December 14, 2019

Bighorn Sheep Released Into California Wilderness

The Desert Sun out of Palm Springs, California today has a story and a photo essay depicting the release of two female bighorn sheep into the Tahquitz Canyon of California. Officials hope these two sheep will join up with a herd of nine sheep nearby, bringing to around 700 the number of bighorn sheep in an area between Interstate 10 and the Mexican boarder.
Bighorn sheep release into the California wilderness
Make sure you check out the Photo Gallery once you get to the website.

Tom Remington


Another Of The Dangers Of Feeding Wild Animals

A woman and her boyfriend were headed back to Queens, New York from a visit to Cape Cod. Maria Gicana and her boyfriend were driving on Interstate 95 and stopped at a rest stop in Branford, Connecticut. She parked her car, got out and was headed toward McDonalds, when I coyote attacked her from behind biting her behind the knee.

The biggest reason for the attack say authorities, is because workers at the McDonalds have been feeding the coyote.

When will will we ever learn?

Tom Remington


Seeing Double

I was sent this photograph along with others by one of our Maine Hunting Today members, Swampbuck. The brief caption read these two albino moose were seen near Bathurst, New Brunswick Canada.
Two Albino Moose spotted near Bathurst, New Brunswick Canada

Thanks, Swampbuck.

Tom Remington


Forget Everything You Know About Tracking

This was to be the title of J.R. Absher, The News Hound’s, article at his blog at ESPN Outdoors. He opted out of the story but sent his information over to me to see if I would be interested in picking up on the story. Thank you J.R. and by the way readers, if you haven’t been over to read the News Hound, I highly recommend it.

After I got the info I thought to myself, “Oh, cool! This is interesting.” And then I remembered getting a photo back last year, 2005, during the Maine moose hunt that will be directly related to this story. With the blessings of J.R., here’s what he had written.

Forget everything you know about deer tracks!

In one of those “you’ve got to see it to believe it” stories, alert News Hound blog reader Bruce Norton of Rushford, Minn. scanned and e-mailed this clipping from Sunday’s Winona (Minn.) Daily News showing a whitetail deer with the most bizarre footwear we’ve ever seen.

Besides sporting respectable headgear, this buck that recently fell victim to a vehicle near Alma, Wisc. has hooves that appear to be at least five to ten times the average size.

Not only would one expect that these malformed toes led to this nice buck’s demise on the roadway, it’s hard to even fathom what kind of track it left in soft soil when it walked.
The photo’s caption indicates that Jarrad Fluekiger at The Main Channel Fishing Shop in Alma intends to have a full mount made of the unique animal.

The caption also notes that biologists believe that a diet high in specific minerals or proteins may have led to the oversized hooves.

Unfortunately, the Winona paper has not posted the photograph on its Web site.

So once again, we turn to our astute blog readership. Have you heard or read anything about this specific deer—or are you aware of this anomaly occurring in other ungulates?

Let us know!

Included in the story was a copy of a photo. I cleaned it up as best I could. Below the picture, I will include the caption that came with it.
Elf Deer killed by automobile in Alma, Wisconsin
This deer killed by an automobile recently in Alma, Wis., has overgrown hooves and biologists believe it is likely the result of eating something high in minerals and protein, said Jarrad Fluekiger of Alma. Fluekiger said the deer was recovered and placed in a cooler at the Main Channel fishing tackle shop in Alma. Doreen Burt at the shop said the owner, Lee Fluekiger, plans to have the whole deer mounted.

Not to be outdone by those in Wisconsin, Maine has a similar story but on a grander scale – of course you don’t really think the first story has a chance do you?

Last season during Maine’s annual moose hunt, the below cow moose, affectionately nicknamed the Elf Moose, was bagged by a hunter in northern Maine. Here’s the short story that accompanied the moose followed by the picture.

An interesting cow, referred to as the “Elf Moose” which has been observed around the Beaver Brook Road (T14R5) for the last two years was harvested this past week by Traci Bushey, the Ashland IFW Headquarters Warden Service Radio Operator. A real oddity as observed in the attached picture is the excessive growth of the hooves.
This cow had rear hooves over 15 inches long that curled upward. The animal did seem a bit skinny, perhaps due to reduced mobility from the hooves, but there was no problem with the meat.

Elf Moose killed during 2005 Maine moose hunt.

Tom Remington


Discovering Those Unusual And Unexplained Things In The Woods

God only knows how many miles I have walked in the woods in my lifetime or how many acres I’ve covered from state to state. During those times I have always found things that amazed me. It could be something as simple as watching a squirrel get a drink of water from a fast moving stream to sitting for several minutes observing a mother deer teaching her young about survival techniques. But sometimes I find something that sends me exiting the woods scratching my head.

It was perhaps as long as twenty-some years ago now, I was hunting in an area where I was familiar with the overall layout of the land but not very familiar with the specifics. In other words, I hadn’t hunted in these particular woods before.

I tell you. The reason I went there to hunt was threefold. One, I always saw deer crossing the road and entering into these woods. Two, I had come to the conclusion that not very many, if any at all, hunters worked these woods and three, I was working not too far from here so I could go there early in the mornings and maybe even get a short hunt in just before dark.

I woke one Saturday morning to a surprising 4-inch snowfall. I bailed out of bed, geared up and headed out to this area for the first time.

I quietly poked around getting a sense of terrain, growth and I also was looking for game trails, scrapes and pawings.

The snow made it quiet that’s for sure but the higher in the sky the sun moved, the warmer it became. The snow was softening and getting sticky, making a crunchy sound under foot.

As I traversed from one area to another, often crossing my own footsteps, I noticed two things. The snow had now become very wet as it melted and the area was completely trampled with deer tracks.

I was in an area that had a mixture of young softwood trees, mostly pine and fir, and white birch. I have found these areas many times in the woods and for me they have always been fruitful.

The area I was in with this kind of growth and cover, was perhaps only one to two acres in size and right smack dab in the middle of this was a large knoll that rose up maybe 10 feet above the surrounding terrain. Again, I repeat. The ground was trampled with almost no area free of deer tracks.

When I spotted the knoll, I moved stealthfully toward it – one painstaking step at a time. What surprised me first was when I reached the top. It was wide open covering an area of about 50 feet by 50 feet.

But what shocked me was what I saw in this opening. I’ll the best I can to describe what I saw. Around the perimeter of this opening where somewhere in the vicinity of 20 deer beds. Their imprints showed clearly in the compressed snow.

There also were several areas where the snow was turned up almost as if someone had gone in there with a rototiller. To help clarify, I have seen many, many times where deer will paw in the snow and turn over the leaves etc., in search of food. This was not that. I have also seen areas where two bucks have squared off sparring in the snow. Again, this wasn’t the same. My only conclusion at the time was I had happened onto a seen where an orgy had taken place.

But the oddest of all things that I had never seen before and haven’t again was the discolorations in the snow. The entire open area was nearly covered with snow that was colored anywhere from bright red, to pinkish, to greenish shades, brown and yellow.

I realized right away that whatever had been dropped into the snow being as saturated as the snow was at that time, would diffuse and enlarge the area that I was seeing. What I didn’t know is what had made what I was seeing.

My only conclusions were that one or more bucks had happened onto a scene where several does had been bedded and were now up and about. In areas where it was plain to see where a deer had urinated in the snow, the snow was discolored sometimes very red, brownish red and it looked mucousy, if that is a word.

Is this part of a normal discharge made by a doe in estrous? Did this occur before or after the mating? How many does did that buck have?

My conclusions may be all wrong. I really don’t know and I am left with more unanswered questions that answered. This all may be normal behaviour and it just so happened on the kind of snow that not only made it visible to me for the first time but also amplified what was happening.

I sure wish I had had my little digital camera at that time that I carry now. My question to my readers is this. Have any of you seen anything like this? If so would you be willing to share it with us? Does anyone have another explanation?

This to me is one of those unusual and/or unexplained things I find in the woods that fascinates me and draws me back in search for more.

Tom Remington


Domestic Elk Crash The Gate – Escape!

The Chief Joseph private elk reserve in eastern Idaho was the scene of the great escape. Around 160 elk, being described as domesticated, appeared to have herded together and crashed the fence knocking it down allowing them to escape.

This group of escapee-elk are threatening to mix in with the elk herd that is part of the Yellowstone gang and this is worrying officials in both Wyoming and Idaho.

What has made matters worse is the owner of the Chief Joseph ranch didn’t report the breech of the fence.

Elk hunting season with bow and arrow has begun in that region and hunters are being asked to make every attempt to recognize the domesticated elk. The elk are supposed to by wearing an orange tag visible from as far away as 150 yards but officials think the owner hasn’t properly tagged his animals.

Today, the governor of Idaho, Jim Risch, has signed an emergency declaration to have the 160 elk killed. The order provides for fish and game officials as well as any licensed elk hunter or private land owner, to kill the elk.

According to officials, the elk can pose a risk to the wild elk in several ways. One way is through the spread of disease – chronic wasting disease, brucellosis or other sicknesses like liver flukes and tuberculosis. Another is through interbreeding. It will weaken the wild elk gene, so some scientists say.

One report yesterday said that the owner of the ranch had refused Idaho officials to test his trophy bull elk for chronic wasting disease. Evidently the owner, Rex Rammell a veterinarian, hasn’t been the model game ranch owner and has had previous clashes with fish and game authorities.

I have to ask if this reaction has gone too far? We should at least raise the question particularly when there are differing opinions about the so-called “genetic purity” of the elk and new studies that show that how we are handling diseases such as chronic wasting disease and brucellosis may not be correct.

Debra Lawrence, chief of animal health and livestock with the Idaho Agriculture Department, says the idea of protecting genetic purity in the elk is overblown.

But, Lawrence, of the agriculture department, said the so-called dumbing-down of the gene pool is an overblown worry.

“They’re the same species,” she said. “The traits for surviving in the wild are the same. An elk will not come out different colors if they breed.”

In an article written in the Jackson Hole News and Guide, a study just completed and printed in the Frontiers in Ecology journal, says the methods being used to test and slaughter are not only ineffective but may be promoting the spread of disease.

As for test-and-slaughter, Bienen says that current efforts to reduce brucellosis in elk herds actually encourage brucellosis rather than stem the disease.

The current test-and-slaughter program at the Muddy Creek feed ground removes roughly 10 percent of the population. But the removal of these brucellosis-positive animals includes some animals that have developed a natural resistance to the bacterial infection, leaving only naive elk – those that haven’t been exposed to the disease – in the herd.

Keeping these resistant animals alive acts in a similar way to vaccination. Killing these animals, and leaving only naive elk, can actually increase disease transmission, according to the study.

For bison, the most recent test-and-slaughter models suggest that eliminating brucellosis would take 50 years and would require killing almost all the animals in the herd. In Montana, a long-standing test-and-slaughter program actually increased brucellosis prevalence from 40 percent to between 45 and 50 percent.

Suggestions for test-and-slaughter programs include an experiment comparing the Muddy Creek test-and-slaughter program with a Gros Ventre feed ground phase-out to see which method yields the lowest brucellosis prevalence over a five-year period.

I should also point out that this same report condemns the use of feed stations of elk and other wild animals saying it is unnatural and is the reason for disease spread.

Maybe ordering the slaughter of these 160 elk is the right thing to do and maybe it isn’t but we must face one reality. We have come to this place because we have created everything that led up to this. Point a finger at anyone you wish but start first by pointing it at yourself.

Greed in one form or another has brought us to a point where disease is rampant among many species of wild game. It it is clear that creating feed stations for animals has become deadly for them, yet we still do it.

It is so simple really but we as humans insist that we have to go against what is natural because we think we can make it better. When you group people together in large masses, especially in enclosed areas, it doesn’t take long before one person’s sneezing, achy, stuffy-head, fever passes on to the next. We think wild animals are different?

The elk farmer wants to raise elk and charge $6,000 a head to have hunters come and hunt them. I know nothing about the ranch and will not sit in judgement as to whether his preserve meets my own standards of a bonafide hunt preserve. The bottom line is the driving force behind the ranch is the $6,000 a head.

The state of Idaho, caved in to pressure put on them by the owner of the Chief Joseph ranch to get what he wanted. Why was it necessary to do that? Was it tax dollars or local increased revenue? Was it good ole politics?

Tourists and wildlife gawkers from their luxury cars demand that they can have drive-up wildlife viewing and not pay for it.

Animal rights groups are striving toward leaving wild animals to fend for themselves with overgrown populations, spreading disease and starving to death.

Hunters want to sit in their comfy, high-tech tree stands and look down on their feed beds waiting for the trophy to appear at the same time condemning the elk farmer.

Scientists insist that animals be brought into areas that were never natural habitat for them, insisting they can make it work. Why? Job security? Because they’re scientists?

Why do we insist that we know better? We grow our own fish, dump them into waters so greedy fishermen can catch them all out – it’s called put and take and everything we are doing now is leading toward put and take hunting. Oh, hell why not?

We are stocking the woods like we stock the rivers, lakes and streams. Man can’t replicate what God did but we keep on trying, spreading disease and threatening what’s left of the real thing.

When will we ever learn……when will we ever learn?

*All posts on the topic:
More Elk Killed In Idaho – Some By Hunters
Idaho Elk Farmer Plans To Sue The State
Scientists Will Test Killed Idaho Elk For Disease And Genetic Make-up
A Helicopter, A Plane And 25 Agents Can’t Find 160 Domestic Elk
Escaped Idaho Elk Being Slaughtered. Wyoming Ordered To Kill Elk Also

Tom Remington


How Important Is The Rut To Deer Hunters?

That may be best answered on an individual hunter basis. For some, they pay little attention to the rut while others won’t make a move without first knowing at what stage of the rut they think the buck is in.

The stories abound when it comes to the rut. For those who may not know, the rut is a cyclical time during the fall of the year when a buck deer goes looking for doe deer to mate with.

For as many stories as there are, there are just about as many theories used to support them. Many swear that the rut is brought on by cold weather. Others think it doesn’t occur until the doe comes into estrous causing the male deer to do strange things. Is it the current phase of the moon? Does it happen just before, during or after a full moon in November? Is it set off when the deer begin eating certain foods?

According to Matt Knox, a deer biologist with the Department of Game and Fish in Virginia, the rut happens just about the same time every year. It varies but ever so slightly and contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t last very long either.

Knox says that the rut is triggered by the change of light in the fall of the year. This change lets the buck deer’s pituitary glands know something is up. At this time the pituitary stimulates the release of testosterone, a male sex hormone produced in the testes.

But I know you want to say that back in 1948 I remember the rut happened……or in 2002 it came real late and it was a warm fall. Can this be true? Perhaps….er, uh, maybe somewhat.

There are some things that can influence the start time but these influences generally are local to a specific area. What can have an influence is the health of the bucks in a given area or the overall age. A group of good healthy bucks will be ready to go immediately. A mature healthy buck can begin a bit earlier and experience an intense rut.

In reality, based on scientific studies, the rut will happen in your area just about the same time every year. Of course differences in the light change within time zones I would assume reflects a slightly different onset of the rut.

Matt Knox says in Virginia it is at its peak about mid-November. He claims that if you study the results of when big bucks are shot, it will reveal that year after year, it happens at the same time – at the peak of the rut.

When is the rut where you live and do you pay close or little attention to it?

Tom Remington


New Study On Elk Suggest Changes Needed

A new study on elk and brucellosis suggests that feed grounds got to go and current methods used of killing exposed elk is counterproductive. The Jackson Hole News has the complete story.

Tom Remington


Too Scared To Eat!

I remember a long time ago when I was just a young lad of perhaps 8 or 9 and very gullible, I heard the pastor of our church tell a story about which pigs made the best bacon. The story goes that it is the pigs that live next to the ocean. It seems that there are lots of fine nutrients that pigs love to eat during low tides. This makes them very fat. When the tide rushes in, the pigs, not liking to get wet, run for high ground. This makes them lean. It is this continuous action of following the tides that give bacon a fine layer of meat, followed by a fine layer of fat and so on.

You probably think I’ve lost my mind but never fear this story is going somewhere.

Farmers in the northern Rockies states are losing more money because of wolves. This isn’t the usual story you hear about the wolf eating up sheep and cattle. This is a more indirect loss for the farmers.

It seems that the livestock are too scared to eat. That’s right. Cattle and sheep are running (figuratively) scared of the wolves and aren’t eating contentedly like they should. Farmers are saying that often entire flocks of sheep will huddle up in the middle of the pastures and refuse to eat out of fear of the predators.

According to this article in the Wisconsin AG Connection, a couple pounds here and couple pounds there can add up to big bucks (dollars).

Tom Remington


How Far Is Too Far?

Put and take seems to be the rage these days. It used to be just for fishing where biologists opted to farm their own fish and put it into bodies of water and let fishermen take it out. This has since run over into other game species like elk, big horn sheep, antelope, pheasant and many other species.

We all have our opinions on this kind of wildlife science but at what point are we taking this kind of semi-wild, semi-farm-raised management too far?

In Wyoming for instance, there are places where the aspen trees are dying off and becoming overrun with conifers. Aspen is forage for elk and big horn sheep. When the aspen is gone and there are too many animals devouring the forage, starvation and disease sets in making for a not so pretty sight.

Nature also has a way of regenerating itself and evolving. Often times when wildlife devour the young aspen plants, this provides opportunity for the conifer trees to take root and take over aspen groves. In order to help counter this event, nearly a quarter million dollars is going to be spent in efforts to regenerate aspen growth for the wildlife. Much of this effort involves prescribed burns that will kill off the conifer and allow for new growth aspen to replace it, as well as harvesting of conifers and creating clearings.

My question is how far is too far? How far do we go to maintain our put and take wildlife? It’s not just hunters that are demanding the opportunity to hunt species like elk and big horn sheep. Recreationist of every kind want to see these animals too and obviously are willing to spend the money to make sure they can.

We will need to redefine wildlife. In how many years will there not be by definition, wild life in the forests. We are working toward becoming a very large semi-enclosed game farm by putting animals here and there and providing feed stations, etc. When there gets to be too many we move them to another location and start again. We now are manipulating the forests for the animals.

In the Rocky Mountain National Forest, there are too many elk. Officials there plan to slaughter thousands of the animals over the course of years because the elk are eating up everything in its path, even forcing other wild animals to go elsewhere for food and habitat.

The driving force behind all this doesn’t come from hunters because hunting is banned in Rocky Mountain National Park. The driving force comes from tourists demanding that they see elk and other wildlife while driving around in their hi-tech vehicles riding in comfort. This isn’t wildife. This is drive through zoos.

Where will it end or will it? The struggle to co-exist treads on some thin areas. Is what we are doing in our management plans for wildlife generated through guilt because we keep encroaching on the habit of these creatures? Or is it that we want our cake and eat it too?

Mother Nature is losing control and doesn’t have a lot to say these days except when she rains down her fury.

Tom Remington