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Whitetail buck a warrior, survivor

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The dust has settled from the rut. Whitetail bucks are licking their wounds and trying to recover their strength after the rigors of avoiding hunters while displaying dominance and winning the chance to mate.

But it's a tough life, even for the bucks on the top of the heap.  The fighting, and mating is over, and buck hunting seasons are closed.

Now — winter.

“This guy is a warrior,” says Montana outdoor photographer Jaimie Johnson. “He had a really close call jousting – almost lost his left eye!”

Photo: Buck shaping up to be a trophy

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Whether you're a hunter or a wildlife watcher, there's no doubt that this buck is shaping up to be a heart-stopper.

The elegant brute was photographed in its late velvet stage of antler development on Monday by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Question:  Is it a mule deer or whitetail?

The photographer says it's a white-tailed deer.

Photo: Is this Chewelah buck too big to be real?

WILDLIFE WATCHING — I received this photo from a reader in northeastern Washington.  It's labeled simply, “Chewelah buck.”

Is it too big to be true?

Whitetail buck advertises half-off sale

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The whitetail deer antler shed season has begun, according to Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Deer, moose and elk will be dropping their antlers one at a time through February to make room on their heads for next season's crop of what I understand is the fastest-growing tissue among mammals.

Velvet sprouts will be evident in May and the new antlers will be in full velvet bloom in August before the blood flow dries up and they start hardening.

The big bulls and bucks then will rub off the velvet and polish the antlers as they rake brush and saplings in preparation for the rut.

Viral video: Spokane hunters free antler-locked bucks

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Two whitetail bucks that locked their antlers in battle near Liberty Lake during the rutting season set the stage for a ghoulish drama video that's gone viral on YouTube.

Pete Caruso of Spokane and Eric Martin of Colbert were heading out toward Mica to hunt predators on Nov. 15 when they spotted three coyotes feeding on what they initially thought was a gut pile — until a buck rose up from the bloody melee.

The coyotes were chewing on the haunches of a dead buck whose antlers were locked with a buck that was still very much alive and struggling futilely to break away. The dead buck had died, possibly of a broken neck, in what must have been one heck of a battle for mating dominance that night.

After spooking away the coyotes and sizing up the situation, the two hunters and two other men moved in to help. They risked harm from the still-alive buck's flying hooves and sharp antler points as they struggled to unlock the entangled antlers.

Caruso captured the ordeal on video as one unidentified man sat on the bloody, mangled carcass of the dead buck to give Martin and the other man more leverage for twisting the antlers apart.

The best part of the video comes at the end, when the freed buck sprints away, offering a classic whitetail leap as if to say “Yahoo!” as it disappears over the horizon.

“Eric and I are starting working to start an outdoorsman video club for hunting and wildlife action clips,” Caruso said. 

This video clip of Martin using a decoy and predator call to lure a cougar into close range is an example. Check out the look on the cougar's face when it senses it's been had. 

Stay tuned. 

Has modern bowhunting gone ethically off-target?

HUNTING — My Outdoors column today features a model bowhunter who recruited capable help and went the extra grueling mile to track and retrieve a whitetail buck (above) after his arrow missed the vitals.

But what about other archers, especially during the bowhunting seasons that target rutting bucks and bugling elk?

There are no good current statistics to support the argument, but all hunters wince at the amount of wounding loss that comes up in conversations. Add it all up and the number of lost animals appears to be significant if not disgraceful.

The advantages archers get in season timing coupled with the advances in archery equipment, trail cams and the increased reliance on baiting apparently has lured more undesirables into the bowhunting ranks. 

A lot of luck and years are invested in a trophy buck or bull.  

We should all be thinking of ways, rules and standards to minimize the waste of such coveted resources.

Deer takes icy plunge to flee mountain lion

WILDLIFE WATCHING —  Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson and his wife, Lisa, were in the right place at the right time to see a killer wildlife drama play out on  below-zero temperatures on Monday.  I'll let Jaime explain:

We had a really amazing thing happen today. We were heading up a mountain road to get to a whitetail deer spot that we frequent when we spotted a nice 5x5 whitetail right across the river from us. It has been sub-zero here

for several days and the river has four or five feet of ice on each side frozen. Slush is flowing down the river. River is four or five feet deep. It looks really really cold. I was photographing the buck when all of the sudden, he looked behind him and bolted. In an instant, he was gone. I lowered my camera to see what was up. Then, to our left - a doe whitetail on the opposite side of the river was running full steam towards us (towards the river). Before I could get my camera raised, she jumped with all of her might over the icy edge of the river strait into the swift current. Reminded me of a kid jumping into a deep swimming hole except it was almost zero, I couldn’t believe what I saw – (what was she thinking).

Then, right behind her – a mountain lion appeared. He hit the brakes when he saw us, turned and vanished instantly (no pictures). The doe was swept downstream about a hundred feet or so before she could get started up on the ice. She managed (after several attempts) to get her front legs up on the ice, but couldn’t seem to get her hind legs up. She laid there for a few minutes and then flailed until her hind legs got up. We could tell she was freezing, but could do nothing. She walked about 15 feet and shook as much water off as she could, barely able to walk. She eventually laid down and stayed there for the next six hours. She eventually got up and fed away.

 

State seeks tips on trophy whitetail poached near Republic

HUNTING — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife requests information leading to the arrest of suspects involved in the killing of a trophy white-tailed deer near Republic in northeast Washington’s Ferry County. 

The deer may have been killed near Gibraltar Mountain and Sherman Pass near the end of November.

Contact the WDFW Eastern Region Office at 892-1001. 

Information can also be reported anonymously through WDFW poaching hotline, 1-877-933-9847, or online.  

Whitetail buck primed for procreation

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This week marked the peak of the whitetail breeding season, and this buck was clearly in the mood, said Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

“Girls on the mind,” he said.

Late whitetail buck season closes today

HUNTING — The late whitetail buck season for modern rifle hunters in select northeastern Washington units closes today at 4:45 p.m.

The the snow that blanketed hunting areas last weekend for the closing days apparently have been good for hunters.  

“Weather conditions for 2013 created great conditions for late season hunting over 2012,” said  says Kevin Robinette, Department of Fish and Wildlife regional wildlife manager in Spokane. “Participation at our check stations increased also.”

Indeed, the number of hunters checking in to the stations at Chattaroy and Deer Park last weekend (303) was up about 40 percent from last year while the number of whitetails they had bagged (84) increased by about 80 percent.

The overall hunter success rate last weekend was about 28 percent compared with 21 percent on the last weekend of the season last year.

Whitetails get a bit of a respite now as the their breeding season peaks.

But the late archery season opens on Monday.

 

Bucks won’t be standing around this weekend

HUNTING — The general hunting season for white-tailed deer opens today in most North Idaho areas.

Saturday is the opener for modern rifle season in most of Eastern Washington.

Washington’s general deer hunting season opens Saturday

HUNTING — I have fond memories from 50 years of deer hunting seasons, including the one pictured above. The buck was harvested miles from an open road with the .270 my father used for decades before I was born.

It was a hard hunt, and the meat was even more delicious because of it.

I don't doubt that you have fond memories of hunting seasons past.

Cherish them.

Diseases suspected in Montana deer deaths

HUNTING — Drought may be delivering another blow to deer herds in a portion of Montana, where disease and tough winters already have lowered deer numbers in recent years.

Dead white-tailed deer, possibly killed by epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, have been reported in north-central Montana, state wildlife officials said on Tuesday.

Dead and dying whitetails have been spotted from the Great Falls area to Simms on the Sun River north to the Marias River and even north of Chester. according to a story in the Billings Gazette. While the number of dead deer is not clear, it appears to be at least dozens, based on people calling about finding dead whitetails.

EHD has not been confirmed yet; Fish Wildlife and Parks officials are awaiting test results.

EHD is spread among deer, primarily whitetails, by biting midges. It is one of several hemorrhagic disease viruses found in wild and domestic ruminants.

A related disease, bluetongue virus, affects domestic livestock. While EHD can also infect livestock, it has not been proven to spread from deer to livestock or vice versa. The disease poses no threat to humans.

High-density deer herds may have higher mortality rates; however, the relationship of deer density to the severity of EHD is not clear cut.

Spread of the disease normally stops when the first frost of autumn kills the infecting midges.

Saving Columbian whitetails rife with pitfalls

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Wildlife agents plan to use a helicopter to drive deer into nets TODAY (March 19) at a refuge along the Columbia River at Cathlamet, Wash.

They hope to capture about a dozen endangered Columbian white-tailed deer at the Julia Butler-Hansen Refuge to move them to a refuge near Ridgefield.

An effort that began in January to move about 50 deer isn’t going as well as wildlife officials hoped, according to the Daily News:

  • Agents have captured 23 deer, but one died while being transported, apparently from stress.
  • Another was later found dead and three more were killed at Ridgefield by a coyote or other predator.

Officials are moving the deer because they fear a dike will break, flooding the refuge.

Lincoln County deer masacre prompts $5,000 reward

POACHING — Up to $5,000 in rewards is being offered for a tip that leads to the conviction of the culprits in the latest spree poaching case in Eastern Washington.

Five white-tailed deer, including two bucks and three does, were discovered in the Grand Coulee area of Lincoln County on Saturday with only the backstrap and hindquarters removed. The deer were shot and left to rot just a few feet from each other, and appeared to be fairly fresh kills.

This is the sixth multiple-deer poaching incident documented in Eastern Washington this winter, including two incidents in Spokane County.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for this spree killing and the Human Society of the United States has pledged another $2,500.

Information can be submitted anonymously:

1. Contact Officer Wood in Lincoln County, (509) 892-1001.
2. Call the state Poaching Hotline, (877) 933-9847.
3. Email the tip to reportpoaching@dfw.wa.gov.
4. Text the information to TIP411 (847411).

Endangered Columbian whitetails moved from Cathlamet

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in the process of moving about 50 Columbian white-tailed deer from a refuge near Cathlamet where they could drown because an old dike is expected to fail.

If they didn’t drown the deer — the western-most subspecies of white-tailed deer — might die of hypothermia of starvation, setting back efforts to restore the animals, a state endangered species.

The Daily News reports the deer are being moved from the Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge to another federal preserve near Ridgefield.

Work began in January and 11 deer had been moved as of Tuesday. Wildlife agents are taking special care while darting or netting the deer to avoid stress that could kill them.

Columbian white-tailed deer are native to parts of southwest Washington and northwest Oregon.

The Columbian white-tailed deer was federally listed as endangered in 1968, at which time only a small population was known to survive on islands and a small area of mainland in Washington along the lower Columbia River. In 1978, a small population of Columbian white-tailed deer was identified in Douglas County, in Southwest Oregon, and subsequently listed as endangered. A recovery plan was published in 1983. Since then, the Douglas County population has rebounded and was delisted in July 2003.

Tips sought on deer poaching in Dalton Gardens

POACHING — The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is seeking information on the illegal shooting of three deer within the boundaries of Dalton Gardens, a small community in Kootenai County just north of Coeur d’Alene. 

The incidents occurred between Thursday, February 7 and Saturday February 9.

A buck, a doe and a fawn whitetail deer were each found dead, each shot with a small caliber bullet.  The three carcasses were found at two different locations within Dalton Gardens.  The deer were all left to waste.

The deer season in northern Idaho is currently closed, so the shooting of a deer is a violation of state wildlife laws. 

Discharging a firearm within the city limits of Dalton Gardens is also illegal.

Anyone with information regarding these incidents should contact the Idaho Fish and Game Department at 769-1414; or, the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hotline, at 1 800 632-5999. 

Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a CAP reward if the information provided leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.

Whitetails mark holiday with Thanksgiving courtship

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Here's a rut report from eagle-eye Curlew resident Foster Fanning to go with his photo, above:

Pursuing passions in the wild…

Had a unique opportunity to watch a whitetail stag in courtship with a young doe Friday. A ruckus in the cottonwood grove across the Kettle River from my home caught our attention. Three whitetail deer were running, the does flashing the ‘danger’ signal they are named for. Watching for a moment we sorted out that a large four-point male was in pursuit of one of the young does.

They had dashed down off the river bank, splashing through the shallows and across the gavel bar. The doe managed to double back and before the buck realized and changed direction she had again jumped off the river bank and made her way under a hanging rootwad and rapidly dropped to the ground and went completely still and silent. The buck caught her scent and doubled back himself but ended up momentarily losing track of the subject of his lust. He walked the riverbank sniffing the air.

About that time I had set up camera and tripod in my yard across the river. The buck as well as pursued doe, now in hiding, took note of me. My presence wasn’t enough to throw him off the chase, but things slowed quite a bit.

I caught this image of the courtship, showing part of the story; the buck in pursuit, the doe in hiding and the proximity of their courtship. End of the story, as far as we could see was the doe springing to her feet and fleeing into the brush, almost tempting the buck with how close she passed to him. Of course, he took off in hot pursuit.

It will give me a pause to wonder when I view next year’s spotted fawns if maybe, just maybe…

Season’s over for hunters, not for whitetail bucks

WILDLIFE — Most deer hunters retreated to the great indoors after the late whitetail buck hunting season in northeastern Washington closed on Monday.

But the bucks are still in the rut. Conceptions typically are peaking right around today.

Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson caught the buck (above) showing there's a lot of hard work to do out there maintaining the whitetail populations, but somebody's got to do it.

Said Johnson:

We managed to get into the whitetail pretty heavy today. We witnessed many bucks heavy in the rut. This guy was located in some pretty thick stuff. He decided to stop chasing the does long enough to… Let us get this image!

Deer killed near Painted Hills; officers seek tips

POACHING — Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers are seeking information about a Spokane-area spree killing involving at least three deer.

The poaching incident occurred last week near the intersection of Madison and Thorpe Roads near the Painted Hills Golf Course.  Three white-tailed deer were shot from the road in a “no-shooting” area at about 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10, says Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman.

Two of the deer were left injured and paralyzed in the field.  One of the deer was taken.

Anyone with information about this crime is encouraged to call the Spokane Regional WDFW Office, (509) 892-1001 and ask for Officer Douglas King. 

Information can also be called in to the WDFW poaching hotline at 877-933-9847, or texted to TIP411.

Persons providing information that leads to the arrest of the person(s) responsible for these poachings may be eligible for a reward and may remain anonymous.

Whitetail rutting activity picking up

HUNTING — While elk hunting in the Blue Mountains last week, I saw whitetails at elevation 5400 feet — and I also saw several scrapes.

But Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson saw more than that on Thursday.

We spent most of yesterday chasing whitetails. We noticed several does with roughed up back hair. We also saw several bucks whose necks were swollen and witnessed several jousting. It was raining off and on, but we stuck with it and ended up with over a hundred good images!

The large buck was pretty messed up – he was kicking everyone’s butt. We affectionately called him Duke (he walked sideways like John Wayne and didn’t take crap from anyone).

5 deer dead in Lincoln County poaching spree

POACHING — Five deer were shot, killed and left to rot north of Reardan around Oct. 4, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police said today.

It’s the second five-deer spree-poaching case the agency has investigated in the Spokane Region in two weeks.

The Lincoln County deer included three bucks and two does shot with small-caliber firearms in and near an alfalfa field.

In late September, five whitetails were found dead in another case north of Spokane Valley after spotlighting activity was noticed near the intersecton of Farwell and Peck roads. Two fawns in that case had been run over by a vehicle; the others shot.

It's honorable to rat on scumbag poachers, but you can also earn hefty rewards or bonus points offered for information leading to arrests in these cases.

Call the agency’s regional office in Spokane, (509) 892-1001. 

Whitetail bucks playing make-believe with their antlers

WILDLIFE — The mating season for white-tailed deer is a month or more away, but bucks already are tuning up.

Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson has been noticing bucks testing their new growth.
 
For the past week, we’ve noticed the whitetail rattling antlers. Nothing serious, more for fun.
Tonight we observed these bucks jousting. One would watch while the other two rattled antlers.
Then they would switch and the observer would join in while another watched.

Wyoming whitetails die from disease

HUNTING — Tough times for deer in a corner of Wyoming, similar to the outbreak that swept through portions of Montana two years ago:

Whitetail deer die-off in NE Wyoming worst in decades
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department said epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, a disease spread by a biting gnat, has caused the worst die-off of whitetail deer in northeast Wyoming in decades.

Whitetail buck offers sure sign fall is coming

BIG GAME — Antlers raw from freshly shed velvet, this whitetail buck's clock is ticking toward the rut.

The image was made last week by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Deer harvest method banned in Washington

TRAPPING — I believe Washington's approval of a 1995 citizen's initiative that bans lethal traps would prohibit this method of filling your freezer with venison.  Just sayin'.

Winter doesn’t chill bighorn ram’s desire

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The party's over for elk.  Bull moose have given up on the girls.  Deer are losing their urges and getting serious about consuming enough calories to endure the winter.

Meanwhile, bighorn sheep are getting it on.

December is the peak of the rut for the masters of rock ledges, as the males earn their names by ramming heads together to determine who's the fittest to breed.

The bighorn ram pictured above is lip-curling at the beginning of December much as the whitetail buck was as it entered its peak of breeding in November.  

Wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson of Lincoln, Mont., captured the similar behavior of both animals with his camera.

When bucks or rams come to where a doe or ewe has urinated, they often curl their lips to trap the female's odor in their nose and mouth and analyze the scent for clues to the female's estrus stage.


  

Whitetail bucks still on prowl as late archery seasons continue

BOWHUNTING — Idaho archers have about two weeks to shop for a whitetail buck before Christmas.

Rutting activity lingers in the West as Idaho Panhandle bowhunters take their last shot in a season that opens Saturday in selected units and runs through Dec. 24.

They're too late for a chance at the bruiser pictured above, taken by Spokane dog trainer Dan Hoke at the edge of a clearcut near Lake Pend Oreille while the rut was still hot and heavy just before the rifle seasons ended.

But hunters and wildlife watchers are seeing more of the same across the region. In fact, bucks in some areas appear to be in a peak phase of covering ground.

In Eastern Washington, where most of the archery buck hunting opportunity will end Dec. 15, Brandon Enevold of Spokane says bucks are still defending areas in pursuit of late-estrus does.

Read on for his recent field observations and those of a local farmer

Whitetail rut still making bucks vulnerable to archers

HUNTING — The fat lady has sung for deer hunting seasons in Montana and for rifle hunters in Idaho, but late seasons are still giving hunters a few shots at whitetails in designated areas of eastern Washington.

And the rut's still on to some degree throughout the region.

Remember, the Nov. 20-21 peak of whitetail conceptions pegged by research in the northwestern states is only the top of the bell curve. As we move into the holidays, the season's breedings are on the downhill slope, but there's still action out there for bucks — and hunters.

The Idaho archery hunts open Dec. 10.

With just days remaining in most of the eastern Washington late bowhunting seasons, Chris van Kempen tagged the nice wall-hanger above by taking advantage of the buck's lingering desire to make sure every doe is bred and every competitor is challenged.

“I went out this afternoon got into my stand and did a few rattling sets,” he reported Friday. “On the third set, I was able to rattle this buck in to 30 yards! It was awesome I was only in the stand for about a hour and 20 min.”

Yes, I have the urge to kick Chris out of jealousy, too — but not before giving him a high-five. 

WA sportsmen have two program choices on Tuesday: Fish conservation or whitetail research

OUTDOOR EDUCATION — Local sportsmens groups are sponsoring two programs of interest this week in Spokane.

Unfortunately for the universal sportsman, both programs are set for Tuesday starting at 7 p.m..

  • Steelhead fisheries in Washington, and update on Olympic Peninsula’s Elwha River Dam removal, by Rob Masoni, Trout Unlimited Western vice president, Tuesday at Northern Lights Brewery, 1003 E. Trent Ave. Sponsored by TU Spokane Falls Chapter.
  • Whitetail deer research project in northeastern Washington, by Woody Myers, Fish and Wildlife Department wildlife biologist, Tuesday at Inland Northwest Wildlife Council auditorium, 6116 N. Market St. Sponsored by Inland NW Wildlife Council.