Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My day today

The day sure got off to a crummy start.  Bright and early this morning, actually before daylight, I was jarred awake by a ruckus the chickens were making.  My first thought was COYOTE.  I lost a rooster to a coyote a week or so ago.  No doubt about who the culprit was.  A neighbor saw it run across the field with the bird in its mouth.  Pretty conclusive evidence.  By the time I got out there this morning, the damage had been done.  I had 2 setting hens brooding eggs, and something had pulled a raid.  I had already lost 1 nest this spring, but this was different.  On that first nest, something would steal 1 egg at a time, a few days apart.  This time both nests had been cleaned out.  A couple of broken eggs left in the nest, but the rest were gone.  It looks like if I want to raise some replacement chicks I’m going to have to buy them and raise them myself.

Fast forward a little while, daylight now, and I looked out the window to see a deer in the yard eating the leaves off a young peach tree.  Having run her off, I scattered some grain for the chickens.  A little earlier than the usual feeding time, but 2 hens were missing.  I didn’t see any obvious bunches of feathers scattered around as if a kill had been made, so I still had hopes that the missing birds would show up.  Nothing more I could do for now, so I loaded Bear in the truck and went up on the mountain to play for awhile.

I let Bear run up the road for a little exercise, then parked the truck and walked to one of my calling spots.  I made my usual setup; me on a folding stool, video camera on a tripod, and Bear tied to a tree next to me.  There were a few trees behind me to break up my outline, and I was looking up an old abandoned logging road and a clear cut.  I selected a mouth blown call from the few in my pack. 

Predator calls, Several different types of mouth blown predator calls.

I had been calling for just a few minutes when Bear jumped up at full attention.  He was looking behind me.  I swiveled around in time to see a bear there in the timber.  Bear let out a roar, and that was the end of that.  There was the sound of breaking limbs, and the bear was gone.  Just a typical example of why I like to have the big guy watching my back!  There are larger critters than coyotes and foxes in these mountains that sometimes come to a screaming predator call.  At any rate, it made my day.  I gathered up my gear and left the trail cam there, strapped to a root of an old fallen tree.  I’ll go back for it in a week or so and see if it caught any action.

We went on to another spot and tried calling again, but without results.  There were signs of quite a bit of deer activity there, and this should be a good place to set up the trail cam at another time.  It was getting pretty hot by this time, so I found a shady spot to eat lunch then poked along home.

Feeding time this evening, and no further doubt about it.  I’m missing 2 hens.  I talked with a couple of neighbors who have seen the coyote, or coyotes.  One said he was watering his garden a few days ago, and a coyote walked past within 10 or 15 feet of him.  Bold as you please!  Another has a couple of little Dachshund dogs, and he has seen a coyote running back and forth along the fence where the dogs are.  They told me of another neighbor who saw a coyote trying to get into his goat pen.  Of course no one had a gun handy at the time.  Since I lost 2 chickens at the same time this morning, I’d say there is more than 1 coyote involved.  Needless to say, everyone has an itchy trigger finger right now!  


Monday, May 14, 2012

A surprise and a puzzle

A little over a week ago I headed out with the intention of setting up the trail camera again.  The spot I had in mind is one of my good calling locations.  It is a short walk from an old road, but well off the beaten path.  I have called gray fox and deer from this spot many times, and possibly a bobcat or two.  I have found lion (cougar) scratch marks and scat there a few times, so I thought this would be a good place to leave the camera for a few days.  When I parked the truck and got out, the first thing I saw was a fresh pile of bear scat.

I walked the ridge top to my calling spot, and as usual I first tried calling with a predator call for a few minutes.  Nothing showed up, so I next walked around the area looking for any fresh sign that might be there.  Nothing fresh, so I strapped the camera to a tree and Bear and I went back to the truck to share a sandwich.  Yesterday I went back for the trail cam with high hopes that it had captured something.  What I found was totally unexpected.

I walked to the calling stand, and as before tried calling for awhile.  Again nothing showed up, so I took my little walk around the area.  I found some strange markings on the ground that had me puzzled.  In several places the ground had been roughed up, almost like a ground squirrel or some other critter had been digging and taken a dust bath, but much larger.  The marks were almost a circle, about 3 feet in diameter, and in half a dozen places.  The ground was littered with pine needles except for the dust in those places, and no tracks were visible.  I knew for certain that those marks had not been there the week before when I left the camera.  Very strange, but the camera was still strapped to the tree where I had left it, and I hoped it held the answer to the puzzle.  A quick check told me that it had been triggered multiple times, so I took it home where I could plug it into the computer and see just what I had.

As I said, this spot is well off the beaten path.  My biggest concern about leaving the camera out for a week or more is that someone might find it and walk off with it.  I don’t think I will leave it out when deer season is open and there are lots of people prowling around in the woods, but I didn’t give it a second thought when I left the camera at this location.  Not at this time of the year anyway.  After all, who but a crazy predator caller with a camera would be out there?  Maybe an occasional deer hunter during season, but that is months away.  As I found out, someone else had a reason to be there; and the trail cam had the answer to those strange marks on the ground.

A man, unknown to me, had walked to that spot and been all over the immediate area just as I had.  The camera took several still photos of him, but he is no one I recognize.  He had a walking stick, and carried something over his shoulder.  It looked sort of like a shovel, but not a shovel.  The video from the camera is pretty dark (in the shade), but he was using that object to go over the ground and was actually sort of digging with it.  Now I knew what had left those marks on the ground.  I looked hard at the several video clips that the camera had taken, and finally found one that showed what the object was.  A METAL DECTECTOR!

I still have no idea who that fellow was or what he was looking for.  He was obviously searching for something, and right there in that area.  Maybe he had been there at some time in the past and lost something.  Beats the heck out of me, but at least the riddle of the roughed out circles on the ground had been answered.

The camera had been triggered a few more times, twice in the daytime, and once at night; but try as I might I can’t find anything in the still photos or video.  I think it must be passing birds that trigger the motion sensor.