The top two photos were taken Nov 19, 2016. The bottom Nov 6, 2018. Same deer?
It has been a cold autumn, although there isn’t near as much snow as there was at this time last year. The ponds and shallow lakes have frozen over, which usually signals that the winter snowfall will be less, as opposed to more. I’m good with that, as shoveling the drive isn’t my favourite winter pastime.
Moose season is still open and although I have a bull tag, Lil and I haven’t been able to fill it. We were scuppered early in the season by a couple of poachers who were trying to shoot moose for which they had no valid tag. They wound up chasing them away from Lil – she had been sitting by a small meadow near a road and listening to the moose making their way to her, when these nitwits came by, spotted at least one moose from their vehicle, and jumped out after them. The moose ran between Lil and the poachers so she was afraid to shoot. I was a short distance away watching one of two spots – the frightened moose ran through the spot I wasn’t watching.
As I said, scuppered; we didn’t even get ID off the poachers who sped away in their truck after Lil yelled at them.
Then, a couple of weeks later we were headed home and there were 4 moose on the road, one a yearling bull which would have been just fine to tag. But, you can’t shoot from or down a road and the moose were able to escape in the thick bush and flooded timber beside the road.
We had a couple of other close encounters, but lately we are seeing far more wolf tracks than moose sign. The wolves are running up and down all the roads and trails (for miles and miles!), which are keeping (along with human night hunters) the moose deep in the forest, where it’s impossible to hunt them (and there aren’t all that many moose; I have the only adult tag issued for the Wildlife Management Unit we’re hunting).
It is amazing how many wolves there are in this area (timber, or gray wolves, not coyotes). Over the last decade or so, I’ve seen several dozen wolves. During the same time, I’ve seen less than 10 moose.
But although the wolves are for certain killing moose, it was white-tailed deer that were largely sustaining the wolf population over the winter. I would have thought that when the deer population collapsed a few years ago, wolf numbers would similarly collapse, but so far, that hasn’t happened. I suppose there were still enough deer around, but I can’t believe there are now enough deer left for the wolves to make it through this winter.
Worse, last winter was long and the snow was deep. Officially, it was classified as ‘severe’, which should have translated into a further decline in deer numbers.
And the evidence from this fall sure supports that. Driving north 50-60 km to our moose hunting spots this fall, we have yet to cut a deer track in the snow. During our walks for moose, we’ve seen a grand total of 3 deer tracks.
When I went to our traditional deer hunting areas, the picture is still grim. A few days hunting specifically for deer didn’t yield a single sighting. There were tracks – here and there – but very few rubs and I only came across a couple of small scrapes under two adjacent jack pine trees on a pipeline ROW.
Lots of wolf sign, though.
So given the lack of deer everywhere, I thought I might as well hunt deer on our property, given there are a small number of resident does and I figured a mature buck should, or could, show up from somewhere during the rut. We had seen a single spike buck off and on during the summer, but that was one buck I wasn’t prepared to harvest.
I also thought I might get a chance to take a wolf, as they have been regularly chasing the resident deer and are continuing to whittle them down. In addition, it appears the wolves took our one, resident beaver just before the pond in front of the house froze over. All that work, fixing up the lodge and putting together a feed pile for the winter, for naught.
I watched the small field on our property several mornings and evenings without much luck. I did see, on a couple of occasions, the spike buck and what I assume is its twin sister, but that was about it. No wolves, either.
Then, on Nov. 6, a large buck appeared. I took a couple of photos and then decided I should harvest it. I had never taken a deer from our property (this is our 22nd year there), but I figured it might be the only chance I would get this year, so I took it.
It was a nice buck and the wear class age puts it at 5 ½ years. That’s amazing!
To have survived that long in the midst of such high wolf density is close to a miracle.
What’s also amazing is I think it could be the same deer I photographed two years earlier breeding a doe beside the house. After that, I had never seen that buck again.
Of course, I can’t be sure it’s the same buck. But the photos do suggest to me that it’s at least a possibility.
I do feel somewhat sad about killing it, but at least I know it’s passed on its DNA, which is a good thing.
And I’m still going to be hunting wolves – which were in the yard again last night. There’s just way too many, in my opinion.