Saturday, December 13, 2014

Elk Battle

I had another fantastic day out in the wilds of Idaho yesterday.  I met another photographer out at Camas National Wildlife Refuge to see if I could get the pictures I missed on Wednesday when my photo card malfunctioned.  The White-tailed deer did not cooperate by fighting, but other things were better.

As I topped a ridge I saw a herd of bull elk sleeping on an open dried up marsh about a quarter of a mile away.  The only way I could get to them was to crawl on my belly behind a small patch of sagebrush.  Crawling I did, even bumping into some prickly-pear along the way.  But finally I made it.  Most of the 29 bulls in the herd was not large, but were very interesting to watch.  Some would stretch out as if they were dead, probably because their antlers are heavy.
 
After about a half hour, some began standing up and some even started sparring with their "light sabers."

 
Then off to the side two bulls got into it with a serious fight. 

 
The rattling of antlers filled the air as I shot pictures of the epic battle through a sagebrush.

 
After an hour of watching these beautiful animals, my phone rang - they were up and gone.  On my way back to the truck, I saw 14 whitetails.  I jumped this buck out of some sage.

 
It stopped to look back at me as it topped a ridge in a pose that said, "ain't I beautiful."

 
Walking through the tall grass near the truck, I spotted this pheasant sneaking through the weeds.

 
Just another day for a wild man enjoying the wildness of Idaho.  I will turn my phone off the next time - Monday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Whitetails, coyotes and fun

I spent most of Monday and today in the wilds of Idaho, mostly near Camas NWR, Market Lake and areas between.

Monday morning I watched a White-tailed buck chasing a doe out near a patch of high sage brush, so being the sneaky fellow that I am, I decided to surprise them.  That I did.

The buck jumped out of the sagebrush, then he started chasing the doe.  For safety or for something that has a greater pull than safety.

 
I flushed a Northern Harrier on the way back to the truck.

 
The rest of the day was hiking about seven miles with very little excitement until the evening when I flushed a Long-eared owl with very poor light which equals poor pictures.


This morning I was on the desert long before the sun rose in the east.  Jackrabbits were all over the place, but no Golden eagles to chase them close to me.

 
The White-tailed deer appeared to be thicker than the jack rabbits.

 
I watched 14 bull elk about a mile away from me, but as I dropped over a ridge, nine White-tailed  were working a far ridge and were more concerned what was in the tall grass than they were of me.

 
Four coyotes were spread out through the marsh hunting.  It appeared two adults were teaching two pups how to hunt.

 
The coyotes flushed as Snowshoe hare out of the marsh grass and it ran right between two deer that were more concerned about the coyotes than they were of me.

 
I followed the deer over the hill and then I had a card in my camera malfunction.  I thought I was still shooting pictures of five bucks chasing a doe in heat, but nothing was recorded.  I am heading back on Friday to try to get those bucks sparring and fighting; but it was an experience of a lifetime that was missed.
 
After I realized the card had gone baaaaaad, I headed home and replaced the card.  To make sure it was working, I headed for the river bottoms and ran into this beautiful Saw Whet owl.  I ran back and got my wife and grandchildren to see it.  A rare find to be sure.  I will take Lady Luck anytime.

 
Just a couple of days in the wilds of Idaho for a wild retired old bald man.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Experiences of a lifetime

Friday I had one of those days even a wild man of Idaho would believe it was not possible to have.  It was very foggy at 5:30 when I got up, so I tied two dozen fishing flies and checked the weather.  "Heavy patchy fog with clear areas west of Rexburg."  So I headed for the desert and Camas National Wildlife Refuge.

At Sage Junction, I headed out on a primitive road with Black-tailed jackrabbits using the fog as cover as the rainbow-circled sun peeked through the heavy ground fog. All of a sudden a rabbit headed for my truck, running under it and not coming out.
 
In the fog I finally saw the reason; a Golden eagle was out hunting and had flushed the rabbit and it was hiding under a very large blue "rock."  Eventually both the eagle and rabbit moved on.  But a dream experience for one wild man in the wilds of Idaho was enjoyed ...... it would not be the last of the day.

 
After entering Camas National Wildlife Refuge and visiting with several naturalists and photographers with reports of "nothing worthwhile to see" I decided to hike the back roads of the fog-plagued refuge.  After seeing a few White-tailed deer through the mist, I saw a Northern harrier harassing a patch of tall sage with strange sounds coming from the brush.   

 
Inching closer I saw a porcupine grazing in the grass.  While taking pictures of the spiky animal and with my back turned to the pocket of sage, I heard the strange sound behind me and turned just as a Short-eared owl flushed from the sage and disappeared into the tall bull rushes.  Dang it all to heck - I was not quick enough - or the camera was not quick enough to record that exit - probably both.

 
After the two mile hike, I was almost back to my truck when I saw a movement like a flock of birds flushing in the sage - not birds, but a herd of about 200 migrating elk quartering past me.  The herd was being led by an old respected cow followed by mostly cows and calves with a few small bulls mixed in.

 
But the last two of the herd was a young cow and a very tired huge bull.  With breeding over, most bulls have left their herds, joined in groups and migrated before the cows.  This one was lost or was left behind by the other bulls, or had found a late girlfriend.  Reminded me of some old men that ought to know better.

 
With a responsibility waiting for me in town, I headed for the truck in a hurry.  Near the truck in a thicket of willows, I was greeted by a chorus of Song sparrows. 

 
I felt they were begging me to come back on another gloomy day when there appears to be "nothing worthwhile to see."  Sometimes you have to leave home and the comfortable vehicles to appreciate and experience the beauties that are to be had in the Wilds of Idaho.  If you stay home in the rain, snow and fog; you may miss four memorable lifetime experiences.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Retirement

Today was my first day of retirement after 29 years of teaching high school, coaching and other great fun activities.  So I decided to spend it out in the wilds of Idaho.  So I headed for one of my favorite places: Camas National Wildlife Refuge.  There I located a lot of wild things.

Four antlerless White-tailed deer.
 
A golden eagle.

 
A buck White-tailed deer.

 
Four different Great-horned owls.

 
Also I saw four Bald eagles, pheasants, four bull elk, cottontail rabbits,  Red-winged blackbirds, horned larks and the newly arrived Rough-legged hawks.
 
I hope all of you had a lovely Thanksgiving.