Flowers Always Help

It was a gray, somewhat depressing day when we posted these photos.  We all needed a lift of the spirit.  Flowers always help, especially when they are daffodils and purple cone flowers, two of the prettiest flowers in all of flowerdom.

purple coneflowers

daffodils

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Press Pass No-Show

As the editor, way back when, of ARCHERY WORLD magazine (now BOWHUNTING WORLD), I was fortunate to have press credentials for the archery part of the 1972 Olympics in Munich and the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

A few things stick in my mind.  This is one of them.

—–

With a press pass, you could go through the gate of a fence separating the archers from the bleachers at the Englischer Garten archery site.  This allowed you to get about 10 feet closer to the archers but still be behind them.  This was good for photo opportunities and interviews. No closer approach was permitted.

I went to a gate at the right corner of the bleachers and showed my press pass to the gate guard.  He shook his head no and waved a hand back and forth for emphasis.

With my left hand, I held my press pass as close as I could get to his nose (easy to do since he was a runty little fellow looking barely old enough to shave) and pointed to my pass with my right hand.

Another shake of the head and wave of the hand, both with more vigor than the first time.

Enough of this, I thought.  I circled back around the bleachers to the gate at the left corner and showed my pass to the guard there.

He opened the gate and waved me in.

“Thank you,” I said.  Maybe even “Danke schoen”.

The guard nodded and smiled.

I walked over to the runty first guard, stopped 10 feet from him and took half a dozen pictures of him while he pretended I didn’t exist.  He had to remain at his position and couldn’t move away.

I enjoyed that.  A lot.

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Trio of Gobblers

Things are getting more interesting. It’s now gobblers, plural, not gobbler, singular, entertaining us…and they put on a good show.

Four days running wild turkeys have entertained us.

Things are getting more interesting in our front lawn, on our house deck, at the bird feeder and on a secluded path leading to a crop field and another weed field west and north of our house. It’s now gobblers, plural, not gobbler, singular, entertaining us…and they put on a good show for us and one disinterested hen.

  • This morning, around 7:30, one hen showed up, pecking bugs and seeds out of the grass.
  • Twenty minutes later, a gobbler stepped out of the pine shadows to the west and began fanning and twirling and puffing up and posing motionless. When that got no response, he dropped the feather display, walked closer to the inattentive hen, and did it again.

“He’s gonna be frustrated,” we said.

“Hey, there’s a second gobbler,” we whispered excitedly. “Maybe this is a show of ‘I have more feathers on my chest than you do’ to intimidate the second gobbler and impress the hen.

“Why are we whispering?,” Judy asked. “We’re indoors. There are thick panes of glass, plus insulated walls, between the turkeys outside and us. Those birds won’t hear us even if we talk at normal tones.”

“Because we’re predators,” I say, “and we’re subconsciously hunting them.”

Maybe Gobbler #1’s efforts worked. Gobbler #2 flared its feathers briefly, then became a barely moving bystander, seemingly ignoring everything. Maybe it was trying to act invisible. Three definitely was a crowd here on our lawn.

Five or six minutes later, after continued flaring and strutting and posing, Gobbler #1 realized he did NOT have the hen’s attention … she had wandered into brush and pines, ignoring both gobblers … and ceased showing off. He and the second gobbler followed the hen out of sight.

The show was over for today.

Or so we thought.

A couple of minutes later, three birds appeared in the shadows of the patch near our north line. They stood around, moving little, looking like wallflowers at a dance.

“They can’t decide what to do,” Judy said. “Hey…those three are gobblers. Where’d the hen go?”

“Out of sight behind the pines, apparently. The real question: How long has that third gobbler been lurking in the shadows? Why did he decide to appear? Maybe gobbler misery loves company.”

All three stepped into the weed field and out of sight.

—–

We hope there will be an encore. Curious to know just how many gobblers are living in our little area of semi-urban/semi-rural habitat.

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Visiting Turkey, 3rd Consecutive Day

Why would a mature gobbler hop on our house deck and peck repeatedly on the sun room door window at this time of year?

This seemed like strange behavior, so we sent an email to our friend Gary Sefton, an excellent turkey hunter. He has a great book on turkeys and turkey hunting: Lessons Learned From The Magnificent Bird

We asked Gary, “Why would a mature gobbler hop on our house deck and peck repeatedly on the sun room door’s window at this time of year? It has done this three consecutive days. It does not act like it’s pecking at its reflection and isn’t in a fighting mood, or doesn’t act like it is.

“The gobbler seems more curious about whatever it may be seeing inside the sun room,” we said. “It bobs and weaves and pecks high, low, left and right. Maybe there’s a Turkey Mixed Martial Arts contest coming up and it is in training for a Peck-Off.”

Gary replied: “An apparent Kamikaze that you should have dealt with during turkey season! I have seen gobblers fighting in July, so there is no cutoff date to their desire to dominate. They hang in bachelor groups year round until spring. They have pecking orders within the groups that are established through dominance (pecking) so I would enjoy the show and wait until next season.”

You will note the bird now likes our songbird feeder…likes it a lot. The lower feeder holes and tray are just the right height for it.

Now it has expanded its range to include our deck and the west windows of our sunroom. The bird spends so much time there the deck has become spotted with gobbler droppings, so we’ll need to wash the deck.

The bird has found the wildlife and wild bird water bowl set on a very short stump in the middle of our yard. He acts like he thinks he’s found a home.

There is an eight-acre weed field on the north side of our yard, so there are plenty of bugs for it to catch there, but that apparently isn’t enough.

He and a couple of hens roost now and then in some big trees in the yard.

Haven’t found any dust bath spots; haven’t looked either. But we will.

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“ANYONE HOME?” the gobbler pecked.

This robust gobbler with a good beard showed up on our house deck about 8:00 am today and began pecking on the sunroom door’s window with a methodical and emphatic punk…punk…punk.

Kinda sounded like a small door with one loose hinge banging in the wind.  But there was no wind.  Just a low-toned, hollow thumping every 10 seconds or so.

Curious, my wife Judy arose from the breakfast table to see what was making the noise.  She took half a step into the sunroom, stopped, backed up so she could peek around the corner and watch the gobbler but not spook it.

“A turkey…a big gobbler!  Bring your camera,” she said in a low tone.

“Rascal…no!”  That, to our cocker spaniel with the perfect name, while blocking the dog’s access to the sunroom with a firm foot.  The dog is small, curious and noisy when he sees unfamiliar objects with fur or feathers close to his domain.  Territorial defense maybe, or just something to bark at.

The bird was not alarmed, not even close to alarmed.  Judy stood in the sunroom door and I peeked around the door trim with the camera set on video.  The bird paid no attention.

Why was it pecking?  Good question.  This isn’t breeding season, so it wasn’t fighting its reflection.  In fact, it did not pay attention to its image in the window…just kept shifting position and pecking at the window, as if looking at or for something inside the room.  Maybe it wanted to watch television.  I’m pretty sure it didn’t want to see the Crow Indian lance that hangs on pegs above the windows.

We haven’t been feeding it, so it wasn’t demanding more food.  There were no bugs on the window for it to eat.  Nothing on the deck for it to eat.

The bird pecked at the window a good five minutes.  It then wandered across the lawn and out of sight behind pines on the west side of our lawn.

But it wasn’t done, apparently still curious about something.  Several minutes later it came back, hopped on the deck and pecked at a west window a couple of minutes.  Then it gave up and wandered away.

Dogs we’ve had through the years often acted goofy at times, and one went crazy…but now birds, too?  Hmmmmm.

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Mountain Lion Objects to Trail Camera

A COUGAR or COUGARS killed a yearling whitetail buck the night of February 28, 2016, about 80 yards west of my brother’s house in western Montana.  His dog, Molly, found the stash late the next day as Lee and Molly went for a walk out their long driveway.

Whatever cat scent was present bothered Molly very little.  “She was cautious but just eased into the brush where the deer was partially covered with leaves,” Lee, said, “and she sniffed all around.  No hair stood up on her back, or anything like that.”

Lee set the trail camera that evening.

“The lions came in that night (second night after the kill) and ate most of the remaining meat.,” he said.  “They had eaten only a small amount the night they killed the deer.”

These pictures were taken over a four-hour period from about midnight to four a.m.  Evidently, the lions would eat a while, lay down back in the brush to rest and digest, then come back and eat more.

Cougar Eyeball | Target Communications

Cougar Eyeball

“At the end of the four hours, they apparently had had enough of their picture being taken and tore down the camera,” Lee said.  “Since the camera was down, I don’t know if they came back after that.

“The lion that tore down the camera messed around with it enough that both latches opened.  It must have kept pawing it, much like a cat plays with a mouse.”

Cougar Tail | Target Communications

Cougar Tail

Cougar Feeding | Target Communications

Cougar Feeding

Stashed Kill | Target Communications

Stashed Kill

Go to www.targetcommbooks.com for other outdoor and wildlife photos, plus details on the how-to books in the ‘On Target’ series published by Target Communications Outdoor Books.

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Just Sayin'
Posted

The Egg Mystery

Need you experts on waterfowl and egg-sucking predators to weigh in here…

I have several questions, a couple of identification guesses, and a real scene-of-the-crime mystery.

There are 12 hole-punched-and-sucked-dry eggs on our lawn, a long way from any suitable nesting site.  We (my wife and I) think they are mallard duck eggs.  They look a bit speckled in close-up photos, but they’re not.  The eggs are a deep cream to soft tan and smooth shelled.  Shaped more like a chicken egg than anything else, and about the smaller size egg a young hen starting her career would lay.  Too small to be turkey eggs, and the shell surface isn’t right, nor the overall shape.

The hole punched in each egg is larger than a dime, but not by much.  No eggs were crushed.

What did that?  A couple of guys I talked with suggested skunk.  Your thoughts?

Egg Mystery with Target Communications

Now we get to the weird part, the scene of the crime:

  • There is no sign of a ground nest of any type anywhere near the eggs.  Were the eggs brought there one by one by the predator?  Seems like that’s what happened.
  • Judy and I had sporadically pruned our apple ‘orchard’ (four trees, a great plenty) for about a week.  We were within 10 feet of the scene of the crime a good bit of the pruning time.  We may not have great vision, but we aren’t blind.  There were no eggs at that location next to the ash tree until three days ago.  Then all of them appeared, meaning that it was an overnight job.
  • Of the 12 eggs, eight were clustered on the south side of the ash tree; two were on the north side of the tree, and two were in our lawn about 20 feet west of the group of eggs.
  • I stood in one spot and took photos looking in various directions to show how unlikely it is that any sane duck would have nested anywhere near there.  That is lawn or former garden, along with a couple of pine tree strips.
  • The creek-ditch (more ditch than creek) area nearest the egg group has no suitable nesting cover…not even any almost-suitable nesting cover, unless bare, sloping mud banks can be considered a possible nest site.  Suitable ditch-bank cover or other cover is at least 20 yards away.
  • Why would a predator drag those eggs to where it did, and drag nearly all of them to the same drop-off location?  Maybe the EPA was watching, OSHA too, and the culprit didn’t want to be cited for littering or unsafe work practices.  Or maybe climate change has affected local mallards’ locational/directional senses for nesting.  Maybe there were two culprits having races from nest to disposal sites.  One wonders and hypothesizes…

Appreciate your input.

DUCK EGG FB copy DUCK EGG WEB 2 copy

DUCK EGG WEB WEST copy

DUCK EGG WEB NW copy

DUCK EGG WEB NE copy

DUCK EGG WEB 3 copy

DUCK EGG WEB EAST 1 copy

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Brown Bear in Camp

Brown bears in Russia are big and aggressive. They have little hunting pressure, so they have little or no fear of man. Cooking aromas floating out from the camp kitchen draw them like magnets. Sometimes they walk past. Sometimes they invite themselves in, whereupon the cook and everyone else in camp makes as much noise as possible banging frying pans together.

You will find several chapters of brown bear adventure in IN THE LAND OF THE BEAR.

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Smallest Shed Antler

This may be the smallest shed whitetail antler ever found.  It is 2.88 inches long.  That’s a .280 cartridge hull beside it.  My brother Lee, the gunmaker, was walking his dog on a late Montana winter day.  Snow lay deep through the brush along the lake, so he and the dog walked the only place they could – in a pounded-down deer trail in the snow.

Part way through the walk, there lay the shed spike antler, plainly visible in the hard-packed trail.

Any other place and it never would have been found.  Not ever,” Lee said.  The antler contrasted well against the white snow background.

No idea what knocked it loose,” he said.  “No brush or branches were near enough to knock it loose.

Must have been quite a shock to that buck’s neck muscles when that antler fell off,” he said, tongue firmly wedged in cheek.

He searched a couple of hours hoping to find the other spike, but came up empty.  “It would have been a needle-in-a-haystack find,” he said.

Smallest Shed Antler & Cartridge

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