VOLUME 90-----------DECEMBER 2009
SHOOTIN', HUNTIN', AND RELOADIN'
WITH THE OL' MISSOURI HILLBILLY
December 1, 2009
Hello again. Everyone ready for Christmas?
"I have turned over a new leaf and have my shopping all done so I can coast from here to the magic day!"
Anyone who knows me will understand that the above statement clearly falls into one of the categories articulated in a statement once made by Harry Truman. He said, "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics." (It ain't statistics folks)
The late modern firearm deer season came to an end on November 19th. As reported last month, Jennifer filled her doe tag and Ann shot a spike buck during the early season. This left Jennifer with a buck tag, Ann with a doe tag, me with a buck tag, and Rick with both a buck and doe tag as the late season kicked off on November 7th.
Our deer observations were considerably different than in past years, so I'll attempt to put my spin on what we saw. Keep in mind that I'm no biologist, so this will be personal thoughts and likely worth the same as your cost for reading this newsletter.
I hung a trail camera near a well used corridor northeast of the house on October 25th and kept it going until November 22nd, so we had the benefit of 24 hour monitoring at that location in addition to what we could see from the house during daylight hours.
General observations over the course of both seasons showed us few yearling does, even fewer mature does, a plethora of yearling spike bucks, more mature bucks, and only one fawn of the year! (When I use the term 'yearling' I'm talking about deer born in spring 2008)
The winter of 2007-08 gave us the second snowiest winter on record, followed by 2008-09 which set an all time snowfall record! Both winters dumped just under 100 inches of snow at the official weather station at Spokane International Airport.
In 24 years of winters at the ranch we have observed a pattern of 5 to 10 percent more snow here than the official totals reported after each snowfall. (We are in the foothills, and at higher elevation than the official weather station) I've no doubt that our snowfall totals here approached or exceeded 10 feet over each of the last two winters.
I believe that those two harsh winters have affected the local deer herd in ways that may help explain this year's observations. Deep snow, over a protracted period of time, means that food sources are difficult to reach and results in high mortality and malnourished animals.
Again, I'm no biologist, but I do try to follow some of what the biologists say about whitetail deer. Here's what I've read:
In a healthy herd, about half the does will have twins, for an average of 1½ fawns per doe, per year. The sex of the offspring will be at about a 1:1 ratio. In a stressed herd with poor nutrition, some fetuses may be aborted or re-absorbed by the mother, and of those born, the sex ratio will lean toward a preponderance of buck fawns.
Did the winter of 07-08 trigger that phenomenon of more buck fawns born that spring, thus explaining the high number of spike yearling bucks? Did a second consecutive harsh winter cause even higher pregnant doe mortality and the birth of far fewer fawns? In years past, we've seen several fawns born and raised right here on the property. Not this year!
Our traditional November 19th end of modern firearm season, carries us into the early portion of the annual rutting period. Did the fact that we saw more mature bucks than usual this year mean that the scarcity of does simply caused them to move about more and search harder for mating opportunities?
OK, perhaps it's time to quit speculating about something I don't know much about, and get into the rest of the deer hunting experiences.
Superstition has it that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day. Here’s a look at some things Wikipedia has to say about Friday the 13th:
(What sane person would take the time and effort to research this topic for a hunting story in pre Computer, World Wide Web, and Google search days? Go to a Library or read an Encyclopedia – what’s that all about?)
What's the supposedly bad luck of Friday the 13th got to do with deer hunting? Well, I guess it depends whether you're the hunter or the deer.
Friday evening, the 13th of November, brought our second snowfall of the season. The first one didn't amount to much but this storm dropped 3 or 4 inches in a very short time. We'd been watching various deer on the hill north of the house for most of the early evening hours. Mostly spike bucks, forkhorns, and one high, narrow racked six pointer.
About 15 minutes before the end of legal shooting time, it was snowing hard and difficult to see, but I still spotted the nice eight pointer that suddenly appeared. I had the Browning A-Bolt at hand, as it had been recently carried on a brief excursion looking for elk on neighbor Paul's nearby property.
The Browning is a left hand bolt action in .338 Winchester Magnum. A bit of overkill for even a large whitetail deer, but it shoots where you aim it, and the stainless steel metal and composite stock are pretty much impervious to inclement weather.
The buck was quartering toward me as I sent a 230 grain Winchester Fail Safe bullet to the point of the shoulder from a Winchester Supreme factory load. I hesitated before squeezing the trigger, because it was getting dark, and I didn't relish a tracking job in a snowstorm. Even a well hit deer may run several dozen yards into the thick stuff before succumbing.
Turned out, I needn't have worried. The buck dropped as if struck by lightning! The big .33 caliber bullet had passed close enough to the spine where it dips between the shoulder blades to cause an instant halt to motor functions.
L to R: Where he dropped (told you it was snowing); In the shop via tractor and loader; Very symmetrical eight point rack.
So that's the story of the Friday the 13th Buck. Not a giant by any means, but certainly representative of a mature buck for this area. (I always have Ann proofread my newsletters, so this next line may be dangerous) Go back to the November newsletter, look at the picture of Little Heifer's buck, and let's talk about who has braggin' rights this year! (Whatever! - I bet he enjoys the pepperoni stix & summer sausage as much as the rest of us! - Ann)
That's the extent of our deer harvest for 2009. Jennifer and I donated ours to the Union Gospel Mission, and Ann's spike buck is in the freezer, fashioned into our year's supply of pepperoni and summer sausage by Tim's Special Meats in Coeur d'Alene, ID.
Jennifer said from the beginning that she was holding out for a big buck, and she was true to her word. She had multiple opportunities for spikes and two different six pointers that were around so much that we named them! Both Sixlet and Sixer had unusually high, narrow racks, but she elected to pass each time they were available.
Jennifer and her dad spent several hours in the ground blind I had set up south of the house, but the bigger bucks only came when they weren't here or it was too dark to shoot. Here are some pictures of a nice buck that was here on November 14th just before they arrived, and then again just before dark. It was still legal shooting time during his second appearance, but Jennifer just couldn't pick him up in the scope on the old Mauser before he vamoosed.
Rick and Jennifer drove in about 10 minutes after these pictures were taken. (This is a telephoto shot from the kitchen door)
I mentioned above that I had a trail camera out during most of our deer season. We got pictures of neighbor's dogs illegally running loose, turkeys, and coyotes, as well as many deer. I read a story about trail cam use shortly before hanging mine this year. One point the writer (expert) emphasized in discussing some disadvantages of the cameras, was that the flash would spook mature bucks to the degree that they might avoid the area for a week or more. You be the judge!
November 13th, first picture at 1:02 AM, and another three minutes later. I'm pretty sure this is the deer I shot at 4:38 PM that same day within 30 yards of the camera's location.
Our plans for our 2010 Hunter Education classes are progressing nicely. We offered enrollment for our March class at the recent Northwest Sportsman's Club fundraiser, and signed up 5 students.
Our classes will be sponsored by the Northwest Sportsman's Club, and we have committed the funds to provide the resources to run a first class operation. So we can offer plenty of individual attention, classes will be limited to 12 students. If all goes as planned, at graduation, one lucky student from each class will be presented with a $100 gift certificate to the Wholesale Sports store at Spokane Valley Mall.
I'll soon be entering the necessary information to get our classes set up for the state's new online enrollment system. Handling enrollment and reporting electronically is supposed to eliminate the paperwork that most instructors dislike about our current system. Check the Hunter Education pages on the site frequently. Details will be posted there as they become available.
This month's hillbilly wisdom is a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes:
"A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience."
Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .
'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!