Note: All photos come from ranches hunted by Adobe Lodge Also: Click on an image to enlarge it.
10-27-18 On a tour of one of our ranches day-before-yesterday, we found water running in several of the roads, deer blinds and feeders out in the water, a some blinds totally inaccessible due to muddy roads. Indeed, almost 30% of them are unusable until things dry out at bit.
In a few cases, our hunting will be akin to a golf hazard where you have to "shoot across the water."
First hunt of the season begins tomorrow. Things are looking good. Can't wait to see what happens. Stay tuned to this site for updates throughout the entire season, until the end of January.
10-26-18 After receiving close to 12 inches of rain over the past ten days, we are seeing water and streams where we've never seen them before.
Below is a series of trail camera photos collected by Mr. Max Sanders. It is easy to tell when the rains and flooding begin. In the final three photos, notice how the level of water continues to increase.
Max reports rescuing his camera in about 24 inches of water. The camera unit itself was undamaged. Thank goodness Max had it up on a stand about three feet high.
More photos are to come from a tour yesterday looking a blinds and feeders that are now in water.
10-25-18 Except for the photo of the javelinas at the water trough, the rest of the photos here come from a a couple of feeders shown before the rains of last week.
10-21-18 There are no photos to post this week. Reason: since my previous posting a week ago, we have had around 10 inches of rain all over the area. Rivers have been at flood stage for days, and most ranch roads are all but impassible. So Max Sanders has been unable to retrieve the cards from his several cameras.
In checking a corn feeder today where one of Max's cameras is located, I was amazed to see the camera is now almost under water. It was hard to tell if water actually ever covered the camera earlier. We'll figure that out soon enough.
The formerly dry tank dams are now responsible for the creation of enormous ponds all over a particular ranch. A couple of them cover several acres. (FYI-a football field is about an acre in size.) Unfortunately, the consistency of the soil in some of these dirt tanks is not conducive to holding water. In other words, the ponds leak badly. The largest one way up at the head of the drainage area is the worst. A virtual river can be found below this huge body of water flowing on down the draw. You could almost float a canoe for several miles from one side of the property to the other.
Many of our blinds and feeders can be found in such locations due to the better visibility in the open area behind the dry tank dams. But choosing such locations this year was a bad idea. At last count, nine of blinds/feeders were unusable due to being in some degree of standing water. Yes, they will dry out sooner or later, but if we have a super-wet fall, they won't be useable until next year.
For faithful readers of this Trail Camera section of the website, you are entitled to the advanced news about a couple of discounted whitetail hunts we are offering in late January. An email announcing the dates of the hunts goes out Monday morning. Basically, here is the deal: on January 16-20 and January 23-27, 2019, we are discounting our regular whitetail buck hunt a full $1000. You pay only $2750 for four days to take one buck and at least a couple of does. As with all our hunts, lodging, meals, guiding, complete deer butchering/wrapping/freezing, and a return trip to the airport are included.
10-15-18 Normally, I try to post photos collected by the valuable Max Sanders on Sunday. But this week, I was up in Lubbock at a function held by the Ranching Heritage Center. So I am tardy. Please forgive my delay.
Yesterday about 11 a.m., we left Lubbock up in the panhandle of Texas just as a front was hitting that city with the wind out of the north about 30 mph and about 55 degrees. Traveling south about 200 miles, by the time we arrived in San Angelo, the temperature was in the mid-80s with no wind. But by 6 p.m., that front had arrived.
This morning, the thermometer in my truck said it was 36 degrees as I checked the rain gauges at the ranch to find around 2.5 inches. Drizzle has continued all day, and more is forecast for the next couple of days. Now isn't that something? Up until about mid-August, it had been so dry around here, many ranchers had about given up. But since then, things have turned around in a major, major sort of way. Now, it is so wet, we cannot even get into the pastures without tearing up ranch roads.
Max is unsure if he can even get to his trail cameras this week to collect the photos he has accumulated.
Below are what he had found before the weather turned so cold.
10-7-18 Our long-time client, H.B. Lantz, Jr., Troy, VA sent a photo of last year's trophy once mounted on his wall back home. What did this handsome buck look like last season when he was photographed in our "studio?" You can see for yourself below. The taxidermist did one heck of a good job while the photographer did "ok." It's easy to look back and see how a photo could have been made a little better. The buck's nose was a little too high, seems like. Here's a professional tip: When the nose is lower, the horns look better. But it doesn't affect how he appears on H.B.'s wall.
Helicopter counts continue on several of the ranches we hunt. The numbers generated by the process dictate how many deer, both bucks and does, are to be harvested on each ranch. Biologists who have years of experience counting deer from the air will all tell you the same story - not every deer is seen. Depending on the weather and the skills of the pilot of the aircraft, they all admit to under-counting the deer. But. Here's the good news: if you base your harvest on their actual count, you have a built-in "fudge-factor" to prevent over harvesting the deer.
So how do the biologists determine how many deer to remove? The number depends on the goal of the manager. If said manager is trying to produce mature bucks with trophy antlers, the recommendation will usually be to remove 20-25% of the bucks. Doe harvest runs 25-35% in a well managed herd with a buck:doe ratio of one-to-two or better. The goal is to keep the total number of deer within the carrying capacity of the rangeland. Each year, much depends on the fawn crop number. More fawns: remove more deer. Less fawns: remove fewer deer.
The entire process is an inexact science, but over time the goal is to have a sustainable harvest of deer, year after year. With zero management, deer herds get way too large in good times, only to crash and burn during droughts.
All this talk is probably of little interest to loyal readers. They say: show us the photos. The few collected by Max Sanders found only some javelinas and some small bucks. Interestingly, the helicopter tabulated some dandy bucks, but Max bemoans being snake bit with his efforts. Max, who has run many, many marathons back in his day does not give up easily. He doggedly moves his plethora of cameras to new locations weekly. No telling how much time he spends looking at his computer for good photos.
9-30-18 A little over a week ago, big rains came our way. Several of our rivers flooded, and our area lakes caught much water, a cause for celebration here in normally parched West Texas.
Indeed, some areas have had many months of deficient rainfall. But we got caught up in a huge way, as you will see in the photos below.
We like to locate blinds and feeders behind old dirt tank dams because, almost always, the visibility is quite good in such places. You can see a long way and there isn't all that much brush. In fact, 20+ years ago when we began hunting a certain property, a blind was located in just such a place. You could see several hundred yards in several direction. But within a few days, a similar rain event filled that dirt pond and our blind was left standing in four feet of water. When things finally dried out (and they always do around here), we started calling this location the "Ocean Front" blind. After a year or two, we moved it to the upper end of the dry lake bed, and a few years later, we re-located the thing to yet a third place but still called it the "Ocean Front," even though there was no standing water within several miles. It might be bad luck to change a blind's name.
A couple of weeks ago, the guides suggested that the Ocean Front blind wasn't all that productive the past few years. So we moved it to a nearby, dry old tank. Great visibility, easy access next to an existing road. We got the blind set up, moved in the feeder and built the pen. But the recent rain event caused the old Ocean Front blind to once again be choice water-front property. You would think we would learn our lesson after a while. It will dry out, (as it always does), but it might not be of use this season.
Helicopter deer census reports have now been completed on several of the ranches we hunt. We still lack a couple more, but already the numbers are telling us the deer herd is in fine shape. It's true that the aforementioned dry spell affected our fawn crop percentages. They are running from the mid-30% to the mid-40%.
The encouraging number is the buck:doe ratio. The worst was 2.01 does per buck. Another couple were 1.56 and 1.4 does per buck. The best was almost unbelievable. One property counted 261 bucks and 250 does, better than a 1:1. So if the final two ranches post similarly encouraging numbers, it appears at this juncture that a couple of hunts will be added to the end of the season where discount prices are offered. These would occur from mid-to-late January. An announcement will be emailed to our list when the final decision has been make.
As with so many other things, we dare not "count our chickens before they hatch." And don't sell hunts for which you have no deer. We'll know in a couple of weeks - still plenty of time before January gets here.
9-25-18 Once again for the second week in a row now, our trail camera buddy, Max Sanders, collected only small bucks. He admits to being snakebit. No telling how far he drives or how many cameras he tends to or how many hours he spends at his computer sorting through oodles of photos looking for something worthwhile.
But here lately, all his efforts have been in vain. When you're hot, you're hot. When you're not, - - - - - you know the rest of it.
This is the time of year when some of our guides get together to locate new deer blinds, or to re-locate some existing blinds to more promising locations. Pickups are loaded down with material. In addition to the blind, we must haul a barrel feeder with its three dis-attached legs. Each location requires the construction of a pen around the feeder to keep out livestock and/or unwanted critters such as javelinas. The pens are made of welded-wire panels, 34" tall and 16 feet long. We use seven per location (112 feet in circumference) in the belief that a larger pen is preferable to super small ones we see on old locations.
Sometimes we are able to use t-posts to drive into the dirt to stabilize the pen. Other locations might have little to no top-soil and the pens are wired to bushes, limbs, rocks, or whatever is handy.
9-16-18 After posting this week's batch of photos from the over-achiever Max Sanders, low and behold he sends even more to post. So his latest submissions are below, and this week's regular report is below those photos.
Whew. I'm weary. I think I'll have a beer on the back porch and rest a spell.
9-16-18 Time marches on. We are only about 40 days away from the arrival of our first hunters. If you are the outfitter with a long list of chores to get done, time flies. If you are a hunter waiting to finally depart on your adventure, time seems to drag. Funny how that happens.
The collection of photos submitted this week by Max Sanders has a variety of critters, but Max noted that he was unsuccessful in collecting images of any large bucks. Gosh. That's almost like hunting, isn't it? How many of us have sat for hours without seeing anything worthwhile? Actually, Max did get a blurred image of a ten pointer, so he did not strike out after all.
But from any of Max's photos, there are always things to learn. There is a small, one-horned deer. Maybe we've seen him before. There are numerous small bucks still "in the velvet" as we get a good, close look at their headgear. Wonder how much longer we will see velvet?
Max had his camera set up near a likely hole on the side of a large bank of dirt in hopes of getting a photo of the homeowner. Finally, he would get a good image of a badger. So far, all he finds there are raccoons. Have they encroached on the neighborhood? Surely they did not do the dirt work on the cavern. Raccoons are supposed to live in hollow trees. But the good news is that Max has moved his "badger" camera to a fresh site with plenty of new dirt. Wait till next week. (But isn't that was the football teams always say?)
Looks like in addition to javelinas and raccoons now stealing corn from our deer, we have a new perp - a crow. Max got this one dead-to-rights while the helpless victim is in the background. He is forced to share his meal with this interloper.
9-9-18 Most all of Texas has been praying for rain for months. Finally it came. Most of us got enough to do some good. Some of us (not here) had flooding.
Early September rains are just the ticket to germinate our winter weeds. Speaking of winter weeds: when they are good, there is no better nutrition for our wildlife and even our livestock. And there is plenty of time for the winter forbs to make themselves into useable forage before the cold weather gets here after Thanksgiving. Around here, December through February brings dormancy to all the winter plants.
We just have to hope this week-long wet spell won't be the last one for several months. That is the very condition we have faced the past couple of years. But while things are wet, everyone is in a good mood. And we'll join everyone in our thanksgiving for the blessings of good rains.
This week's collection of photos accumulated by the ever-busy Max Sanders shows most of the antlers now gaining their full size. Some of the late-bloomers are still wearing visible velvet which is covering horns that are not even close to being done. But most are, although they still appear to be covered by fuzz. Tree rubbing is right around the corner.
When Max sets a camera near a water point, he will usually wind up with a photo showing a "Mexican Standoff" between a raccoon and a deer. There is a good one to check-out below. So far, anyway, Max has sent no photos showing any kind of physical contact between the two combatants. It is a game of some kind of bluff, seems like. But the question arises: if motion causes a trail cameras to snap a photo, what could be the cause of a deer/coon photo since no motion is involved?
As has been our experience with trail cameras, more questions are raised than are answered.
Faithful readers will see images of both a javelina and bobcat below. Max hasn't collected either in a while, so it is good to know he hasn't lost his touch. Max regretted not being closer to the cat because he is such a colorful feline. All his spots are super-distinct.
9-2-18 Dove season opened yesterday, and at daylight, you would have thought a battle was being fought on the edge of town.
Our town of San Angelo is loaded with doves - mourning doves, white wing doves, Inca doves, and a few Asian or ring-necked doves. Leave your vehicle parked under a tree for a while and it will be covered with their droppings in just a few hours.
To the north, east and south of the city, numerous milo fields can be found. The town-living doves migrate to these fields like teenagers converge on a mall. Many of the recently-harvest fields attract scads of dove hunters from all over the state. Indeed, our Home Camp lodge is leased to a dove outfitter who is hosting 15-20 hunters over the three-day weekend.
Max Sanders, our good-buddy who is addicted to trail cameras, has been busy collecting and reviewing images from 7-8 cameras. It is a time consuming job, and we're thankful for Max and his work.
From his latest offering, the photos below were selected from the dozens he sent. Not shown are numerous photos of does and fawns. Some of the babies are not all that large for this time of year which reminds us that last fall, the rut seemed to extend beyond its normal range. Hence the late-born fawns.
Also not shown often are the several photos of one-antlered young bucks. They appear to have never had that second antler, for whatever reason. There seems to be an unusual number of them, but perhaps we are seeing the same few over and over. It's difficult to tell.
There is a nice family photo of our enemy. Yep, a mother raccoon and her precious little ones are at a water trough. No doubt, she is instructing her babies on tactics to destroy corn feeders. She will cover the basics of corn sack demolition, too. Just leave a pickup overnight with a ton of corn in the bed. Next morning, every exposed sack will suffer a giant hole where the eager coons tear open the paper. You would gladly provide the varmints with an entire sack of their own if they would just leave the rest alone. Lesson: never leave anything in the back of a pickup that would be of interest to these bandits.
For those of you who are booked to hunt with us this fall, you can expect your packet of pre-hunt information to arrive early this coming week. It takes several days of office work to get it all together, and an armed guard must be hired to keep his pistol cocked and pointed at me to finally get it all done.