Snow, snow and more snow, which extinguished the fires. Hell then froze over. The snow kept falling making a wonderful winter wonderland. Heavy snow cut visibility badly and produced a day just made for looking for deer. In a modern well-heated four-wheel drive pickup, of course. Jane and I left work and drove into the country a couple hours. Most deer have joined small herds for mutual survival. Despite limited visibility the deer were foraging and we saw around 50.
Yesterday at 1 o’clock, two young deer came to the back porch looking for a handout. We seldom see them in the yard except when it snows. Then they come to the porch to feed. For years I’ve been putting corn on the back porch. If there is no corn they simply stand there staring at the door. Then go to my neighbor who does not feed them and stare at his door.
Generally I feed them three or four times an evening and they seem to thrive on it. On occasion they get rowdy and knock a chair off the porch and scatter like kids playing a Halloween trick. This year the record in the yard is nine at one time. The all time record is 38. Their behavior is shameful! Does battle their young by standing on their hind legs punching with their forefeet. The sound of a hoof hitting is easily heard from inside the house.
Older bucks seldom come to eat, but four are now hanging around the shop. Two have lost their antlers as I write this. One has lost one side and the other is a small perfect eight-point he’s now king of the hill. One guy has one small antler curving down behind his eye about 4″ with a small fork at the end of it. He might be interesting this fall.
Blackie, with an almost adult coyote pup taken in the summer, off-
hand, right on his range at 250 yards with a 6.5 JDJ.
Blackie Sleeva, with a fully furred adult coyote taken while deer hunting.
Coyotes have drastically reduced the deer population in this area.
Every year, 25 to 30 pesky snakes on Blackie’s property fall
to the Ruger .45 Colt with handloaded shot cartridges.
Foxes And Fun
All of this simply makes me wish for nice, sunny, warm spring days, and that brings up varmint hunting. I used to do a lot of it and used just about any gun/caliber you can think of. Okay, I didn’t use my Baby Browning .25. Groundhogs were in abundance when I was a kid and part of my job was keeping them from destroying too much of the cash crops. Soybeans are a groundhog’s delight as are small corn shoots.
Some of it was sporting for a kid with an iron-sighted Savage pump or a little trapping with leg-hold traps. Either way the extra produce brought very welcome money. Foxes could also be a problem, since they love chickens. Who wouldn’t, as chickens get excited and squawk, run, try to fly and must really be fun to catch as well as eat. Sitting behind a hay bale — the little ones — with the Savage and overlooking the bottoms next to the woods, watching and waiting was usually reasonably productive. Once I saw a fox trotting with something in its mouth. I dropped it with a .22 at about 80 yards and found it was a female carrying three moles.
Finding a den and setting up with the rifle took a lot of time, and trapping was faster and more efficient. I talked to my Uncle about trapping a fox pup and taming it. He said it wouldn’t tame. Being about 11 years old, I knew a lot more than he did so I trapped one about half-grown. Got it home, collared it and tied it to the doghouse without suffering severe blood loss. Of course it went nuts trying to get away. Finally hid in the doghouse. Wouldn’t eat or drink. Couple days later my Uncle drove up. He saw the fox, went into the house and came back with the Savage, one .22 round and handed them to me. All he said was “Take care of your problem.”
Nowadays the groundhogs are about gone due to an overabundance of coyotes in this area. One of my customers took 54 coyotes last winter in one small area. At Blackie’s, when the 9 p.m. curfew goes off in the summer, the whole valley lights up with coyotes answering it.
Occasionally one makes a mistake and pays the price. If you live somewhere where there are groundhogs, jacks, prairie dogs or other varmints, treasure those days when you can enjoy the sun, a gentle breeze and fire a shot now and then.
By J.D. Jones