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.