Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Year with No Deer

Well, we spent from Thursday through Sunday of last week trying very hard to put some venison in the freezer.  That was after John had been to the deer lease in Mason at least three times, and had hunted at the farm as well.  (I even took a gun instead of a camera and sat in the lower  blind one afternoon.)  All our efforts were futile.  Unfortunately, 2014 will be known as “The Year with No Deer.”  John said it is the first time in over thirty years that he has failed to take a deer, and he has hunted harder than usual this year.  Apparently the rains came at just the right time to give the deer plenty of forage, and an outstanding acorn crop.  We had photos of them on the game camera, but usually in the wee small hours of the morning.  They just didn’t show up at the feeders during the day.

Another night visitor caught on “candid camera” was this beautiful gray fox. 

Feral hogs also put in game camera appearances.  

We surprised a group of them on Friday morning while we were out for a walk, but they disappeared before we could get photos.  The dogs were the first to encounter the pigs, who were rooting beneath the huge post oak known as "Bob's Tree."  The dogs were clearly puzzled by these strange animals….not cows, not sheep, not deer or bunnies.  They didn’t even bark.  The hogs trotted away and the dogs went on with their patrol.

We walked the pastures and the rocky ridge along our east side known as “the mountain.”  The trail is faint, but we are guided by rock cairns as well as branches cut to clear the path and piled on either side of the trail.

We found a few tracks, but the big mystery was these clumps of coarse, black hair.  We think they are from one of the feral hogs.  

The hair is most likely left from coyote scat, but coyotes are supposedly too small to bring down a full-grown feral hog.  It is possible a hog died and the coyotes dined on the carcass, leaving their scat strewn along the road and trails.  We'll just have to wonder.

By far the most exciting event of the weekend at the farm was the early-morning appearance of a flock of turkeys on Sunday.  John was in the deer blind and I was doing chores when Rue’s low growl alerted me.  She and Kota were looking out the bedroom door, ears pricked expectantly.  I looked out and in the golden light of early morning, I saw turkeys…lots of turkeys…streaming across the pasture below the house.

I told the dogs to “leave it” and be quiet, then I ran for the camera.  Turkeys were not only streaming across the pasture, they were peck-peck-pecking all around the yard, 

occasionally casting suspicious glances in the direction of the house.

Shooting photos through the windows since I didn't dare to open a door, I watched them work their way across the yard and along the fence on the west side.  With the grasses just about “turkey-high” they were almost invisible.

The flock then focused their efforts on a clump of flame sumac bushes just beyond our yard fence.  This beautiful (if somewhat invasive) plant has magnificent red leaves in the fall, and at this time of year its branches are heavy with berries.  The turkeys were eating the berries that had dropped on the ground, and some even flew up into the tree to feast without having to compete with their sisters.  First there was one...

...and then two...

...and finally three!

I watched them for almost a half-hour as they pecked and squabbled their way from the tree back across the pasture, and then back into the woods as they heard John leave the deer blind and head for the house.

All appeared to be turkey hens.  There were probably several older hens and their numerous progeny, now as large as their mothers.  I counted over forty birds, but there may have been more.  I'm just sorry they had melted away into the trees before John got close enough to see them.  We hope they will make an appearance the next time we visit, and again in April as the breeding season gets underway.  A turkey tryst with forty hens should be something to behold!

No comments:

Post a Comment