Category Archives: Deer

Fur, crane and juniper berries: field log

The Scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so.  He studies it because it takes pleasure in it; and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful.  — Jules Henri Poincare

* * *

[These are primary field notes taken today.  Time entered in UTC or Zulu time, i.e. 1759.  Post-field note commentary bracketed and italicized.]

12/27/2011

Flying Hat Ranch, North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quadrangle map.

1759.  51 deg. F.  [Cold enough to start into the field with line jacket, but by the time I got to grove, I shed the jacket, putting it on the fence post.]

1805.  Three or more ducks on pond.  No identification.  Woodpile near pond has been reduced by rain and natural deterioration.  Tree limbs and logs have settled in earth.  [Erath County has taken the burn ban off.  I’ll not burn the pile because it houses several critters.  The ducks are three and they make little noise.  They paddle to the far side of the pond as I stride by.]

1817.  Barbed wire between grove and arena pasture broken, 5 T-posts from the gate, towards the west.  Apparent deer tracks on the ground, no sign of struggle, crawling under, deer popped the strand.  Fur on ground.  Photos taken.  [I have seen juvenile deer scoot under the fence; hence, I think they broke it.  I looked carefully for signs of an entanglement in the wire, but found none and also went over to the creek embankment to make sure no deer had fallen.  I’ll repair the fence later this winter.  I wonder if it is deer “fur” or “hair?”  According to Scientific American, mammalogist, Nancy Simmons, there is no difference between fur and hair.]

1828.  Juniper berries on tree to the east of brick pile.  Tree is 20 feet high, 20 feet across  at lower crown.  Five juniper trees in immediate vicinity.  One large juniper 30 feet to east-southeast of the little grove.  This juniper is 30 feet tall, trunk is 2-3 feet in diameter.  [I had never stopped to count the number of junipers in the small grove, nor estimated the height of the tallest tree.  My recent post on junipers has prompted my focus.  I thought about picking the berries and consuming them, reenacting my Zuni experience.]

1843.  Red oak leaf falls.  I think it a floating butterfly.  Then I see the red oak.  No butterfly.  [What tricks our mind plays.  I thought for a moment that a Monarch might have roosted and emerged in the sun.  The leaf floated like a butterfly, not a swaying back-and-forth manner like a leaf.]

1849.  Two burrows near east water gap, one looks inhabited.  [Skunk, armadillo?  Other?]

1853.  Remnants of deer-stand ladder.  [I have dismantled all deer stands in the trees that I can find.  This ladder will be dismantled soon.  I hate it when nails are driven into trees.]

1855.  Bull bellows on Dooley Place.  [The Red Angus bull bellows.  ‘Twould be interesting to take field notes at a certain point for just sound, not images, just sound.]

1858.  Harris hawk ascends into tree at about 10 foot level, watches me approach, then flies low out of tree towards north.  [I have typed the Harris before.  There are two of them that soar and predate in the grove and surrounds.  They’ve been here on Flying Hat for two years.]

1908.  Scare 4-7 turkey vultures from dead mesquite tree at southwest part of grove.  [I hope Ethan Connell has checked the turkey vulture on his Life List in his Peterson’s.]

1917.  Flock of Sandhill Cranes overhead, flying north to south, catching wind currents.  [When I first heard the Sandhills,  I looked too high, gave up and then found them at a lower altitude.]

1930. Turn around at northwest corner of far field and return to house. Star whinnies at me.

1938.  White-crowned sparrows fly low in brush about arena at southeast end.

1942.  Scare up the resident jack rabbit while searching for stone tool in situ.  [I cannot find the stone tool.  I do have it located, however, on the GPS and I can locate it later.  I had placed a yellow surveyor’s flag at its place, but the elements have blown it down — or possibly, Star.]

1946.  At pasture-house gate.  [Log entries conclude.]

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Filed under Cedar, Deer, Ducks, Field Log, Sandhill Crane

Poaching or just curious? Deer on Flying Hat Ranchito

Southeast gate of Pecan Tree Pasture, deer season opening day, November 5, 2011, 7:35 a.m.

(The following datum comes from Field Notebook No. 1, October 29, 2011 –.  These are the original notes I took this morning on the first day of the regular deer season in north Erath County, Texas, November 5, 2011.)

7:50 a.m. In the far field at Pecan Tree Pasture.  One rifle shot to the south, a loud report.  41 deg. F.  One photo taken at southeast far gate.  No deer yet sighted.  Traffic light on State Highway 108.  Owl call, hooting, in the grove.  [I am parked between the grove and pecan tree, having entered from the far southeast gate to contain deer? within the field.]

No deer stands sighted on Old Bryant place, the Dooley place, that I can see.  This is different from past three years.  Two years ago, I sighted nine deer stands from my place.

Crows cawing — very few.

7:59 a.m., flock of crows flying east to west.

8:00 a.m.  Solitary deer sighted between me and water trough on my pasture road.  I am at the grove-pasture gate.

8:01 a.m.  Rifle report to the far south.

Deer may have come out of the grove gate by the water trough.  Deer leisurely walking up the pasture road.

(Bring binoculars next time.)

(Clear brush around fence in places so the F-250 is not scratched.)

A gray, short-bed pickup cruises by my open southeast gate, turns off road by gate, pauses, then goes north on SH 108.  No identification of the gray pickup.  Not a neighbor.

8:10 a.m.  Chickadees or wrens fussing in the mesquite brush, grove.  Will the solitary deer I saw cross SH 108?

8:14 a.m.  Rifle report to the east at some distance, estimated three miles distant.

8:21 a.m.  Rifle report to my southwest, very loud, very loud either on Dooley or Woods place.  I can almost smell the gunpowder.  [I carefully listen for bullet coming through air, but hear no sound.]

Far away to the south, another rifle shot.

A white-flatbed pickup passes on SH 108, slows down by field, turns around and comes back by deer at water trough, slows down, goes up road, turns around and then heads south on SH 108.  He probably saw the deer on my place.  Not a neighbor.

Big bluestem grass abounds in this field.

8:50 a.m.  Leave field.

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Notes, corrections, additions:

This year the rifle sounds are greatly reduced in number for the opening day of the general season.  The pickups that turn around and gaze into the far field where I have deer may be curious or may be looking for an opportunity to poach.  I can’t monitor and don’t want to monitor my field constantly.  I am glad that the deer stands have been significantly reduced in number from several years ago.  I have Tony Navarro to thank for that.  Game Warden Tony Navarro’s great-grandfather signed the Texas Declaration of Independence.  I rode with him in his outfitted pickup a couple of years ago when we scanned Flying Hat Ranchito for game. 

Game Warden Tony Navarro's card

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Bucks and bourbon: Texas deer season

 

This post is supported by Texas Hunter Safety Course online for Texas.  The Texas Hunter Safety Course online is endorsed and recommended by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

By all means hunters, speed to your lease with these essential items before sunrise!  Please don’t, you shouldn’t speed.  Remember that in Erath County, Texas, the general hunting seasons is November 5, 2011 — January 1, 2012: bag limit 4 deer, not more than 2 bucks, and no more than 2 antlerless, all seasons combined (citations from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department).

The Flying Hat Ranchito is closed to hunting because of the deer population decline.  In 2003, the White-tailed deer count was daily at 15-16, but this year the count has declined to three (3) deer, two doe and one fawn.

In truth, I recommend that you eliminate all of the following items below except a non-scope deer rifle and the deer from your hunt.  (And, yes, I have and still hunt without scope.)  Dress appropriately, maybe even a bit of camouflage, but considering the number of unschooled hunters out in the veld, you probably should wear red or orange.  Those of you that need to hunt for food or as an essential supply to your winter larder, I have no quarrel — in fact, I don’t like to quarrel or wrangle, in most cases — but the accumulation of the following “essential” items should be pared down whether venison is imperative or not.  I don’t like all the gadgetry and waste of resources.  To wit, I recommend these changes:

Build a natural blind of brush, hide behind a tree, sit on a log, get lost in the shinnery in order to scan and conceal. (Wear red or orange somewhere on your body, preferably above your waist.)

Do you really need an all-terrain vehicle to run up and down pasture roads or across fields?  Of course not.  Walk, glide through the forest, the grove, the bush.  Forget the telescope, use a less powerful rifle and stalk quietly the deer you seek to slay.  I think I would keep the flask and contents purely for exorcising the chill — two sip limit after the hunt, of course.

These changes, if adopted, will exercise your body, get you close to your kill and the extra money saved can pay part of your kid’s college tuition.

Of the following, what items can you eliminate and still achieve your goal?

Essential item no. 1: camouflage clothing

Essential item no. 2: all-terrain vehicle (ATV)

Essential item no. 3: the deer stand

Essential item no. 4: 30.06 rifles, some with scope

Essential item no. 5: bourbon whiskey flask

Essential item no. 6: White-tailed deer (bag limit is four).

Have a good hunt and feel liberated from the technologies of the present day!

(Please catch the field report of November 5, 2011, later on this morning in a separate post!)

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Notes, corrections and additions:

This post was originally entitled, “White-tailed deer season opens in Erath County: essential recommendations.”

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The quail, the deer and setting the lesson

Scaled quail on cholla bush (photograph by Marcus G. Martin, Photo Gallery).

Quail are sociable, staying together from birth to death as a covey, and when one lone quail, separated from the group, calls out plaintively, the covey circles back and joins the solitary being, bedding down all together in the evening so that they appear to be one animal, not fifteen or twenty, when observed closely.  (I have reared quail and know their habits.)  The quail also make for a fine gumbo, or with a brown sauce on top of white rice, a delicious entree.  They are beautiful and interesting to watch, but they are also food.

Deer, buck or doe, appear majestic in the field as they scan for predators and graceful when they arc over fallen timber or fence.   Fawns scamper and play about their mothers like children at the playground.  The backstrap or tenderloin of the deer is one of the finest cuts of meat on earth.  The liver of venison when soaked in milk overnight becomes delicate to the taste when fried and offers potency to the sick.  Deer are beautiful and interesting to watch, but they are also food.

Two years ago, in 2009, I chose the name of my blog, “Sage to Meadow,” based upon a post by Coffeeonthemesa, a blog published out of Taos, New Mexico. Coffeeonthemesa uses a phrase in her post that describes a covey of scaled quail moving from “sage across the meadow” near her home.  I like that.  It describes plant and terrain, sage and meadow: expansive geographic images and symbols of the American West.

Here is the post of Coffeeonthemesa — the italics are mine — that gave my blog its name and a setting of a lesson about food.

The covey of scaled quail (Callipepla squamata) that pass through our yard on their mesa rounds is smaller this year. It seems there are only a dozen or so, but they are quite plump. They move north to south from the sage across the meadow, stop to graze under the sunflower seed feeder, move through the little shed (have they ever found anything to eat in there?) and out again, in a little row. They search around the wood pile and cross the barren summer garden, before heading down the road towards the mesa edge. Last week I found the feathers and scant remains of one on the north side of the house where our woodstove ash pit lies.

They’re short-tailed, chunky birds with a cotton top crest, and the lookout quail sits atop a sagebrush or low fence post and barks out warnings to the others. Generally they run when something nears, zigzagging through the underbrush. Although the covey can explosively flush when startled.

I cannot help, when watching them under the feeder, but imagine how their plump little breasts would make a fine gumbo.

Coffeeonthemesa blog, Taos, New Mexico, November 13, 2009.

The eloquence of Coffeeonthemesa’s prose brings the eternal cycle into her final sentence:  “I cannot help, when watching them under the feeder, but imagine how their plump little breasts would make a fine gumbo.”

I have never been a consistent hunter in the food chain.  I shop the food chain.  I go to the supermarket for food, but I know it is not the supermarket that gives me food.

I have hunted in the food chain.  In the 1970s, I went deer hunting with two friends, shot my deer and dressed it in the field.  Oh, I had known the one-life-for-another axiom for a long time, but the buck I shot set the lesson inside me, inside my body so that all the literature and thinking I had ever done about one-life-for-another seemed faraway, alien even, to the beautiful, majestic animal I knelt before.

Beneath me, still breathing, eyes open, the grey coat shimmering, lay the deer, my first deer, its antlers hard and white.  No longer would he browse the field, sniff the wind, eat acorns beneath live oaks.  His animation was near end.  As I put my pistol to his heart, I promised myself that I would prepare all of him for me and my wife and my friends to eat.  I would honor this being, this deer, this day under the sun near Van Horn, Texas.

As I dressed the deer, I retched and threw up.

Must all lessons be assimilated like this?  Or, expelled like this?  Can’t very well drop the class can I?  Can we?  How do I get out of this university (universe)?

The regret and sadness I had that day recedes when I ponder the lesson the deer set in me.   In my anthropology classes, the lesson is taught every semester, every class, to every student.  I don’t grade them on it except for the economics of reciprocity in a society.  I set them on a path to learn the lesson — they will have to go into the field to have the lesson truly set, but here are the words:

We all take life to sustain ourselves.  To obscure that fact is profane.  To recognize that we take a life to sustain ourselves is sacred.  The sharing of food with another, next to laying down our life, is the greatest gift we can give others.  Who feeds you?  And, what do you do for them in return?

Jack Matthews, author of Sage to Meadow, Introductory Lecture in Physical and Cultural Anthropology.

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Notes, corrections and additions:

The New Mexico State University Scaled Quail Management Operation.

Marcus G. Martin Bird Photo Gallery.   The quail on cholla bush is from Martin’s gallery — permission pending.  Click his link for other photographs and website.

This post started out only as a post describing how my blog got its name.  From quail gumbo, however, the post grew into what it is now.

Along with the more somber lesson herein written, there are other lessons  from an anthropological perspective that relate to to food:  (1) by giving food, parties, spreading your resources, you enlarge your social network and friends; (2) gifts make slaves; (3) by giving of gifts, including food, you create obligations.  I think that we could go deeper into the psychology of harvesting animals, but for the moment, this is it.  One aspect that bears mentioning is that if you take life with respect, you probably won’t harvest unnecessarily, and you will get beaucoup angry with those that do.  You may even go to war with agencies that take the fat of the land and hold it in reserve, extracting a price for its distribution.  Read most any history on the opening of the American West, the partial closing of the American West. 

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Quail and deer lease my field

Deer skull with prairie grass (2011).

Temperatures reached 102 degrees yesterday.  Work slows or stops at 11:00 a.m.  Winds blew fierce, reaching 40 m.p.h. in gusts.  Yet, the pastures are green, the grass not browning for the moment.

* * *

Two days ago I shredded several narrow paths about the pastures.  I do not shred fields or pastures.  As I shredded a narrow path around the edges of Pecan Tree Pasture, I flushed a bobwhite quail.  Just one quail, but it is significant for quail habitually cluster in coveys.  Quail have disappeared in large portions of the area from hunting, shredding pastures, cropping and the spread of fire ants that kill young chicks.  I have reseeded the Pecan Tree Pasture with native grass and allowed the field to remain fallow for several years.  If I see more quail — the late sighting proving to not be an isolated occurrence — I will conclude I have done well in partial restoration of a native habitat.

* * *

Yesterday I sighted three mature deer and a fawn between the grove and the stock pond.  It is odd that their color is so pale brown, almost yellow, against the greenery of Spring.  Deer return, quail flush.  The fawn pranced.

* * *

As I sat on the back porch yesterday afternoon, a cattleman from Gordon knocked on the door.  He wanted to lease the pasture that I had flushed the quail and seen the deer — a monthly lease depending upon the number of cattle he would place.  I refused.  I told him that I would probably run a few head myself.  He stated that he had seen no cattle on the pasture and that’s why he had inquired.  I took his card and he said he was looking for pasture within ten miles of Gordon, so that if I heard of any land available for rent, please let him know.  I politely said I would.

Other inquires will follow this Spring.  They always do from cattlemen or harvesters of grass.  And, I always refuse and politely explain that I have the pasture for horses or a few head of cattle.  I have not run any cattle for four years.  I may put a few on the land this Spring, but not many and they will not disturb either deer or quail.  In the field, the Big Bluestem grass will be higher than the withers of horse and rump of cattle.

* * *

I had to kill a copperhead in the barn two days ago.  I knelt down to air up a tire and moved a salt block receptacle to position myself and a copperhead lay under the receptacle.  I will be cleaning out the barn early next week.  I had planned to do so — in fact I had moved six boxes of books to my office in Abilene a week ago –, but the danger of snake bite spurs me sooner to glean the barn.  My air conditioner repairman and contractor lost part of a finger last year from a copperhead bite.  For some reason, we have more copperheads in this portion of north Erath County, Texas, than most areas.

* * *

The photograph at the beginning of the post was taken over at Pecan Tree Pasture about where the solitary bobwhite was sighted.  I was observing the growth of native grasses a month ago and happened across the deer skull with horns.  I consider myself keenly observant of objects in my field of sight, but the grass has grown so high, secrets are undisclosed unless one tramps the land.  The skull remains in situ.  I like the simplicity, the complexity intertwined: deer, native grasses, treeline.

The field wholly remains in situ, lightly touched, deeply felt.

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The other side of nature

The other side of nature. A rather intense blizzard, Christmas time, Texas High Plains, 2009.

We turn our heads, even raise our hand to eye so as to blind us to the other side of nature — fierce cold.

Winter storms force cattle to turn their backsides to the wind and drift — drift until warm temperatures encounter their travel.  But during the worst of blizzards, cattle bunch into box canyons, fences and fast-flowing streams that terminate their travel, even their lives.  The worst of western blizzards came in 1888, destroying like a monster from Hades the free range of the American West that never arose again.

The photograph inserted shows the blizzard of 2009 that stranded motorists and brought out the National Guard to the Texas High Plains.  Brenda and I drove through the storm.  Livestock perished, not like 1888, but many perished despite the efforts of cattlemen and helicopters dropping hay from the heavens, manna for cattle.  We put chains on the pickup in Roscoe and took them off in Slaton, slowly making our way to Lubbock, then Santa Fe.

I drive at least two times, sometimes four times a week, between Mingus, Texas, and Abilene, a journey of 87.2 miles from my ranch house to Cisco College.  As I travel, I see good and warm things, but I also see a tableau of death, regardless of cold Winter or warm Spring.  I do not write about the tooth and claw — only one post in a year have I written about the other side of nature — because it is most unpleasant and I have been taught by my family to look the other way, grit my teeth, bow my back and work on, carry on, even pick up sticks and rocks from the corral to forget and cover the other side of nature, raising a hand to the eye.

I was taught by my family to keep death and blood away, the least semblance of pain is to be endured against happiness and pleasure receding too quickly in our lives.  I learned in college that my family’s philosophy was stoicism, remembering vaguely the word, but daily that conduct.  I write this blog about nature and how she covers us second by second, year by year, like a quilt on a cold winter’s night, a softness and heaviness at the same time, installing comfort into our harried house.  The warmth erases pain and anguish.  But, there is another side that we all must endure.

There is an extraction, a debt, that inevitably must be paid.  As I drive the 87.2 miles to Abilene and back to Mingus, I see, even hear the debt being paid in blood and tissue.  How many deer, raccoons, skunks, possums, coyotes, dogs, cats, field mice, ravens, hawks, snakes, fox, moths and monarch butterflies can I continue to see killed along the roads?  I see the remains; I am even a part of making the remains.  The only debt I hear paid is the lovely monarch butterfly that hits my windshield, leaving a yellow stain that I cannot wash off until the day ends.  The monarch strikes my windshield and I cringe.  I think, quite often, that my salary, forcing my travel to Abilene, is not worth the agony and groans that I feel and emit as I see and hear the other side of nature.

I write of horses prancing, birds singing, dogs playing and armadillos browsing with slow gait, rooting and eating contentedly.  Then, why write this post, why bring up the other side of nature?  Death and blood and stench of flesh?  I’m not sure, but to bring up the other side of nature seems to balance my exuberance downward.  Downward to the way-things-are and away from illusion, closer to truth.  My work is affected.  As I drive the interstate to Abilene I see the panic of deer running across the road, jumping the fence to safety, to daily heaven.  I walk into class to lecture and the gravitas of it all weighs me down to essentials:  why are we here, what are we doing, what are the models we want to imitate, what are the models we wish to avoid?  I don’t waste time for I am doing my best to answer those questions for that day.

As I come back home to Mingus, I think:  I am here to groom my horse, play with my dog, feed my cats, tend my pastures, grow plants for monarchs to feed upon, protect the deer in my domain and love my life and wife.  Taking my hand from my eyes, I see life as gift once more as it is balanced against the other side.

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Notes:

I often have Brenda read my stuff before I publish it.  She read this and said, “Very good, but very heavy.  They’re going to say you haven’t had your anti-depressant.”   We laughed.  She understood what I was trying to say in the post.  I told her that I have been wanting to write this post for a long time.  One of the reasons I support wildlife corridors is the death I see on my travels to Abilene.  There’s a place along Baird Hill that needs protection.  I see drivers trying to avoid the wildlife.  Many succeed in avoiding the critters.  Drivers aren’t all talking on the cell phone.

http://twitter.com/sage2m

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Field Log 9/21/2010 (Quail)

North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quad.

One week ago, 9:00 a.m., I flushed a large covey of quail to the west of the ranch house.  They were feeding under the live oak tree.  A single quail sighted a week before the flushed covey.  Relinquishing pastures to native grass may have induced quail browsing.

Two mornings ago at 5:00 a.m. while walking the Yeller and Lottie, I heard a deer snort over the fence on the Dooley place.

Solitary white cow bird sighted two days ago.  Cow birds feed with horses in early spring.

The four inches of rain two weeks ago has caused greening of all pastures.  Pasture grasses, especially buffalo grass, are re-erupting.

Yesterday morning at 5:00 a.m., some type of birds quietly chattering in mesquite trees.  Quiet chatter.  Never heard such a thing before.

Harris hawks continue to prey in the pastures.  Their flight patterns are low to the ground.

Some slight turning of tree leaves in grove to yellow and brown.

Overturned soil in arena to soften ground for Lilly and Star.

Dove hunters are not so plentiful this year about the county.  Few shots heard.

Bull nettle growth about stock tank needs cutting.

Photograph featured is a cottonwood tree above Casa Sena in Santa Fe.

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Erasure of Deer

North Erath County, Texas, 32.43 lat., -98.36 long. Elev. 1,086 ft.  Turkey Creek Quad.

Forward to focused field scan, April 18, 2010.

Earlier today, I wrote that I sought fresh deer sign on our place.  One month ago, I found one deer track near the salt lick: March 20, 2010. Since last month, I have found no fresh deer track and I know how to find track.  This is not to say that no deer have passed through our place because that would require a more intense observation and scan pattern.  And, besides, the deer may return if they have fled, as I suspect they have.

But before I give you my field report this afternoon (I will continue to scan the grove and pasture until dark obliterates my view), let me explain what was, what used to be, on our place.

No. 1: East View from Poprock Hill, April 18, 2010

Photograph No. 1:  This is a view from Poprock Hill, looking east.  This photograph was taken on the terrace a few feet from our back porch.  The deer used to browse in the mesquites on the edge of the pasture.  The pasture on the other side of the mesquites is the Blue pasture, our neighbor to the east whose family has been here since the early twentieth century.  There is a pond on the other side of the mesquite line and deer, when we moved here in 2003, would loaf most of the day around the pond and in the brush.  The deer were predicable in browsing from left of the photograph to the right of the photograph.  Our pond is seen on the right side of the photograph.  In the late afternoon, the deer would pass in the distance, the herd numbering six to fifteen on any given day.

In 2008, a new set of neighbors set up residence beyond our pond and built a home, workshop, barn and corrals.

No. 2: South View from Poprock Hill, April 18, 2010

Photograph No. 2 shows a view from our terrace, looking south, southeast.  Deer would pass a few years ago back and forth into the brush.

No. 3: Southwest View from Poprock Hill, April 18, 2010

Photograph No. 3 shows the view to the southwest.  The deer would browse into the grove beyond the barn, and, thence, towards the mountains in the distance.

Not only have our neighbors constructed a new home, but they have cleared the brush on their place.  This is not unusual, as it is customary for homeowners to clear thickets and mesquite.

No. 4: Cleared Acreage of Neighbors to the Southeast, April 2010

Photograph No. 4 illustrates the acreage cleared in the last two years.

Today, I set up a focused field scan for deer.  I will continue today and into the early darkness for visuals of deer.

The results of the focused field scan for deer on April 18, 2010.

I found one deer print along the road into the grove.  It was fresh track.  Near the salt lick, I found no track.

Deer Print in Grove, April 2010

Salt Lick in Grove, April 2010

In a sack this afternoon, I carried three quarts of corn to the salt lick.  As I walked down the road to the salt lick, gunshots commenced on the Dooley place.  Fortunately, since the last target-practice episode a few weeks ago, this firing of at least 100 rounds of two caliber of pistols or rifles stayed within the property lines of the Dooleys.  They take care to be safe in their shooting practice.

I scattered the corn near the salt lick.  No deer sign.  By the purity of Aristotelian logic, however, no deer sign is actually a Sign.  And the reading of the Sign is not pleasant.  It reads, thus:  The deer population that migrated through the Blue, Hall, Dooley, Bryant and our properties has been erased.  Since 2007, with the building of three homes in the immediate area (within a half-a-mile), the clearing of brush and the target practicing of young and energetic youth, our deer population, by my count and observations, has dwindled to one deer track from a high of fifteen animated, graceful creatures of grove and pasture that used to browse.

Neither do I see fox anymore.  Today, with the firing of shots, as I carried corn to the grove, crows cried Alarm! Alarm! and it was not my ambling that elicited the call, but the report of hot lead entering the good earth.  The principle of using one’s property as one sees fit is a constant in our culture, and it is not my aim to dislodge that behavior from our country, and I think it futile to even suggest a small amendment to it, but rather my aim is raising the morality of good people to the ethics of wild nature that show us we are not alone, but that we inhabit and live upon land that is home to many creatures.  I cannot stop my neighbors from alarming and scattering wildlife, and, most unfortunately, destroying the homes of animals and birds.  I used to hear more and see more wild things here on Flying Hat.  Now I hear and see less.  It is still rich and enchanting, but much has been diminished since we have moved here.

Between now (4:32 p.m.) and sundown, the darkness, I will look upon the pastures and seek the profile of the graceful deer.  If I sight even One, I will come back to this post and log its appearance before I sleep tonight.

I would not, if I were you, look for another entry to “Erasure of Deer” written on this post today.  Or, possibly, ever.

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Field Focus Log 4/18/2010 (RT)

North Erath County, Texas, 32.43 lat., -98.36 long. Elev. 1,086 ft.  Turkey Creek Quad.

I have a focus for field activity today: scout on ranch and immediate surrounds for white-tailed deer.  Last sign of track for deer was over a month ago and since then, noise and brush-clearing from adjacent development has occurred.  All entries for Sage to Meadow will be as close to real time (RT) as possible.

7:05 a.m. CST: scan in grove and pasture for deer, daylight.  No sighting.  Seek track later today with corn distribution.  No corn has been distributed for two weeks.  Probability of finding deer track is minimal.

11:30 a.m., depart for general store for deer corn.

1:00 p.m., arrive back at ranch with two sacks of deer corn, $7.50 per sack.  Rain and mist, 57 deg. F.

On Sundays, I purchase deer corn at the Circle H Shell gasoline station at Interstate 20 and Highway 281, approximately 20 miles away.  Since it is misting and raining, I place the deer corn in the cab of the pickup, the scent of fresh-shucked corn filling the cab as I come back to the pastures.  An attendant at Circle H remarks, “I loaded up a couple of sacks of corn yesterday in the back of my pickup and by the time I got back home there was water dripping from the sacks.”

“That’s why I put the sacks in the cab when it rains,”  I replied.  The conversation was amiable, an exchange of information from two strangers, overcoming boredom on a rainy afternoon.

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Field Log 3/20/2010 (Deer Track)

North Erath County, Texas, 32.43 lat., -98.36 long. Elev. 1,086 ft.  Turkey Creek Quad.

Windy from north, intermittent slight snow mist, 34 deg. F.  Heavy rain last night.  Rain gauge not measured.

Drove DX-55 tractor to arena area.  Slippery, used four-wheel drive.  Walk to grove revealed no track.  Camera tucked under zipped field coat.

Hawk sighted, soaring low from north to south along pasture.  No definite typing.  Voice resembles a high-pitched shrill pweeeeeee; diminishing (see Peterson, A Field Guide to Western Birds, p. 68, under Broad-Winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) [2nd ed., 1969]).  Tailbanding verification is ambiguous.

Deer track found on north side of The Grove, near corn site.  No corn set out for five days.  One deer track.  Mature.  Headed southwest.

Deer Track North Side Grove, March 20, 2010 (approx. 2.5 in. length, click to enlarge)

Deer Track North Side Grove Large View, March 20, 2010 (click to enlarge)

Scouting to creek area revealed no deer track.  Creek running high at approx. three (3) feet above normal.

Salt Creek After Rain, March 20, 2010 (click to enlarge)

Upon returning to house, deer track discovered along Poprock Hill Pasture, near the Blue place pond.  This indicates the one deer is still browsing between Blue’s pond, our pasture and the grove area.  No track emanates from Hall place to the southeast, as it used to.  Note: talk to Blue and verify continued support of brush growth around his pond.

One or two deer, not fifteen.

Returned to house at 11:15 a.m.

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