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The Warden's Words

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While big bulls are fighting, little ones are servicing the does

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and was able to return to the valley safely. For me, I did something I haven’t done in many, many years. With my wife and mother, I went to someone else’s home for this holiday. We were invited to share some time and dinner with our son’s in-laws. I must admit, I am not a great fan of being somewhere other than home for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The warmth and comfort of familiar surroundings is candy for my soul. The activity of putting the big dinner together and the smell of it cooking is something I really look forward to each year. But there is something to be said for expanding the size of our little worlds and enjoying the company of new friends. I am glad we took the trip, but I was really glad to return home and, of course, we had to cook our own turkey for the leftovers.

Another general deer season has come to a close. Even though plenty of deer were harvested, the lack of snow no doubt kept the harvest from being even greater. I know that each time I was out looking I did see critters, but not as much as I would normally expect. Usually we would have plenty of snow by now, and it was always kind of reassuring to drive along some of our drainages and observe the sheer profusion of critter tracks in the snow. Then, even if we didn’t see deer, we could at least tell that the phantoms were around, hiding in the trees like we taught them. And, contrary to some folk’s belief, game wardens do not spend their nights making critter tracks in the snow to beef up the counts.

We North Idaho whitetail deer hunters have become pretty dependant on the “rut” to bag our “braggin” deer. We have come to depend on that critter’s swollen neck to override its natural instinct to survive. Each of us could tell a story of a buck’s completely ignoring the person shooting at it because there was a doe nearby. That swollen neck and single purpose has led to more wallhangers, but it has also helped the species survive. Most critters spend the entire year gearing up for the short breeding season. That is their sole purpose in the scheme of things. The biggest and strongest survive to perpetuate the population. 

If the truth were known, that is not always the case. I, like many of you, have observed the real truth. While the biggest and strongest bucks or bulls are trying to impress each other by posturing, fighting and showing who has the biggest horns, the little two- and three-point critters are in the trees, servicing the does. Meanwhile, the loser of the big battle is now really frustrated, with lots of testosterone built up and no release in sight. These bucks can be, and are, dangerous, especially in an area such as the David Thompson Game Preserve. As a rule, they generally will not take out their frustration on people, barring cataracts, but any other deer, critter or tree is fair game. On the Game Preserve we have lots of people and they have lots of pets. All year long these pets bark at and chase the same buck off “their territory” with little consequence. However, the tables can change during the “rut” and a 180-pound, 5-point, frustrated deer should not be taken lightly. Sometimes Rover is surprised when the deer does not run away, but instead runs at him and chases him up onto the porch.  Sometimes, as in a recent case, the buck gores the dog. I have to admit that this buck had to be extremely frustrated and quite gnarly, but it was not possessed nor demented. For you folks living on the Preserve, the “rut” should be time of heightened awareness and the taking of great home movies.

We are into our next season, muzzleloader spike elk for “B” taggers, and the weather has the promise of snow in it. I have seen several good bunches of elk and they had spikes in with them. Generally, one must find the cow herds to locate a spike elk. Be sure of your target and keep your powder dry. Cat hunters will be hitting the roads looking for tracks for their dogs to follow. But for those without dogs, you can set up in a wintering area and use a dying rabbit call to lure one into range. Waterfowl hunters should be looking forward to the unsettled weather as it will move the uneducated ducks and geese to the area.

Time to stop goofing off on this contraption and get busy. I have some injured animals to check out and hunters to check. Be careful and please be sure to enjoy what we have, enjoy it with the family and leave it better than when you found it.


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Author info

JJ Scott JJ Scott was a Fish & Game warden for the state of Idaho, now retired

Tagged as:

deer, elk, outdoors, hunting

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