A Foiled Attempt

I was ready to head out early the morning following the discovery of an illegal hunter on the property next to ours. I intended to have a closer look at the area that I call “the island”, where I saw the hunter disappear to. This stretch of woodland juts out into a soybean field, creating a blind between our property and the river. On my hikes to reach the river, I had always walked along the last crop row near the island and around the peninsula at the north end of the stretch of trees. On the other side of the island, was more of the soybean field, and just beyond that lay the winding area of the river we call “the boot”. It was my favorite area to hike to in the winter months. If a person was not careful and familiar with the boot, it was easy to get lost or turned around. Going into the boot was easy enough but, often times, finding the way back out was confusing. One could get disoriented fairly quickly – I speak from experience.

This map may help you to envision the area I write about in my hikes from our home place to the river boot and back.

Before I made it very far through the pecan orchard, I caught a glimpse of something shining as it danced in the breeze. I already knew it was a Mylar balloon. I constantly picked up trash on our property and Mylar balloons were a common find. If the wind was out of the north, we saw a lot of trash from the city park blow into the orchard. If the wind was out of the south, we got trash from the neighbors on the other side of the alley from our immediate ten acres, and further to the west in the orchard we accumulated trash from the high school and the Native American village to the south. Trying to get to the balloon, I stopped the buggy and maneuvered through all sorts of weeds and stick-tights. As I reached to snag the balloon that was entwined in cat brier, I scared up a pair of fawns who had been bedded down nearby. They did not seem to be in a hurry, as they were likely used to me coming through the woods in the buggy.

I find Mylar Balloons tangled in brush and trees all year long. These can be a hazard to wildlife and add to environmental pollution.

I parked the buggy at the upper west end of our property and crossed the fence into the neighboring property, making my way to the island area from the south. I decided to walk just along the treeline bordering the soybean field, keeping partially hidden, and headed to the north where I had seen the hunter the evening before. I was looking for clues and kept watch for anything – a ground blind or tree stand, feed or an attractant to lure deer, discards from a kill, or maybe the hunter himself, though I hoped not. Once I reached the north end of the peninsula, I crossed over to the old river channel area to make sure no one was parked at the entry to the soybean field. The last thing I wanted was to confront a hunter. I would feel much better if I knew I was poking around alone.

I noticed this deer rub on a tree as I exited our ten-acre property. A nice-sized buck has rubbed his antlers on this slender tree.
The sun rises as I make my way to the island tree line.
I am finding a lot of coyote scat this autumn. We have seen many coyotes on the west end game cameras, and have spotted them on our immediate ten acres. I guess coyotes were prolific this year, just as the deer population was.
I found this hog scat in the row I walked in the soybean field. Apparently, all kinds of wildlife feasts on soybeans. We recently found game camera footage of about eight wild hogs coming through our property near the old river channel and the pecan orchard. I hope they don’t begin rooting around the pecan trees again, like they did a couple of months ago.
Thickets of tall weeds surround the fields, making the area almost impenetrable at times.
A male House Finch plucks seed from the head of these tall plants.
The giant six to ten-foot tall weeds make a lot of seed for wild birds. I see large numbers of cardinals in this area.
The oak trees made beautiful color this year.
This well-built nest might make a good nursery for birds next year, if it weathers the winter. The only problem might be that it is only about six feet off of the ground.
The inner sanctum of the south end of the island is an open area with felled trees in a carpet of golden leaves. It is a beautiful, quiet place.
I spotted this small clump of deer scat along a row of soybeans. It probably came from one of this year’s fawns – and it looks fresh!
Another favorite of most wildlife and especially songbirds, is the American Beauty Berry. I found this bush along the old river channel.
Coralberries can be found all over our property, and all along the river and the old river channel. It was a favorite snack of Daisy Deer.

The old river channel area is a peaceful sanctuary where all sorts of wildlife finds refuge. It is really just a stone’s throw from the main road into town and somehow the area sits low enough that no vehicle noise can be heard.  But this morning, I heard voices from the road as I climbed up on the dike. Men wearing orange vests could be seen all along the roadway. Not wanting to be spotted or draw attention to myself, I turned and made my way back towards the soybean field. Looking at my camo pants, I realized I had somehow managed to get Bidens, a needle-looking type of stick-tight, all over myself. There was no sense in picking them off now, since I would probably pick up more of these on my hike.

As I emerged from the thick brush and weeds, I saw an orange caution sign of some sort to the west. I knew that sign wasn’t there before – I had just come from that direction! I wondered if perhaps the harvest crew was getting ready to come in, but it seemed very strange to put a sign in the field and not along the driveway or along the road. Not seeing anyone around, I scurried across the field back to the peninsula and dove into the island in the first animal path clearing I could find. Animal paths were always the best trails to follow, providing a somewhat clear path to anywhere.

I carefully made my way to the opposite side of the island to get a better look at the sign. A “Workers Ahead” sign in a field  made little sense to me, so I walked further to the south, and with my binoculars I could see pickup trucks parked at the fence where I often cross into the river area called “the boot”. Shifting my attention to the south of the trucks, I counted seven men at varying distances, walking along a transmission line. Some appeared to be checking the towering structures, but others were further back towards the river. As I peered through my binoculars it suddenly dawned on me – the other fellas were spraying. They had back packs with wand sprayers, and their heads were covered by hard hats with shields at the face (maybe respirators) and heavy cloth flaps around the chin and neck. They were killing brush and trees, and I was standing right in line with the west wind! I needed to get moving to the south to keep out of the line of chemical drift.

As I emerged from the old river channel I spotted a caution sign that I was sure was not in the field just minutes before.
I wondered if this had something to do with the workers at the road?
I could not make out the logo on the truck doors from this location. I would have to walk further south to get a better angle.
Now I realize these are transmission line maintenance workers. The wind is carrying chemical directly towards me. I need to leave the area quickly!

At this point, it made no sense to go on with my investigation of the poacher. I needed to get out of harm’s way if the air was toxic. I traveled quickly to the south end of the island and veered towards our property line, finally, climbing the steep hill to the upper west end where I had parked the buggy. As I made the final steps to our property fence line, I noticed a section of grisly spine laying in an area of flattened grass. Gnawed rib bones were scattered about. The bones were greasy and somewhat fresh looking, maybe a day or two old. I could not be sure, but the vertebrae could be that of an adult deer. A coyote had probably run off with his share of a kill, and settled in these grasses to nibble away at the bones in the night.

After discovering the vertebrae, I began a slow circle of the area, hoping to find more bones or perhaps more of a carcass, but it was impossible in the tall weeds. The huge soybean field to the south  might also hold the answers to the bones, but with the crops still not harvested, it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. I glanced to the west and the fellows wearing orange were advancing again. I needed to leave. I gathered the bones in a trashed Walmart bag I had found earlier in the soybean field, and set out for home in the buggy.

What had started out as an investigation about a poacher, turned into anger about the returning coyote population. Just last week, I had seen two coyotes near our house, and one had ventured off our property, past the front gate and into the residential area to the east. FD had also witnessed two in the pasture just south of the house during the nighttime hours. I could not help but wonder about the disappearance of Emma deer. I knew there was nothing I could do, and that this was the nature of things – the circle of life. But I did not like it – not one bit.

As I came up from our canyon woodlands that day, I found Ronnie resting on the knoll near the burn pile. Even though he’s still a small yearling buck, his body is muscular and his neck is quite thick due to increased testosterone during the deer mating season. He looks quite majestic!

© 2017 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 


34 thoughts on “A Foiled Attempt

  1. Wow, Ronnie is looking quite impressive! Thank you for including that map of the area you always refer to. It was most informative and interesting. Is the area within the white line your property and then the rest just state land or something? There’s a lot of s**t in this post, Lori 😆 Actually it was very interesting to see how different each one is. I recognise various bits of scat that are familiar to our region but I’ve never thought about photographing them! Very interesting post. I hope you are well. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Ardys, the white area is our property which includes the ten acres we live on, and also the pecan orchard property. The upper west end and everything south of that, sits on a plateau. It drops down into the lower west end which is of course where the river, and old river channel and the pecan orchard itself sits. That whole lower area and the orchard is considered a wetlands region. Everything north of the orchard is city park or agricultural. Everything south of our property is either agricultural (but still within city limits) or city, or Native American land. All land east of the river is within city limits, except our ten-acre rectangle area. That’s another story! 😀

      I hate to think of myself as a poop expert, but I’m really increasing my knowledge these days! Just today I found wild turkey scat and I could even tell it was a male by the way it dropped. Scat is a good clue in knowing what wildlife frequents an area. Now if I had found fresh hog droppings I think I would have turned around. I am not too keen on meeting a sow with piglets!

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  2. Ronnie looks so regal. And so much bigger now than in his youthful photos or is it the close up? That poop really is shiny. I wouldn’t have know what it was from the photo w/o mention. You’re surrounded by so much beautiful and raw nature. Now just keep those around with fumes you don’t need out of there! Have a good rest of the weekend.

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    1. I am becoming a real poop expert these days! Actually, I need to update a post I wrote long ago about the “scoop on poop”. I have many more photos now since it seems scat presents itself all over our property.

      Ronnie still isn’t a big buck, but then he’s just a yearling. Spike is a bigger buck, and the same age. But there is a noticeable difference with testosterone in play, and the demeanor is that of a more serious nature. It has been interesting watching Ronnie and Spike during this rutting season. I miss Emma, and I hope that she is doing well, exploring the area and hanging with other does, tapping into her wildness.

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  3. An exciting hike with a wonderful narrative. Great pics too. I wish that somehow you would/could wear an orange vest. I think you are being very brave to risk not being shot accidently but a trigger happy hunter or one that might become irate because he was discovered by you. Why not report to the game wardens that you saw a poacher? Perhaps they could show more interest in the area. Is there a way to eradicate some of the coyotes? It is so sad to think about the deer that you raise and that are then eaten by coyotes.

    Here in Texas folks go our and shoot the coyotes where there are simply too many. Maybe nature is a bit unbalanced with so many coyotes but of course predators increase when there is a surplus of prey such as the deer and rabbits and other smaller prey.

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    1. I do wear an orange vest and I have an orange headband too. I have reported to the game warden, and he is aware of the situation. The problem is, the game ranger has to have proof – in person, or photographs. I’m watching the property, and I’ll call him again if necessary. As in most states, there just are not enough game wardens to make a dent in the poaching problem. We have two wardens in this county. Many Oklahoma counties only have one.

      We can take out all of the coyotes and wild hogs we want. I think FD will have to get busy on that note. The problem of coyotes is increasing, just as it did last year. I think perhaps they move from region to region as they knock out small mammal populations. And of course young fawns in spring, and older fawns whose mothers are being chased and the little ones who can’t keep up during the rut are prime targets for the coyotes. We have seen the numbers rise in spring and autumn every year.

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  4. Any time my Husband and I have to confront illegal hunters to chase them off the property, we take our .357 out with us. It ain’t nicknamed the Bearkiller for nothing; between that and a casually threatening reference to the Sherif or F/G/W officer by name, usually they think twice before trying to start something over it.

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    1. I love your Oklahoma state of mind… it’s that “badass” attitude! I always think it it a good idea to try to reason with folks first, and certainly some visual backup goes a long way. I am so glad we have two wardens in our county, and they are diligent, and quick to respond.

      The owner of that neighboring property is a friend of ours, and is aware of the problem. The lessee probably doesn’t care if there is illegal hunting going on or not. He’s aware hunting is illegal there, but he has been the person in the past to give permission to hunters. And of course, this poacher may be someone who has hunted there illegally before and takes the risk, not having permission.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I am not very proficient with Photoshop Elements, but I managed to map out a rough idea of the area.You are correct, there is a lot going on in this neck of the woods. I wonder how folks who have hundreds of acres manage to keep up with trespassers. I know the owner of the neighboring property eventually plans to run cattle on it and I am sure he won’t want hunting activity going on.

      I haven’t had much of a chance to explore the presence of a tree stand, baiting or any more sighting of the hunter. I still plan to have a detailed hike. Bow hunting (I saw the hunter carrying some type of bow) goes on through January 15th here, so I have a long stake out ahead of me.

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  5. Enjoyed this essay and learned a lot. The map and photos were very helpful in connecting reader to narrative. The fruiting shrubs are new to me – not native to this neck of the woods (wish they were!). Wild hogs appeared in southwestern NY several years ago and immediately had a bulls eye on their heads. I’ve never seen one but from everything I’ve read they can be very destructive to an ecosystem and once established virtually impossible to eradicate. Are they good eating? Your buck is a beauty! In this region a buck with his antler size and body mass would be 2 1/2 years old, possibly 3. Thanks Mary. Good job!!!

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    1. The coralberries are literally everywhere in these parts, and some are heavy laden with berries. I have always marveled at their beauty. Daisy deer used to nibble them a lot, and I have seen many winter birds pluck them from the tender brush. They are a hardy plant – cutting them back makes them even more bushy and prolific. The American Beauty bush is not seen as much, and I have seen them as ornamental shrubs in town. It makes me wonder if the ones I have seen in the river area are from seed that birds or wind, brought to the surrounding area. That is common on our property – ornamental trees, shrubs and plants sprout up everywhere that are not native to the area. Privet is one of the worst to spread quickly through the woodlands. I have given up trying to eradicate it and keep it under control. People think little of how invasive some of these plants can be, and literally take up the countryside.

      Wild hogs are a big concern here and in Texas. Just last week on our game camera on the west end we saw at least eight of them passing through. Yesterday I saw rooting damage in the area. We will have to take action if we begin noticing rooting and wallowing in the pecan orchard. They can easily kill out those old tree roots if the wallows get too large and deep. And yes, we harvest meat from wild hogs. It’s some of the best-tasting meat around. Most folks around here keep at least the backstrap, shoulders (roasts) and hams (rear legs). I found this link that shows the butchering process: https://www.gunsamerica.com/blog/how-to-butcher-a-wild-hog-photo-essay/

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  6. I’ll join the chorus and say that the map is helpful.

    The two consecutive bird photographs seem to show giant ragweed, Ambrosia trifida. You refer to “tall weeds,” and that erect species can grow to 15 ft. I’ll grant that giant ragweed doesn’t serve the interests of farmers. Animals do eat its seeds, and as a nature photographer I’ve sometimes “eaten up” giant ragweed. You also mentioned impenetrability, which fits a colony of this species:

    https://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/and-more-remains-from-last-year/

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    1. I had no clue ragweed could get so tall! I have learned to appreciate it, especially in winter when the birds feast heavily on the seed heads. There are many places along the river that are thick with ragweed (and other tall grasses) that I have never ventured past. The dust is most annoying. I try to find a way around that mess!

      I appreciate your knowledge of plants, Steve. Maybe one day I’ll be better at knowing what I am dealing with in our area!

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    1. Thank you, Bill. I am thankful to have the time to be more watchful, and that my work in the pecan orchard allows me to be in the middle of it all. It’s amazing how wildlife thrives in such a small area. One just has to be present to experience it.

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    1. Hello, Henrie! There are worries, and it has been difficult for me with Emma being gone for more than a month now. I have to remember that giving them a chance at living (raising orphans) and releasing them to be wild and self sufficient was the plan all along. I tell myself the same thing about Daisy, who has been gone more than a year. This is a vast wooded area that runs along the river, and the surrounding area especially to the north is heavily wooded. They could be anywhere by now. And I have to hope they are doing well, living as they were meant to.

      I am not sure what we will do about the coyotes. We’ve recently captured wild hogs running through the west end. If they start up rooting and wallowing in the pecan orchard, we will have to be diligent about eradicating them.

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  7. That map is really helpful in visualizing the areas about which you write. How many acres of land are part of your property?

    I especially like the bright berry photo. Oh, that color. I’ve never seen any berries that hue in Minnesota.

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    1. Audrey, our home property is ten acres, and the pecan orchard to the west end is 52.5 acres for a total of 62.5 acres.

      I have a friend who is supposed to give me a slip of that American Beauty berry plant. If I can get another, I’ll mail it to you. It’s worth a try to plant some and see if it does well up north.

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  8. I’m not sure the beautyberry will do well in Minnesota. It’s not even shown in Iowa; generally, it’s considered a more southern plant. Perhaps with a little tender loving care — being in a pot that can be moved inside during the winter, for example — it could be coaxed along. It’s so beautiful, it certainly would be worth a try.

    You’re certainly right about the hog problems down here. I’ve been seeing more and more evidence of them at the refuges, and there are certain suburbs here that are being ravaged, too. As I heard someone say recently, there’s nothing quite like a pair of those critters in your front yard to tempt a person to break the laws about shooting inside the city limits. There was a move toward baiting with a newly-formulated poison, but there was so much outcry from hunters, wildlife biologists, and the general public that the idea was shelved. Now, we’re back to hog hunts and trapping. At least the meat is tasty, but I think there’s too much sausage on the hoof for that to be the perfect solution.

    I laughed at your comment about scat. Some I can recognize, but there are mysteries. Something’s been having picnics at the isolated shelters at the refuge, and not picking up after itself. I think it might be a heron, because it seems to be mostly shell, and they do eat crawfish. Ont he other hand, it could be raccoon, too. Between the scat and the prints left in the mud, there’s always something to see!

    Here’s an idle thought: those workers that showed up may have sent your hunter off to another location.

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    1. If the beauty berry has to be moved inside, it’s not worth the trouble (as far as I’m concerned). I will check with Audrey about her desire to have one. Long ago we learned the hard way, that indoor plants invite all sorts of mold colonies into a structure. We have enjoyed a healthy atmosphere in the house ever since we did away with potted plants in the house – almost two decades ago!

      I understand the wild hog problem is much worse in Texas than it is here. There are many hog hunters in our area, but they can’t make a dent in controlling the population. FD and I are closely monitoring the activity on this place. Since we did not have a good pecan crop (weevils and scab ruined most of the crop), I think the pigs will stay away from the orchard. But we have seen a large group of them on the west end and near the old river channel, and I have seen some damage in the woods, but nothing in the orchard. The problem is, they are mostly nocturnal and effective traps are very expensive.

      Raccoons put out all sorts of scat that varies with what is available to eat at the time. Regardless of what they are feasting on, their scat can be droppings that are formed or more solid, but mostly I find them to be liquid and messy. Most raccoon scat is found at the base of a tree or on a fallen tree – often where they eat something.

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  9. Oh, ditto about how wonderful the map is. River bottoms/old channels are the most wonderful places to wander.
    Gads, I hate the death spray even if it’s under utility lines – just seems so extreme and wrong – even if easy. Your pictures of winter make me a bit homesick for our old farm – winter is such a great time to wander (except the occasional intruding hunter. Once we found a new elevated deer blind right at the fence line between us and a new owner (a weekend owner from. Houston). It was facing directly into our property. Dad had to have a chat with him…also about him sneaking in to fish our cattle tank (which we stocked). Can’t blame the big city for that attitude – just bad manners and not being consideration…bad guidance during formative years by parents perhaps.
    Ronnie is gorgeous – how he has matured. Great picture.

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    1. Thank you! Hopefully, Ronnie found a few does to mate with during the rut. Things appear to have slowed down in the area. I hope I see the deer kids again, but the river goes on for many miles and it’s possible Emma and Ronnie have sights on the bigger picture. We have seen Daisy on the game camera down below the slope. There is no mistaking that short, stocky girl with a notch in her left ear.

      I can tell you I hoofed it out of the river bottom as soon as I saw those brush sprayers! I have been vigilant about hiking to the next field to see about that poacher fella. Hopefully, the warden contacting the owner took care of it.

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