A buck to take your breath away…and your sleep!
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Mid-November, Any Year
Photo By Michael Patrick McCarty
‘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.
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.
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!
Another Big Buck With Something On His Mind
To See More Trophy Bucks See Our Post A Head Full of Bone
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
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.)
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Very few sounds heard in the wildlands of North America can completely capture your full and unmitigated attention like that unmistakable vibration of a rattlesnake in waiting. I located that sound recently while on a scouting trip for Pronghorn in Northwestern Colorado, emanating steadily from a clump of low hanging sage not very far from my feet. And to be honest, I can still hear it today, bouncing between my ears among the technicolor memories of my mind.
In this case the source of that infamous buzz was about two feet of Crotalus viridis, commonly known as the Prairie Rattlesnake. Yet no matter the name, or the size, of one thing there was no doubt. This snake meant business from the business end, and I wanted no part of that transaction. My guess is that it would have really preferred to skip the encounter too, though perfectly willing to do as it must. He is but a snake, after all.
Prairie Rattlesnakes are the most common Rattlesnake in Colorado, and they seem to be particularly prevalent in the areas that I frequent. This was the second live close encounter (others being found dead in the road) that I have had in as many years; the first I would have surely stepped on had it not been good enough to slither off of the trail when it sensed me coming. Before these interactions you could say that I had never worried too much about snakebite.
I do now!
The available literature seems to indicate that maximum length for a Prairie Rattlesnake in Colorado is about 3 1/2 feet, although there are mentions of much bigger snakes in the historical record. I did listen to a first hand account of a five foot or better snake killed in my hunting area just this summer, and I have no reason to doubt the source. Nobody really knows their population parameters and distributions. Fact is, there are a lot of rattlesnakes about the land, and apparently they can be…big.
Antelope hunters, and bowhunters in particular, should be well enough aware of that stark reality. Blinds on waterholes are often the preferred method of hunting with short range weapons. These locations are also preferred by the wildlife of the area, both large, and small. And snakes…
Temperatures, particularly at night, are warm; the little creatures, and the rattlesnakes that prey upon them, are active. Put it all together and it can easily spell some trouble of the bad kind for the bowhunter hurrying to the ambush point in the low light of early morning.
Still, snakebites are uncommon, and fatalities are rarer. “Out of the millions of people who live in Colorado and the millions more who visit the state for outdoor activities, only 79 were bitten by snakes last year (2017), said Shireen Banerji, a Rocky Mountain Poison & Drug Center clinical manager. The number of bites has been increasing slightly. There were 77 in 2016, 76 in 2015 and 65 in 2014. Only one person is known to have died of a snakebite since 2014”.
So, in summary, a quick tap of fangs may not kill you and dry bites are possible, but you can be fairly certain of one thing. It will be a more than unpleasant experience, and most likely a medically significant and tissue altering event. Antivenom and emergency treatment can be very expensive, resulting in what may be a financially devastating hospital bill at the end of the day, or week.
Best to avoid that possibility as much as you can. Be aware, snake aware, and ready.
You might also want to invest in a good pair of snake boots, or snake chaps, and a much brighter headlamp. Or perhaps even better, always let someone else go first, like your long time hunting partner.
*Update September 28, 2019
It happened again, another rattlesnake close encounter, that is, and I can breathlessly report that it was no less attention grabbing than the first. For some reason which entirely escapes me, I am this year a first class rattlesnake attractor of the third kind. It is a badge of honor that I would much rather do without.
Early afternoon found me trudging down an abandoned two-track river road under an all-seeing, withering sun, en route to a promising looking catfish hole down in a deep, wild canyon.
Intent on my catfishing mission, a small whisper in the back of my mind alerted me to danger ahead as I approached a particularly tall patch of thick weeds covering the road. Call it a sixth sense, or perhaps my last encounter was still too fresh upon my mind, but everything about the place cried “snake!”.
I remember thinking that I was simply overreacting, for the chance of finding a rattlesnake camped out in this one small patch of forlorn vegetation in the middle of a vast, desolate landscape had to be very, very slim. It also suddenly hit me that in my haste to find a fish I had left a perfectly fine pair of snake chaps (for fang protection when it’s already too late) in the back of my truck, along with my camera (to document chance wildlife encounters so someone may believe me), and oh yes, my mostly unreliable but somewhat comforting cell phone in case I was ever bitten by a venomous creature in a land far, far from help (so you can throw it at the thing that bit you after it does not work).
So, as you might guess, I was particularly watchful of where I placed my feet along the trail, as I occasionally slapped the undergrowth ahead with the tip of my fishing rod.
And of course, you have probably surmised by now what was about to happen next. Staring down across the tops of my boots not very far from the end of my nose, I soon saw the plump, round body of a rather large snake stretched out at the base of the weed stalks, and then, at the end of the rainbow, so to speak, those infamous and unmistakable Prairie rattles.
Backing away slowly, quietly, I completed my retreat as he disappeared like a slithering apparition, and we will never know who was more happy about that. Human-Snake interactions can end rather badly for the snake too, after all. Where he went next only a rattler knows; where I was headed suddenly looked more distant and treacherous than I had pictured. But go I did, albeit ever more mindfully.
Most importantly, I had catfish to catch.
And thank God for guardian angels, and that I had enough sense, snake sense, to listen, and to follow just a little bit of my own advice. I shutter to think what would have happened, had I taken, just one more step.
Be Careful Out There!
Hunting Season Dates For The Prairie Rattlesnake in Colorado is June 15 thru August 15 annually; a small game license is required. The daily bag limit is 3 snakes, with a possession limit of 6.
It is my understanding that it is legal to kill rattlesnakes when necessary to protect life or property (if they pose a real threat).
Translation: You can’t kill them just because you don’t like them – or something to that effect.
*Statute 33-6-107(9) and Wildlife Commission Regulations (WCR) 312(C), WCR 323, WCR 1000(A)(6), WCR 17122(C),
WCR 17123(A) & WCR 17141(A)
**This statute does appear to apply to personal property.
‘Tis The Season…
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and sometimes you can view a glimpse of it in the form of a big mule deer buck – in the backyard.
Photograph by Michael Patrick McCarty
“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher “standard of living” is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech”. – Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
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Ready To Record, And Report. Photo By Michael Patrick McCarty
Post by| July 18, 2018
On an October morning a decade or so ago, I was hunting woodcock in an abandoned orchard. A flight had come in and, in less than an hour, I collected my three-bird limit. That evening I got a call from an acquaintance, a deer hunter, who hunts the same orchard. He asked how I did and if I’d seen evidence of deer. How, I asked, had he known I had been hunting there that morning? He said he saw me on the trail camera he’d placed in cover. I was amused.
It’s now common to see cameras in the woods I hunt, and it’s interesting to hear from friends who share the pictures of animals their cameras record. I’m primarily a bird hunter so field cameras are of no use, though I have thought it would be neat to position a camera near a grouse drumming log to get some pictures of the showoff. It’s clear that a deer hunter can make good use of a game camera or two. It’s also clear that the technology is a useful tool for wildlife researchers. More broadly, I know public school and college teachers who have their students use remote cameras to record animal activities in their backyards and neighborhoods. Anything that gets young people outdoors and engaged in appreciating wildlife is a good thing.
But there is a downside that hunters in particular must face, and it’s gotten more acute with the development of so-called “live action game cameras,” units that record and transmit images in real time to a smart phone or other hand-held device. Does this technology tilt the playing field too far in favor of the hunter? Are you really hunting if your phone notifies you when a buck has stepped into the food plot?
This is not a new problem. Philosophers in ancient Greece worried about our ability to take unfair advantage over animals. Jose Ortega y Gassett praised hunters who deliberately handicapped themselves to make the contest between hunter and hunted a challenge. Aldo Leopold worried that “gadgets” would corrupt hunting: Even if the gadgets didn’t improve hunters’ chances of making a kill, they placed too much emphasis on the kill at the expense of the challenge of the chase. Theodore Roosevelt was characteristically blunt on the same subject: “The rich people, who are content to buy what they have not the skill to get by their own exertions – these are the men who are the real enemies of game.”
TR was familiar with both riches and exertion, but today, technology does not require inherited wealth. We have to ask ourselves if we want to make hunting easier, and perhaps more importantly, do we want to make success, defined as a kill, more certain? In any given year, no more than 20 percent of all deer and elk hunters harvest their animals. That they keep hunting, year in and year out, suggests that they are hunting for complex reasons that go far beyond the desire to kill: Failing to do so in any given year only heightens the expectations for next year.
Available technology now makes it possible for hunters to reduce the time they otherwise would have to invest in preseason scouting, even time afield during the season. Game cameras have become inexpensive, enabling hunters to check the movement of game in areas they intend to hunt without investing precious hours with boots on the ground. It’s easy to see how substituting technology for the laborious process of acquiring intimate knowledge of game is tempting, especially given the fact that for most hunters, there are many claims on “free” time.
At this writing (February 2018) only three states have banned live action cameras in season (Montana requires that all cameras be removed during the hunting season.) A few more are considering regulations. This is an issue that will become more pressing as cameras get more sophisticated. And then there are camera-equipped drones that raise even knottier ethical questions. Sixteen states have banned drones in season, thanks in part to advocacy by BHA.
We are facing the wicked problem of the “slippery slope”: Where do we draw the line between the acceptable and the unacceptable? Is the line purely a personal preference or ought there be regulations that say cameras are OK for preseason scouting but not during the hunting season? Ought we draw a line between conventional and live action cameras? And drones?
At bottom, the question is one of fair chase. Do live action cameras unacceptably tilt the playing field? There’s room for debate, but one thing is certain: The price of technology will go down and the ethical costs associated with accepting increasingly sophisticated electronic mediation between hunter and hunted will go up.
You Can Read The Original Article Here
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Reposted By Michael Patrick McCarty
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Photo By Michael Patrick McCarty
No – this is not a water color painting!
But it is a photograph of a very large mule deer buck, captured in the low light at the end of day, surrounded by the heavy smoke of the terrible fires of 2018 in northwest Colorado.
Out Of The Storm. Photo By Michael Patrick McCarty
Ghost Buck. Photo By Michael Patrick McCarty
Mule Deer In Motion. Photo By Michael Patrick McCarty
“Mule Deer and elk are the life blood of the Rocky Mountains in what remains of the wild, wild west. I could not imagine a western vista without them.” – Michael Patrick McCarty
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“And the fox said to the little prince: Men have forgotten this truth. But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” – Antoine De Saint-Exupery, From The Little Prince
A very large black bear, not far from the back door, strips a fruit tree in the early fall in Aspen, Colorado.
A young elk tests out a hummingbird feeder in a backyard garden, somewhere near Carbondale, Colorado.
Not to be undone, a mule deer buck gets his licks in too!
Posted by Michael Patrick McCarty
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Thirsting For Water At the End Of The Trail. Photo By Michael Patrick McCarty
You can feel them waiting, the elk…patiently, longingly, for the rapidly approaching darkness that signals an end to an impossibly hot, late summer day in the drylands of the west.
For there are eyes, and life, on the trail, which just minutes before offered nothing up but sun baked sand and rocks that might permanently sear the touch of a human hand.
They do not wait for the hunter to return to the comfort of camp, or home. In the deserts of everywhere the hunter of game may be the least of their worries, and the herd is driven by much more basic needs. Extreme heat has a way of focusing the body and being and the inner workings of every last cell down to one vital and all encompassing purpose.
For one more second…and one more day. One more sunrise, and moonrise, and another life sustaining gulp of water. This too, this murderous furnace, shall pass.
In the mean time, just what can a bowhunter do when the air that slams your lungs hovers near 100 degrees? The answer is simple, though not always obvious. Things will change, as surely as the earth continues it’s orbit away from the sun. Until then, one can only do what a bowhunter does best.
Wait… Listen… Learn…Plan…
Slink to the shade, like all wild things must. Hunt when you can. Head for water, when it’s time.
Darkness Visible. Photo By Michael Patrick McCarty
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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!
Photographs By Michael Patrick McCarty
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