Sunday, September 23, 2012

DEER, DEER, DUCKS, DEER, DUCKS AND DEER

It seems that every time I turn this computer on there's a new problem to be sorted out.  I've been three hours figuring out why I can't get msn email or on my blog with Google Chrome.  Everything worked perfectly when I shut it all down last night.  It all comes back to satellite internet connection.  Verizon 4G is the way to go if Carbonite isn't used as an on line back-up.  External hard drives are the only way to go.  Oh well....

The morning was gorgeous.  I was back in my favorite area yet again.  What luck!  It was so pretty out that I idled all the way upstream to the beginning of the area I would work in today.  That would be from the Leadvale boat ramp clear up river to Rankin.  That's as good as it gets on this lake.  Heavy fog hung tight to the water as Shade and I made our way up stream.


 I could tell Shade was diggen the ride.  When she stands on point she is into it.  The cool are probably felt very good to her.  The temperatures on the water were very chilly necessitating the need for the fleece coat.  Its a sign of what's to come.
We cruised up the right side of the river because from the center to the left shoreline is very shallow and hazardous.  At a particular spot on the right shoreline I turned the boat across the lake to the opposite shore.   I know through experience that the water will hold at least seven feet clear across.  We entered the fog and all was quiet accept for the engine that idled behind us.  Its weird driving into total white with nothing visible.  The GPS on the dash has a map of the lake on the screen and I know exactly where I am even in the dark.  As long as other boats have their lights on we would be ok.  If they don't have their lights on - we won't be ok.
We would cruise up the shoreline which would take us past the little, short cove where the group of whitetails were that I photographed last week.  They weren't there.  There is a flat, open shoreline where the cliffs of the shore transition into sandy, muddy space.  It is here that another group of whitetails graze early in the mornings.  I put the binoculars on that area and there they were.  Problem was that I couldn't get close enough for great pictures.  The water is too shallow.  I stopped the boat in two feet of water and did the best I could with the camera.




  
 Two bucks were locking horns and pushing each other fiercely.  They were deciding dominance.  A shame -  their final dominance would probably be decided by a third actor - a bullet.
 
I was twenty minutes early so I watched a while longer.

We moved out toward Leadvale.  Just a short distance upstream more deer were at the shoreline.  They are making themselves well seen.  It will be their undoing.


These shot are so distant!  If I could have gotten a hundred yards closer you could see the whites of their eyes.  They are obviously both bucks.  They grow big up here on the French Broad.  Wait till you see the one I ran into later in the morning at 7:30 AM.

 
There's something I don't like to see going on here.  Someone's put salt out on that stump where the one buck is licking.  I hate that.  That's baiting them.  They don't stand a chance.  It's the same as shooting deer from a tree stand.  I never held for tree stands.  That's ambush.  Sniper action;  If you're not good enough to get em on foot in their own habitat then stay home.  I don't know if what I'm seeing is legal or not.  I know it's illegal to bait them during hunting season.
 Above:  See him eating the salt off the stump?  Damn humans - for all their intelligence and ability to display empathy toward the down trodden - they absolutely suck when it comes to wildlife interaction.
I whispered well wishes to them as we pulled away.
The waters off the Leadvale ramp had some fishermen for a change.  I talked to four guys in two boats.  Really nice folks.  They were fishing for crappie.  They weren't doing very well but, they were out here and happy.  A third boat, an old aluminum riveted together job,  had a guy about my age, 30, who was reaching for his wallet to drag out his fishing license to show me.  I yelled over to him that I didn't need to see any license and that I just needed to see his fish.  He had a really big frown on his face.  I said it's a great morning to be out here.  He replied that it was and added that he was down on his luck.  I really messed up at that point.  I asked him what the problem was.
"My wife left me two days ago and took my last $3500 out of the bank.  I been saving that to get through winter with heat and all."

I replied, "sorry to hear that sir.  Are you gonna be OK?"

He said, "I dunno.  I gave her everything.  Bought her what I could afford.  Never used a cross word with her.  Raised her boy.  Been together for 13 years.  Don't figger.  I just don't know."

I told him if it was meant to be, then it happened and there wasn't anything he could do with it.  I said that today he is in that boat and out here where the air is clear and the problems are all back there on the land.  Social problems are land stuff.  You got a long, sweet day ahead of you man.

He smiled and said, "ya, I guess your're right."

I told him to take care and think about important things like figuring out the fish.

He asked my name and I told him.  I asked his and he told me.  As I pushed the throttle forward he yelled, "hey!"   I said "Ya."  - And then he said something I'll take to my grave.  He said,  "Thanks."  It really got me.
We moved on upstream from Leadvale and hugged the left shoreline for about half a mile.  The water got very shallow and I had to pull the boat out toward the middle of the river.  I used the binoculars to search the undergrowth.  The tree limbs hung low almost to the grass.  Only the binoculars could reach back under the shaded areas.  That's when I saw him.  He was huge.  I though him an elk at first glance.  Tall - he was very tall and he was heavy.


 He was huge!  I seriously, at first glance, thought him an elk.  He stayed in the shadows not allowing a good, clean shot at him.  I pushed buttons and turned knobs but there is only so much one can do.  If I were only closer.
He had a doe with him and I certainly recognized her as a whitetail.


 
Magnificent!   That's all I can say about it.


 I have lived a lot of years and I have to say that I've never seen a more impressive whitetail in my life.  I wish him well.  I hope he is as skilled at evasion as he looks.  He deserves to survive the season of killing.  Hell - they all deserve to survive.
 A flock of teal landed just ahead and swam to shore and are foraging in the grass.
 They took to the sky as the boat approached

It was that favorite time our ours.  Yep.  Peanut butter and jelly time.  Only, this time it was chipped ham and cheese.  I splurged and bought ice.  Shore time.  Shade is a pig.  Her sandwich only lasted the time it took her to take a breath.  What a hog!  I heard ducks.  I heard many, many ducks.  What in the world was going on.  Ducks are Republicans and the convention was long over.  I grabbed the camera and walked across what used to be covered with four feet of water.  Yep - this was covered with water all summer.  I drove both the state boat and my personal Gheenoe as well as my canoe over this area.  There were ducks just over a little rise.  They were noisy.

Well, I'll go photograph the ducks after I find a treat for Shade.
We climbed up a slight grade that allowed us to look down onto a swampy waterway.  It was filled with mallards and teal.  I've never, ever seen so many ducks in one spot in my life.
What a sight.  The fall season brings on an activity in certain animals that I am not familiar with.  Great heavens there were ducks by the thousands.  My telephoto long lens can not capture the quantity.  I have no wide angle.  The waterway above is a quarter mile long and it is filled with ducks.

I'm fairly well read on the wading birds but, not so on ducks.  I've got to get the book out.  They're up to something gathered here in so many numbers.  Don't suppose they are Islamic ducks do ya.  This might be a training center for em.  Oh boy!


Shade just sat next to me and never moved.  She put an eye on em though.  What a great friend!  And then they flew.


 


 Their wing beats were are a soft roar.  I don't know any other way to explain it.  This is a first for me.  We don't have this back in Pennsylvania.  I wish someone would recommend this area be a waterfowl habitat and protect it. Maybe it is protected.  I don't know.  I will check into it.  What started out as a normal, average day has turned out to be extraordinary.  And ya know what - it couldn't be if it weren't for TWRA.  The agency has placed me here in this wonderful wild place to do a job for them.  My passions can be realized thanks to the stewardship of this great organization.


 He blasted out of the thicket with rocket energy.




Well, well - the shift ended.  Its time to head back.  I noticed what I thought was a vulture.  The bald eagles were out.  Four of them were out.  They were far away but what the heck.  They were out.
 Above:  An immature bald eagle


What a way to end the shift!  I mean this is too much!  It isn't just another day at the office.  This is a privilege.  It really is.  How fortunate am I?  How fortunate do you think I am?  Hope you liked this post.  Thank you all for watching.