Sunday, November 26, 2006

Video clip

Well, someone asked to see the video that I shot a few days ago as proof that fox really will climb trees. I uploaded the video clip to a hosting site and will post the link here.

This file is over 6 mbs, so if you have a slow connection you may not want to bother with it due to the poor quality of the footage, unless you just have time on your hands. :)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fox hunt

I took the dogs out for a run on the mountain behind my house this morning. It hasn’t been cold enough to freeze yet, and the red clay roads are pretty slick in spots, but I put the pickup in 4WD and roaded the dogs for some exercise; then stopped to make a calling stand.

I few minutes into the call, a gray fox came trotting in. Sadie saw the fox so I let her go. Instead of running the fox froze in position; almost to long. It had to see the dog barring down on it, but it seemed undecided what to do. Finally it swapped ends and got under way, but Sadie almost had it. The fox picked a tree and got his furry tail up it.

I got the video camera and tripod out of the truck and shot some footage, but it was disappointing. It was very foggy, and the fox was backlit against a bright sky, almost shooting into the sun. When I got home and plugged the camera into the TV it didn’t look to bad, but the streaming video clip I made to post here is terrible. I may try to clean it up a little bit some other day, but it is doubtful at best. You win some and you lose some. You take your chances when you hunt with a camera. Wildlife doesn’t always pose the way you would like.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

New sound.

Last night I uploaded 2 new sounds to an electronic caller. One is a distressed rabbit sound that a friend sent to me. The caller came with a rabbit cry installed, and I occasionally called in some kind of critter with it, but it was one of those sounds that made me grate my teeth to listen to it. The new sound at least sounds like a real rabbit!

The other sound is a distressed deer sound that I have on audio tape, that I have used successfully to call in both bear and cougar. I erased the rodent squeak that was installed in the caller, and which I seldom used, and replaced it with the deer sound.

This morning I loaded 2 dogs in the pickup and went across the river from my place. Parked the truck and walk an old road to an abandon apple orchard to set up a calling stand. About 2 minutes into the call with the new rabbit sound a gray fox came trotting in. I had a video camera mounted on a tripod, but the fox came in on my right and I couldn’t swing the camera around there. I had Bear tied on that side, but he was goofing off instead of paying attention to business. He didn’t see the fox. Dove saw it so I turned her loose. Of course by then the fox had seen the dogs and decided a change of location was in order! We have wet ground now and Dove took the track, but apparently didn’t tree the fox. I never heard her bark, and she was back in about 10 minutes.

I gathered up my junk and tried 2 more calling stands using the deer distress sounds, but aside from the usual birds I drew a blank. Judging from the way the clouds are building, I suspect it might be kind of wet around here by tomorrow morning. Turning colder too, which could put snow in the high country.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Close call.

I was working on some indoor chores this morning. Two dogs (Airedales) were in the house with me, and two more were outside but tied. I suddenly became aware of something screaming bloody murder! The outside dogs went into orbit, and the inside dogs wanted out.

I do a lot of predator calling, and am very familiar with the sound of an animal that has been caught by a predator of some kind. So are my dogs. I have a bunch of free range chickens running around the place, and my first thought was that something had caught one. I didn’t take time to go for a gun, but opened the door and the dogs and I headed outside.

The sounds were coming from a spot across the creek that runs through my property. The dogs jumped the low wall and crossed the bridge at a run. My neighbor’s hogwire fence stopped them. He keeps both goats and sheep, and has the place fenced to keep his stock in and dogs out; although there were neither goats or sheep in the field at this time. I climbed over the low wall and followed the dogs.

As I approached the spot where the dogs were running back and forth along the fence I saw two deer, both does, run off into the timber along the creek. A large bird took flight from the ground. I didn’t get a real good look at it due to the trees, but from the size alone I could tell it was no hawk. It had to be a buzzard or an eagle.

The ground on the other side of the fence was fairly open, and I could get a pretty good look without walking around to a gate to gain access there. I saw no sign of anything lying there, or of the feathers that should have been scattered if a bird had been caught. My guess is that an eagle caught a fawn. This year’s fawns are getting pretty big by now, and the big bird must not have been able to kill it, at least not outright; but the young deer was making plenty of noise about it! Hopefully it survived to grow a little older, and wiser.

Friday, September 15, 2006

A hunt with JJack.

I got an e-mail from John a few days ago. Deer season was set to open September 16th and he wanted to get in a varmint hunt before the woods filled with deer hunters. John is a long time photography buddy and a long time coyote hunter. 78 years young, he has been calling coyotes and other critters for 58 of those years. He wanted to hunt the high country over his way, and invited me along. We would be hunting his country and using his dog. Thursday morning we gathered up cameras, tripods, and dog, and went a-huntin’.

It has been a long hot summer, but we had a change in the weather. At around 5,000 feet elevation the morning was decidedly chilly. With the opening of deer season just 2 days away, there were already several hunting camps set up. There was logging activity in a couple of places, and logging trucks running the main roads. We were not alone in the woods!

Instead of posting one long video of the hunt, which would make a very long download for anyone with a slow Internet connection, I have broken it up into 3 video clips.

Video 1: We parked John’s pickup on the side of a logging road and walked down the bank to the edge of a meadow. We settled in backed up against some aspens and John began a series of calls. It didn’t take long! Within minutes we had a double. A pair of coyotes came loping in. We started to roll the cameras, and John was about to put the dog to work, when a pickup passed by on the road above and behind us; blaring his horn for all it was worth. Coyotes exit the scene and end of stand number 1.

Video 2: Self explanatory.

Video 3: This is a 5.8 mb download. So if you have a slow connection it is going to take awhile. We set up the second stand on the edge of another meadow where cattle were grazing in the distance. We separated a little from each other, each backed up against some trees, and John began the stand with an electronic call. For once I was sitting in the right place while John could only wish he was sitting where I was. Another double! Jiff, the Border Collie tolling dog went to work, and I got it on tape.

Stand number 3 was a considerable distance from the first two. This was John’s hunting country, and he knew where the hot spots were. We set up on the edge of a very large meadow this time, and again John did the calling. I called it another double, but John said later that it was a triple! There was a 3rd coyote that I hadn’t seen. It was a ball, but luck was against us this time. We both screamed and squeaked and pleaded, and Jiff did her best, but these coyotes hung up and just wouldn’t come within camera range. It was a great morning, and we walked back to the truck to have lunch right at noon. We called it a day and headed back to John’s home to harvest some goodies from his garden.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Slow start.

Hunting season is off to its usual slow start here. Small game season (squirrel, mountain quail, and grouse) opened over the weekend. It is still much to hot to give a lot of thought to serious hunting, but it is a good time to scout around, see which roads are open, and check for game sign. Saturday morning I loaded Bear and Dove in the pickup and headed up the mountain.

While it was still cool I worked the dogs ahead of the truck for some exercise. Dove treed the only squirrel we were to see all morning, but as happens more often than not in this big timber country, once it was up I couldn’t find it. No meat for the pot today.

The morning quickly heated up and I began to see some bow hunters. This was the last weekend of the archery season. I picked the dogs up and just went looking for tracks. I checked a couple of good crossings and found where a cougar (mountain lion) had passed through recently. I photographed the track, and you see it at the top of this post. Anyone who has trouble differentiating between dog tracks and big cat tracks should take a good look at it. The photo plainly shows the three lobed print of the heel, which identifies it as a cat track. No dog leaves a track like this. There is also a deer track visible in the photo for size comparison.

Farther up the mountain I found some elderberry bushes loaded with ripe berries that begged to be picked. In about 10 minutes I filled 2 grocery bags with berries to be cooked down for their juice and turned into jelly or syrup to go with hotcakes this winter. A free gift from Mother Nature that I am happy to take advantage of.

Day 2:

Sunday morning I took the old timers, Kelly and Sadie, and went up a road farther around the side of the mountain. I wanted to check a gate on timber company land. As I did the day before, I ran the dogs ahead of the truck until I started to meet traffic coming down the mountain. I picked the dogs up, found the timber company gate open, and continued up the mountain. Manzanita berries were ripe here and I began to see bear sign; quite a lot of it, but none real fresh. Plenty of old tracks in the dust on the side of the road, and piles of bear dung containing recycled berries, but mostly already dried out. I set up a couple of calling stands with a video camera mounted on a tripod, but the only responders to the call were a few blue jays. I found a shady spot to eat lunch then poked along home.

I’ll get out a couple more times during the week, before the general deer and bear season opens this coming weekend. That is generally a good time to stay home! According to the weather forecast we are due for a cool down in the middle of the week, so maybe I’ll get on the horse and prowl around on some washed out logging roads that are inaccessible by pickup. The thermometer on my porch topped out at 90 degrees today. More like fishing weather. I stripped the elderberries and cooked them down over the last couple of afternoons. Today I canned up 10 pints of delicious elderberry jelly. With the juice that was left over, and more that is stored in my freezer, I have enough left to make maybe another 12 pints; or I may save some for syrup.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Trinities.

The Marble Mountains are still closed due to wild fires and extreme fire danger. I decided to head to the south end of the valley and up toward the northern tip of the Trinity Alps Wilderness.

I chose this particular spot, and a camp on Fox Creek, because it is the coolest hot weather camp I know of. A trailhead into the Trinity Alps is only about a 1/4 mile up the road. What I hadn’t counted on was a sudden drop in general temperatures. We were suddenly running 20 degrees below normal for this time of the year, which made it a really cool camp! Actually chilly at night and in the morning. I didn’t entirely escape the smoke from the fires which have been burning literally all over northern CA. It would clear out at night, and the stars were shining. It was clear in the morning, but as daytime temperatures began to warm up the smoke would drift in again. From the ridge above camp I could look down into the valley where I live, and it looked like it was socked in with fog. It was good to be in the mountains.

The first few days I had the country to myself, and it was great. An hour and 45 minutes on the yellow mare and I was at Mavis Lake. The fishing was hot, but the fish were small. Rainbow trout of about 6 - 7 inches. They were biting so fast that there wasn’t a chance to catch a really decent fish. This used to be a really good brook trout lake, but it seems the powers that be have decided to plant rainbows everywhere. That is sure all I caught. They fit nicely in a frying pan, but I’d rather eat a brookie any day!

By the middle of the week the weather began to warm up again, and on Thursday morning the trailheads began to show activity. The archery deer season was set to open on Saturday, and with the Marbles still closed a lot of people had the same idea I had. They started flocking to the Trinities. Several parties packed in either on foot or with horses and mules. Several people checked out my campsite to see if it was available, but I already had squatters rights. I stayed in camp Friday to “hold down the fort” and several people set up a camp farther up the creek. Saturday morning resembled the opening of rifle season! Bow hunters in full camo and war paint, road hunting in pickup trucks and ATV’s. Toward evening someone did open the rifle season about a month early, as there was a single gun shot on the ridge above camp. I had about enough, and I began to pack up such items that I wouldn’t need in the morning. Sunday morning, after breakfast, I tore down the camp, loaded dogs and horse, and pulled out for home. I’m back in a hot smokey valley again and hoping for rain.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The ranch.

There is a ranch across the valley that is fast becoming a favorite place to photograph wildlife in a mostly undisturbed and natural environment. Yesterday I drove over there at the invitation of the caretaker. I saw several deer laying in the shade of some oak trees before I even reached the caretaker’s trailer. One doe (picture above) had an unusually small fawn for so late in the season. I doubt that it was more than a day old, and was busy at the "lunch counter". I stopped the truck and took a quick grab shot with a still camera, hoping for the best as I shot at high telephoto without any kind of a support. I reached for the video camera and a window mount, but Mama wasn’t going to stand still long enough for that. She moved off with her youngster in tow.

After picking up the ranch caretaker, we took a drive on the hillsides above the ranch. The place was alive with deer, bucks still in velvet. The trick as usual, was to catch them in a suitable spot for pictures, and hope they would stay put long enough to shoot some video footage. This link
will take you to some streaming video that I put together. This is a large file (5.88 mb), so if you have a slow connection you might as well go have a cup of coffee while it downloads. Maybe two cups!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I have a friend, a summer caretaker on a ranch, who calls me from time to time when conditions are right to photograph the wildlife found there. I recieved such a call recently, gathered up a couple of cameras and a tripod, and drove over to his place.

These turkeys didn't give me a chance to mount the camera. They were running along the edge of a field, and I ran along with them, snapping pictures as I ran. Only 1 was worthwhile, the others being just a blur.

We cruised around the ranch and found more turkeys and a few deer. If you click on this link, it will take you to some video footage that I shot that evening.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


I spent two and a half weeks camped with a friend at a trailhead near the Marble Mountain Wilderness. For awhile I averaged a trail ride every other day and gave the dogs some exercise, then spent a day around camp where I photographed and shot video footage of the deer that hung around the horse corrals. The weather was generally hot and humid. That is until the thunder storms rolled in.

The first storm arrived late in an afternoon, and was wild and western with wind, rain, thunder and lightning. The following day was a repeat except for the high wind. I learned from a Forest Service packer, via the Forest Service radio, that 21 lightning caused fires had been reported.

Fortunately none of the fires were close enough to present any danger where we were, so we decided to stay put for awhile and see what developed. The area became quite smokey from fires on the other side of the mountains, but the fires themselves were a long way away from us. After two days of sitting in camp we decided to pull up stakes and head for home.

The little valley where I live is now polluted with smoke from several fires, most of which are still uncontained. The worst fires seem to be near the small towns of Happy Camp and Orleans, on the opposite side of the Marble Mountains from where I sit, and near McCloud and the Pit River Country. Fire crews have been blessed with cooler temperatures the last two days, but breezy conditions continue to fan the flames. Rain is sorely needed, but according to the forecast there is none in sight. It looks like it is going to be a long dry summer.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Pre 4th of July campout.

The tail end of June, and the high country still closed by a lingering snowpack. Trails still blocked by downfall. It was a heavy winter.

I’m usually in the mountains before now, and I wanted to get in at least one trip before the holiday week set in and camps filled with people. Back packers and horsemen come from all over to hike and ride in our Wilderness Areas and the surrounding mountains, and the Forest Service would be directing them to the areas that are open. A phone call to the local Forest Service headquarters, and I was informed that the trail out of Lover’s Camp to Sky High Lakes was still closed. The trail had been cleared to the old cabin in Marble Valley, but snow still lay along the trail on Yellow Jacket Ridge and in pockets below the lakes. Hikers could make it, but horsemen would have to wait awhile.

I called an old friend and we decided on Shackleford Trailhead. Jim is an old hunting and camping buddy. 75 years old now, he spends most of his time puttering around camp, but he was ready to go. I gathered my camp outfit, loaded the mare in the trailer and the dogs in the pickup, and I was finally on my way to the mountains.

It didn’t take long to discover that the trails up the Shackleford Creek drainage were still in pretty bad shape. A group from Oregon, the Northwest Youth Corp, was clearing trail and doing general maintenance above our camp. This was my first encounter with this particular organization. I am familiar with the CCC’s, the YCC’s, and of course the Forest Service trail crew; but I had not heard of this group before. They did a fine job on the section of trail where I saw them working. A commercial packer took their tools and a camp outfit up the trail for them on Monday morning.

It was hot, and generally dry, during the 9 days we spent in the mountains. I don’t know what the actual temperature was, but I rode past Campbell Lake at an elevation of 5745 feet with sweat running down my face. Back home, the thermometer on my porch registered a high of 102 degrees while I was away. On 2 nights we could see lightning flashing farther north in Oregon, but we only got a few sprinkles. Not enough to settle the dust.

I fished Campbell Lake twice. It was slow, but I caught a few trout that went well with bacon and eggs for breakfast. Just not enough of them. Pretty brookies though, with nice pink meat; about as good as mountain trout get. I talked to a few people who had fished both Calf and Cliff Lakes, and no one was bragging much about the fishing.

I took the spillway trail down from Campbell Lake where it dumps into the creek. I found it still clogged with deadfall, but nothing I couldn’t jump Sis over or work around. The trail to Cliff Lake was open, and I heard that the trail to Calf Lake was accessible to horses for most of the way. Snow still blocked the upper part of the trail.

The trailhead was a busy place the whole time we were there. Day hikers and horse groups were in and out every day. The commercial packer took a party of 7 people to Cliff Lake for an extended stay on Thursday, and brought the Youth Corp out on his way back. A horse group from down south packed in to Summit Lake, or tried to, on the day we broke camp. I hadn’t heard anything about the condition of that trail, and I don’t know if they made it or not.

With all the activity around camp and up and down the trail, not a lot of wildlife was seen. A black tailed doe crossed the road just below camp several evenings on her way to the creek and water. Then there was the rattle snake that was entirely to close to where the dogs were tied on the edge of camp. Neither Jim or I tried any predator calling. We thought it would be a futile attempt under the circumstances.

I’ll sit out this holiday week at home and catch up on a few chores. I prefer some solitude when I set up a camp in the mountains, and it wasn’t to be had on this trip. In another week or so things will begin to settle down, and more trails will be open as this heat melts the snowpack.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Checking trail.

We went from an unusually wet spring (or extended winter) right into abnormally hot weather. In fact it has been breaking records for this time of the year. 95 degrees at my house yesterday; way to hot for so early in the season.
The dogs have really been feeling it. I sent my clipper blades away to be sharpened as I don’t normally give the dogs their summer haircuts this early, and I haven’t got them back yet. I’ve been due for a change of scenery anyway, so I thought today I would burn some gas and take the dogs down river and up on the mountain to Lover’s Camp and Trailhead. See if I could gain a little altitude and beat the heat. I would have gone to Shackleford Creek Trailhead as it is closer to home, but I’ve heard the road is washed out and I can’t get there from here!
One section of the river road almost fell into the river last winter, and it is still unrepaired. The County crew erected a barricade of sorts and called it good until sometime in the future when they can get to it. The river itself is running high and muddy from snowmelt in the high country. Some of the kayak groups that show up here in the summer to run the river could have a wild ride right now through the rocky stretches, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.
Soon after I left the river road and started up the mountain I saw a pile of bear scat. There are a few around now. This is big timber country. Pine, fir, and cedar, with some oak, chincapin, and madrone. Maple grows in the damp places along creeks, and dogwood is in bloom. Most of the rocks had been removed from the road, and I saw a Forest Service truck and lowboy parked at a wide spot, so I knew some sort of heavy equipment was working farther ahead, but I never saw it. I saw a pair of mountain quail on the drive up the mountain, and farther along I saw a deer on the down hill side of the road. I drove into Lover’s Camp without incident, but I wouldn’t have made it a few days earlier. There was a spot where a mud slide had blocked the road, and it was obvious from the color of the dirt that it had been removed just recently.
The place was deserted, so I turned the dogs out of the truck to run around while I walked down to check on the corrals. They looked to be in good shape, and the water had been turned on to the water troughs. Water is piped to the corrals from a spring, and it is turned off in the winter to prevent breaking the pipes. I didn’t see any bear sign around the corrals which surprised me. I would expect to find some there at this time of the year.
It was still plenty warm even up here, but not as bad as at home. I decided to hike up the trail about 3/4 of a mile to the fork to check things out. The trail is well shaded along this stretch, and there is a trickle of water crossing the trail every 100 yards or so, so the dogs could get a drink or even lay down in it anytime they want to. Trillium was beginning to bloom in places next to the trail.
I get a kick out of Dove and Sadie. I really thought that Dove would have to whip Sadie before now, which she could do easily enough if it came to that. Dove doesn’t want to fight, but at home Sadie is so jealous of Dove that she can hardly stand it. Out hunting or on the trail the two are inseparable. If you see one, you don’t have to look for the other. She is right there, within a few feet, or yards at the most. They are together all the time.
I’ve been wondering how Kelly, now 12 years old, is going to get around in the mountains this year. He’s really been feeling the heat with the heavy winter coat he is carrying, but when we started up the trail he lined out just like old times. I think once I get the hair off him he is going to do alright. Bear has youth on his side, and a lighter coat. It’s hard to slow him down.
About 100 yards up the trail I found the first down tree across the trail. I could step a horse over this one with no trouble. Where the trail intersected with one from the backpacker’s camp there was a single set of boot tracks. There wasn’t another human or horse track on the trail, so it was plain that the Forest Service trail crew hadn’t been there yet.
I hiked along the trail until I came to the fork where one trail goes on to Marble Valley and another crosses Canyon Creek and leads to Red Rock Valley. Right at the fork a down tree blocked both trails. I could climb over it easily enough, but the trail is blocked to horse traffic. With an ax and some work it would be possible to clear a way around one end of the tree to get a horse past it, but the Forest Service frowns on such things. Better to wait for the trail crew and let them earn their keep. They’re going to have fun with this one. It’s about 3 feet in diameter and will likely have to be cut in 3 places. It will take a team with a misery whip and a come-along to clear it from the trail. This is within designated Wilderness Area, so no chain saws allowed!
This is as far as I hiked up the trail, so I don’t know what lies ahead, but you can bet there are more down trees. Probably lots of them. It was a hard winter. I walked down to the creek and took a break while the dogs waded around in the water. I would have to want to get to the other side pretty bad to ride a horse off into that right now. Running high and swift. After a little while we headed back down the trail to the corrals and the pickup.
Back at the truck I got out an electronic caller and set it down by the corrals, then backed off to a shady spot at the camp where I have spent so much time over the years. I could sit in comfort while I ate my lunch, with a slight breeze blowing while I watched for any action. Usually there are a few ravens around to provide entertainment, but all that answered the call this day were a few Stellar Jays which lost interest after a few minutes.
When I finally decided it was time to head back down the mountain I looked around for the dogs. Dove and Bear were laying next to me. Sadie was down by the corrals poking her nose into whatever she could find to interest her, but I didn’t immediately see Kelly. The old dog knows his place in camp! I soon saw him bedded down in the shade under the low branches of a tree, exactly where he is normally tied when we camp at this spot. It was home to him.
According to the folks who make a living guessing what the next few day’s weather will bring, we have a major cool down coming. Supposed to be back to more normal mid 70's by the weekend. I think I can handle that.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Cabin fever.

Here we are well into the month of March, and winter just won’t go away. We had a short false spring, just enough to encourage some of the trees to begin to bud, then winter came right back to us again. One storm after another rolls in from the coast. I’m still very limited as to where I can go with the pickup. The mountain roads are still closed due to the snow pack, and anything other than a plowed County Road is pretty much out of the question. That limits me to a few roads right here on the valley floor.

I’ve been coming down with a powerful case of cabin fever, and made up my mind that I was going to get out and away from home for at least a little while today. I decided to take a short drive over to Mill Creek Canyon and cruse an area where deer are commonly seen wintering. It started to snow before I got away from the house, but I hoped it wouldn’t amount to much. I loaded a couple of dogs in the back of the truck and kept a video camera on the seat in the cab.

I drove through the wintering area in low gear, watching for deer on both sides of the road. It was snowing pretty good by now, and I didn’t see any kind of wildlife moving around. Walking in the snow doesn’t get a guy wet like rain does, so I decided to take a short hike up a road toward some timber company land. The last time I walked this road there were the tracks of a big bobcat in the snow. There were still a couple of inches of snow on the road, so I parked the truck and turned the dogs out. We hiked up to a bad washout in the road without seeing any fresh sign at all, so I retraced my steps, loaded the dogs back in the truck, and drove back through the deer wintering ground.
I was just about back to the main road when I saw a small herd of cattle bedded on the edge of a field up next to the timber, and there were 2 deer feeding almost next to them. The deer were feeding along, oblivious to the falling snow. I parked the pickup and secured the camcorder to a window mount support for stability, and shot several minutes of footage. You can download and view a short piece of streaming video by clicking on this link.
Be aware that this is a 3.4 mb download, so if you have a dialup connection it will take quite awhile.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Old dog - old horse - old friends.

A couple of weeks ago I had to say "Goodby" to an old dog. Casey was my first Airedale, and 100% hunting dog. Over his lifetime he looked up a tree at many a bear, bobcat, and cougar; as well as lesser game. In his last couple of years he began to fail badly. I think it was his heart that finally gave out. One evening he was fine, and the next morning he was near death. The stout heart that had carried him over many a mountain had given out. He was about 3 weeks short of 13 years old.
Smoky was a little Appaloosa that I purchased from a friend when he was about 11 years old. For a small horse, he was a walkin’ son of a gun, and he carried me over many a mountain trail for the next 10 years. When it became obvious that the longer trips with bigger and younger horses were beginning to tell on him, I let him go to a good home were he was well cared for through his retirement years. I learned yesterday that the old pony had passed on. I was not informed immediately, and as near as I can tell he must have died at very nearly the same time that Casey did. Smoky must have been nearly 30 years old.
Will Rogers is credited with once saying that "If dogs don’t go to heaven, I want to go where they go". I would like to say the same about good horses. It would please me to think that maybe a good dog and a good horse are keeping each other company somewhere while they wait for me. I hope so anyway.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Opening statement.

Hunting is an activity enjoyed by many and criticized by some. To most people who participate it is an occasional pastime. To a few it is a way of life. Aside from a few native cultures in which subsistence hunting is a necessity, it is more of a lifestyle than an actual means of livelihood to the hard core hunters.

Hunting can be defined in different ways. According to Webster, the definition of hunt is “To follow or search for (game) for the purpose of capturing or killing; to pursue (game or prey) for food or for sport”. For my own purposes I break it down further than that. If I am hunting for food (not a basic necessity) I hunt with a gun. If I want the “hunting experience” with the off chance that I might actually bag an animal, I hunt with the traditional longbow and arrows. If I am hunting purely for sport, which incidentally I do far more often than the other two, I hunt with a camera.

Most people probably would not consider wildlife photography to be a form of hunting, but to me it entails all of the aspects of the hunt with the exception on the kill; and believe me a good photograph or piece of video footage can be a hard won trophy in its own right. Let me explain.

I have a neighbor who is a very good photographer. He is a backpacker, and has some outstanding photos of mountain scenery and animals in National and State Parks. His real desire is to obtain a photo of a cougar in the wild. He lives in an ideal location, and often sees cougar tracks on the old dirt logging roads behind his house, but he has never seen one of the cats. Why? What has he ever done to improve his chances of an encounter? He has an appreciation of nature and wildlife, but the hunting instinct is dormant in him. He hopes that someday while he is hiking behind his house, or in the surrounding mountains, that a big cat will step out in front of him and pose long enough for him to take a picture. In the meantime, and over a period of several years, I have treed cougars all around him with dogs and called several more with a predator call. Incidentally, none of these cats were shot with anything more deadly than a camera. It is still hunting as far as I am concerned. I’m just “shooting” different ammunition.

So who am I, and what defines me as an individual? I am a hunter, certainly. One of those who has built a lifestyle around it; but I have only two reasons to kill an animal. One is for food, and the other is to eliminate a predator which is preying on domestic animals. Another possibility is in self defense, but I have never been in a situation of that kind. I will take an animal or bird, or a fish from lake or stream, for the table; and in many ways I believe wild game is better for you than domestic meat. I do not hunt for fur, but I have no problem with those who do as long as they are harvesting a renewable resource. For the rest, it is for fun. I suppose you could call me an observer of nature as much as anything else, and the camera allows me to be in the field when the general hunting seasons are closed.

I will update these pages on a more or less infrequent basis. I may have a story about a recent hunt, or something as uneventful as a walk in the woods behind my house. I do not run my life on any kind of a schedule, and there are times when I am camped in or near the neighboring Wilderness Areas for extended periods of time, and have no access to a computer. Believe it or not, life without the Internet is still possible!