Tag Archives: antelope

Nature Boy takes a drive

Work sent me across the state to do a project in Idaho Falls. I went in for the morning shift, then hit the road about noon. I wanted to get here before dark and potentially rush hour.

Not that IF is such a frightening place, but I’m not overly familiar with it. I elected to cut across the desert. There is a freeway option, but it’s quite a bit longer.

I saw antelope all around Fairview, which is pretty normal. It’s also big game migration time, and I expected a few deer. The deer didn’t show. What did show was a badger out in a stubble field. He was booking along, trying to get to his burrow somewhere.

I was fairly content with seeing something unusual, but then I got near Sun Valley. My highway crosses the one up into SV. There is a stop sign, and usually quite a bit of traffic.

Drivers were starting to accordion as they approached the intersection, and I may have slowed down a bit too much. I think I irritated the guy behind me. My reasoning was the herd of six elk that just crossed the road. Five cows and a six-point bull directing where they went. I don’t think he even saw them, and they were standing in short grass as we drove by.

I wanted pictures of all this stuff, but the traffic never cooperated with me. I know how to call a badger back up from his hole, and have done it many times. I have some beautiful photos from back in my 35mm days. I just didn’t have 30 minutes to spare. This is a work trip, and I really didn’t want to get here in the dark.

Nature wasn’t finished with me, though. About two miles past the intersection, there were two raccoons grabbing for something out in a stubble field. You don’t normally see them out in broad daylight. I slowed to see if there was a parking area, but there wasn’t. I don’t know if it was grain, or some kind of bug that brought them out, but it was cool to see.

I turned back toward my drive, and a rooster pheasant stepped right in front of the car. It didn’t end well for the pheasant. I heard the thump. I never saw him in my rear-view mirror, so drove to the nearby chain-up area. Once around the car, and no sign of him. This isn’t my truck, it’s a small state vehicle, so I was a bit concerned about cracking a headlight, or damaging the grill. No damage at all.

I cruised through Craters of the Moon, and enjoyed the scenery, but the wildlife had called it a day. Other than one last herd of antelope near Arco, that was it.

It was a fun day, but I didn’t get any pictures. I may have had my best chance with the raccoons, but the pheasant threw me off my game. (Raccoons aren’t known for a rapid retreat.)

I need to surf through a couple of websites, then I may add some new words to my side project. Goodnight everyone.

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Meandering

We went for a country drive today. This time we turned the other way at Moran Junction and went over to Dubois. The idea was to get lunch there, but my wife didn't find anyplace that looked clean enough.

We saw buffalo, antelope, and elk in abundance. There were even a few mule deer around. None of them were close enough to photograph, and we didn't take the time for a long stalk. Buffalo can be dangerous too, and an iPhone isn't much protection.

We never saw a moose. They took quite a pounding in the Yellowstone fire from years ago. There have been enough years in between for a reasonable comeback, but something else came back too. I wonder if the wolves impeded the return of the moose.

I've been through Yellowstone many many times. You used to see a moose around every bend in the road. We never got inside Yellowstone, but we saw plenty of decent moose bogs. Not a moose in sight.

My wife is running our stuff through the laundry right now. I'm helping her out by drinking a beer and watching the warmup to the Kentucky Derby.

Tomorrow it's a long drive to get home. It's been a relaxing weekend with no agenda. Most of my trips have scheduled things to do, but not this time. Next week will be crazy at work, but I might be ready for it.

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My High Desert Trip

I just got back from the high deserts of Northern Nevada. I was going to brush this off without a post, because it’s a controversial topic to some people. My mother drew a buck antelope permit in the lottery system, and I wanted to help her get one. This is a uniquely American animal, and is not one of the true antelopes found in other parts of the world.

I won’t post images of dead animals, like so many other people would. I want to talk about this a bit, and it’s my blog after all. There is a subtle writing lesson in here if you pay attention.

My parents told me where they were going to camp and since I grew up in this area, I decided to meet them in the field. When I got there, they were already out hunting. I had about four hours to myself with no wifi or phone service, and two locked campers. I found hundreds of mushrooms including one of the deadly amanitas. There were tons of nice looking boletes, but I only eat mushrooms I can positively identify. I took these photos to give you an idea of what it looks like.

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This was the view from our camp. August is traditionally the hottest month there, but it never got hot. We had to scrape ice off the windshields every morning. We even got pasted by a hailstorm, complete with lightning and thunder. The water in places was up to the top of our tires. It passed just as quickly as it arrived and we headed back to camp empty handed.

They’d hunted up in the mountains with no luck. I suggested an out of the way spot with rolling sagebrush hills. I still have faith in the area, but everything runs for cover when the hailstorm strikes. They wanted to try the most obvious spot next, and I warned them about competitors. There were plenty of antelope and plenty of competitors. It was a pretty drive though and we even saw a buck mule deer still in velvet. Mom stalked a herd of does and fawns with my brother, but a suitable buck wasn’t with them.

We grilled steaks over the fire and had a few cold beers. My brother wanted to go to the next obvious spot, and I suggested some more out of the way places. My plan prevailed.

Saturday morning we drove past several herds of antelope on the way to our next place. They were on private property and we respect the landowner’s wishes. We saw a pair of bald eagles along the lakeshore along the way. My brother spotted a lone antelope in an available place. We drove to a low spot, out of the antelope’s sight, to discuss strategy. I had no idea whether it was a buck or a doe, but there was only one way to find out.

Mom and I snuck toward a patch of big sagebrush for a closer look. (There are several kinds of sagebrush, but this is the only one I know by name. It’s actually called big sagebrush.) The antelope turned out to be a respectable buck, and he was looking right at us. This usually means the end of the hunt. Antelope have eyes like eagles.

I motioned for my brother and dad to drive the trucks on down the road. This really shouldn’t have worked, but the antelope fell for it. While he watched the trucks drive away, we snuck to the next patch of big sagebrush. The other brush was about eight inches tall, so imagine islands of six foot tall brush among a sea of the shorter variety. There was too much brush in the way for a fair shot.

The next move was to get even closer and avoid being seen. I hung my white cowboy hat on the last big sagebrush and we crawled the last fifty yards. The antelope bedded down for the day.

We crawled through sagebrush, flint, mud, and several cowpies. Keep in mind that mom is in her mid seventies now. She was really out of breath when we got as far as we were going to get. I told her to take her time, because the antelope was bedded down. When she was ready she placed one perfect shot with her .30-06, and harvested her antelope.

We spent the rest of the morning breaking down the meat and getting it iced in coolers. Then we had a midday breakfast that included Mom’s home made chokecherry syrup. I grew up doing all of this stuff, and chokecherry syrup was a staple in our house. My brother stayed at camp today to pick fresh chokecherries which are everywhere this year.

Our supper consisted of antelope liver and onions along with the heart. We don’t waste much when we collect an animal. We also cooked up a rack of antelope ribs for one person who doesn’t eat liver. The evening was rounded off with Sam Adams Octoberfest beer, a roaring bonfire and watching the bats flitter overhead.

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Me in my natural habitat

The camera adds about fifty pounds. This was the first time in about thirteen years I got to do this with my family. It almost had a taste of attending a reunion, but the stuff I hadn’t seen in years consisted of bats, antelope, chokecherries, and mule deer.

When I write about such things, I have a real basis of knowledge. There are guns in my stories, and I know what I’m talking about when it comes to the right way to use them. I know how to make a pot of beans or a Dutch oven full of sage grouse. I can make preserves, including chokecherry syrup. This is important when someone recommends writing about what you know.

This doesn’t mean writing about camping or hunting. It means to make the story elements genuine when you write. If one of my characters is a dressmaker someday, I may have to take a class. If she catches her own fish, I already have that knowledge.

The world around us is changing rapidly. Pursuits, like hunting, may go away entirely someday. I’m glad I got to experience it all, and I can feel my ancestors watching when opportunities like this come along. Some readers may take offense to this post. I can assure you that isn’t my intent, and everything we did is perfectly legal. My family might be the ones to know when the zombie appocolypse comes along.

I’m sure I missed some of your posts, and I’ll do my best to catch up. I also need to check the comments over at Ali Isaac’s place. She did a wonderful post about my writing and I want to participate in the comments. I have another work week ahead of me, plus my critique group, then my wife and I are off on another weekend trip.

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