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.
Right on cue, after a bobcat appearance, a lion shows itself. I thought if I saw one this would be the camera that picked one up. It is on a well-traveled route to water. The deer and horses are frequently using this trail so why not a lion? It’s a rocky route without low weeds and brush so the lion is highlighted quite well. Unfortunately, again these photos are at night so not the great photo quality. Still, it is nice to see that they are out there keeping the wild places wild. Thie appears to be a young lion. It looks on the smaller side. I hope to see it again but not in person!
While I am enjoying all the images and information that I have been able to gather on deer and coyote movements, I will admit that I have been eagerly anticipating getting images of Bobcats and Mountain Lions. I have been assured that both frequent the property. As such, I am carrying bear spray on my belt when I wander the around just in case of an encounter. A reminder of the need to be aware and vigilante came this week when it was reported that a young girl out walking her dog was attacked by a mountain lion south of this area. Fortunately, both girl and dog were not seriously injured but it is cause for concern. These are not great pictures. Trail cams don’t take the quality of images a DSLR camera takes but I am thrilled to see the bobcat showing up on two different nights on my camera. In a couple of the photos it shows the bobcat carrying a rabbit in it’s mouth after a successful hunt. Now on to capturing a Lion.
I have always been afraid of the dark. This fear has not gone away even at my advanced age. I just have far too much imagination and can conjure frightening images from the slightest noise or unexplained movement out there in the scary dark. I laugh at myself as even when reviewing trail cam photos that are taken in the dark I can get creeped out. It is disconcerting to stare at a photo that was taken at 2:00 AM and there is nothing obviously in the photo that triggered the flash. Another eerie sight are eyes glowing out of the dark with no hint at what animal or other being is behind the eyes. In these photos the animals are easy to identify, deer, feral horses, coyotes and a raccoon.
Last post was an example of the unexpected when it comes to photos captured on Trail-cameras. What is the desired objective? …beautiful animals of course. I started placing a series of cameras out in July in two main areas that are full of wildlife. Nevada State Game Laws makes the placement of Trail-cameras illegal after August 1 of each year until January 1 of the following year in the interest of fair chase. My goal is photographing animals not hunting them in this application, but I am still subject to the law. I obtained permission to place these cameras on private property which is legal. I am seeing lots of large Mule Deer bucks along with does and fawns. The cameras have also captured a skunk, coyotes and feral horses. While Trail-cameras don’t take high quality photos the pictures are hopefully going to increase my odds of getting good pictures with my real camera. Here are some examples from the last few months.
I was fortunate to run into this handsome herd of Mule Deer bucks just as they were leaving a field in the early morning. It isn’t often you see this many horned ones together and it was a joy to watch and photography them for about an hour before I had to move on.
These fellows got over their alarm at my presence fairly quickly and it was interesting to watch their interactions at my leisure.
Western count, this is a nice four point and three point hanging out.
This guy was definitely the biggest buck and the most wary. He dived into the tall brush and hid for a good little while until he decided I wasn’t a threat. He ran out an joined the rest of the herd and allowed me to get a few good shots. He has some pretty gnarly eye guards. Classic four point Mule Deer Buck.
These bucks did a little bit of play fighting while I watched. I was hoping they would knock their horns off it being March and time for them to be dropping their antlers. No such luck.
February and March are prime months for seeing Bald Eagles as they migrate through the high desert. They follow the flocks of snow geese, tundra swans and numerous ducks that fly through the area on their way back north.
I like to photograph and record nature with realism. Birds of prey have to eat and that is messy. Eagles cull the weak and sick birds from the flocks. They fly over large rafts of snow geese scaring them into panicked flight. They pick the ones off the water that are too weak to fly or are struggling. Nothing goes to waste. Ravens follow the eagles and clean up any scraps.