge above about a half mile away. It was obvious that they were highly interested, and no doubt, the thought of a turkey dinner was forefront in their mind.

We continued calling as they cautiously made their way down a steep hill, calculating their approach with each silent step. I remember thinking that things were about to get interesting, and that we had somehow purchased some front row seats to a  classic showing of predators at work.

All at once three doe and two yearling mule deer slunk out of the Aspens below, and began to cross in front of us about 80 yards away. No doubt they had caught the faint scent of human on a swirling breeze, and thought it best to be somewhere else.

The deer had no idea that the two coyotes were directly above them, a fact not lost on the hungry pair. It was immediately apparent that they had forgotten all about drumsticks and dark meat, for they immediately went into deer stalking mode.

I watched, fascinated, as the canines dropped low to the ground, and I swear I could their wild eyes meet as they turned their heads to look at each other.  It was obvious that some form of communication passed between them; a message as old, as time.

As quick as could be, one coyote began to circle down and to the right and behind the unsuspecting deer, while the other belly crawled to the left in an effort to position himself above and ahead of the lead doe.

It was also obvious that these two had done this before, probably more times than they could ever remember. The scene unfolded like a slow motion movie, and I remember thinking that this was really going to happen.

Suddenly, the coyote on the left made a full speed dash towards the small herd of deer, trying to overcome one of the smaller ones before they had realized what had happened.

He almost succeeded too, as he furiously tried to sink a tooth in hide or muscle so close at hand. I could actually see his mouth open and close as he snapped them shut, just inches from blood.

But no matter, for he knew what was waiting just ahead, as that was the plan all along.

The waiting coyote adjusted his position as the herd bounced blindly on, still crouched close to the earth. The first deer was upon him, suddenly changing direction as she picked up a slight movement in her path.

The coyote leapt upwards on legs of spring steel, and from my angle it looked like he was on a perfect trajectory. His teeth flashed past the deer’s neck so closely I thought I could see her fur ripple in response, as his momentum carried him harmlessly by.

The deer seemed to hit another gear as they became fully aware of their peril, as the coyotes continued in high pursuit for a hundred yards or more. Even then, I thought that they just might catch them, though my guess is that the coyotes knew that their chance for a venison supper had already passed.

The deer had escaped, this time.

Such are the ways of the coyote, and the mule deer, and who knows just how many times it goes the other way, when we are no longer there to watch.

So, in the end, is it coyotes, or some other form of predation that is the true cause of our Mule Deer decline?

I truly don’t know. But I can only hope that this marvelous, western icon survives the encounter, more often than not…

 

A Hunter With A Coyote Trophy, Harvested With a Shotgun During A Colorado Spring Turkey Hunt. Photography By Michael Patrick McCarty
Help Out A Deer, And A Turkey – Today!

 

You Can Find Out More About Coyote Hunting In Colorado Here

 

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Long Live The Mule Deer!

 

Want To Help? You May Wish To Become Involved With The Mule Deer Foundation.

 

You Might Also Like Coyotes, and Pronghorn

 

“It is likely, and appropriate, that a coyote will use the bones of the last man as a scent post. Beyond that, its just as likely that the bones of the last coyote will be picked clean by a Crow…And at the end, when Crow follows the long procession of species out of a world grown cold under it’s dying sun, he’ll exit laughing.”John Madson

 

Interested in Coyote Hunting? We can highly recommend:

 

Predator Hunting: Proven Strategies That Work From East to West (Hardcover)

Drawing on his years of experience, well-known hunter, writer, and television personality Ron Spomer provides valuable information on how to call a variety of predators into range; how to choose rifles, scopes, bullets, shotguns, and shells; how to use decoys and predator calls effectively; how to set up in the field; how to use weather to your advantage; and much more.

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