Monday, July 20, 2009

Scouting for Mule Deer in the Angeles National Forest

Sunday morning was one of the days I long for. It was a day that I have been trying to fit in for the past few weeks. I had been trying to go scouting in the Angeles National Forest for mule deer. The archery hunting season doesn't start until September for me, but I wanted to get a head start to see where the deer were traveling. When I was younger I would scout with my dad and my brother for whitetail deer in western NY. It was totally different as we could go out pretty much whenever we wanted because we lived close to our hunting grounds. Out here in SoCal, well, it takes a bit more planning. I just want to sat thank you to my dad who shared his wealth of hunting and outdoor knowledge with us. We wouldn't be the hunters we are today without the practice, guidance and experience. Thanks, Dad.

My day consisted of me getting out of bed by 2:30 AM, pouring a cup of coffee and hitting the road by 3am. Usually it takes me about 2 hours to get to the area I hunt. Unfortunately for me (only on this day) there was no traffic. I was able to cruise along the steep and winding mountain roads at a whopping 20 m.p.h. When I arrived at the road where I start scouting it was 4:20 AM. Sunrise wasn't for another hour and ten minutes. That was a VERY long hour to wait in the truck.

Once the sun rose I made my way to where I had seen deer before. With the windows down, I slowly drove the 6 mile route. Just being out there was a treat. I just LOVE being out in the forest. It's a natural high being surrounded by trees, clean air and traveling a dirt road.

As I neared the first area I was hoping to see deer, I slowed to a crawl and kept my eyes peeled. Sure enough I saw what I was looking for. Ears. Yes, I said ears. In the distance, amongst the weeds and scrub I saw four satelite dishes aimed right at me.


My first thought was that these are yearlings. To my surprise they were fawns and still had their spots. Awesome! Just then another thought entered my mind; Where is their mother? I scanned the scrub and could not find her telltale eyes and ears. I started creeping along in the truck and suddenly there she was. She sprung to her feet just off the road, right in front of the truck. She had placed herself about fifty yards away from her little ones. Smart mom she is! The amazing thing to me was that she was unafraid of the truck. I was able to get this photo from about ten yards. They are a bit grainy, seeing as it was early in the morning, but I dig the effect.


Here she is as she strolled near her fawns to let them know it was time to follow her into the forest.


I let them be and drove about 100 yards and couldn't believe my eyes. There was a guy camping under the stars, still asleep in his sleeping bag with his pit bull/boxer mix standing guard. They were right down the road from the deer and had no idea the beauty I just experienced.

I drove another 2 miles or so and encountered another small group of young deer. These were yearlings and a small buck. Very small and very curious. When I stopped the truck and got the camera out, he decided to walk towards me and check me out. I certainly need to invest in some low-light glass to capture these guys better, but you get the idea. It was also a hot day. 6:00 AM and it was already 83 degrees. Too hot for that early in the morning. I like 50-60 degrees that early.


I was feeling more than blessed. I decided to drive the backside of the mountain to see if any deer were bedded down where it was 10 degrees cooler, but no luck. I turned around and drove back and encountered the buck and his friends again. This time they had picked up another deer, a fawn, that I must have missed earlier. He was so cute and covered in spots.

After another hour of scouting I had seen enough and was feeling pretty hot and tired. I ate my packed lunch for breakfast, drank a liter of water and drove back from whence I came. I made my way around a corner and caught a glimpse of movement. Another doe was peering at me through the trees and she wasn't in any hurry to bolt. I captured a few shots of her, slowly drove down the road and she walked away and snapped a few more shots. She was beautiful and extremely calm.


Was I productive? Yes. I found some well used trails, saw where the deer were moving and had a safe trip. That is a successful scouting trip in my book. Now it's time to spend more time at the range. Can't wait for the deer season out here and back in NY. It's going to be a good year in the woods. I can feel it.

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