Late Autumn is when the rut occurs for Mule Deer in the west. Mid November to mid-December seems to be the peak time based on my yearly observations. At this time the male deer are not very cautious and rampage around even in mid-day looking for does to breed. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the trail cams were placed to advantageously capture some of this behavior.
I have lots of photos of Mule Deer bucks from July through December of 2022. I feel like I got to know them well through the photos taken of them on my Trail cameras. It was interesting to watch them the last 6 months. They changed their behavior through the observation time. In the summer they were solitary or hung out with one other buck. I saw some sparring through summer and early fall and then the very serious business of competing for does in November and December. My favorite buck of the year is a classic 4 point western count. He has a large, very symmetrical rack and is in my opinion the handsomest of all the bucks in that area this year. He posed nicely for several photos and I enjoyed going through all his photos to choose a few I’ll show here.
We are in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada mountains but this past New Year’s we were not shielded from the exceptional amount of moisture that hit California. We had wet heavy snow for hours on New Year’s Eve that caused widespread power outages. I waited a week to venture out to grab my memory cards out of the trail cameras. It was still a pretty muddy slog to get to them. Sadly, there were several ancient cottonwood trees that did not survive the storm and many downed branches blocking trails. I noticed wash outs in areas that surprised me. When I got home to review my cards I was shocked to see how far the river had invaded. I almost lost one of my cameras judging by the photos.
I placed this camera at the intersection of several trails and have captured lots of deer, coyotes and feral horses on it. It is several hundred yards from the river. There are not any animals in this photo but it is time stamped a couple of hours before the wet snow and rain started. I need to reset the date recorder on the camera as it one day off on the date.
Exactly 24 hours later the river is flowing right in front of the camera. Note the swimming beaver passing by. That is what triggered the camera. No wonder it was muddy even a full week later. All of the water had receded, and I would have had no idea of the extent of the flooding without these photos.
As winter progresses, and we have had storms and significant snowfall, predators seem to become more active. I am seeing more daylight appearances on my trail cameras of Bobcats. Some of the photos aren’t half bad for an automated system. The Mountain Lion has also shown up in some of the same areas but is sticking to the middle of the night. I am grateful for the Lions staying with that schedule.