Saturday, March 20, 2010

Catching Up

I have just returned from my spring break trip to New Mexico. My family and I stayed for a couple of nights in a cabin in the Lincoln National Forest and a couple of more nights at a cabin belonging to my wife's Aunt in Alto. With the exception of one event, we all had a great time.

The area received a heavy snowfall the first couple of nights we were there. This really made for some beautiful scenery up in the mountains. I had never before spent any time in New Mexico and was struck by just how pretty it was in the higher elevations. I'm a flatlander, born and raised, so mountains have always impressed me greatly.

I spent a large portion of my time traipsing about the forest north of Ruidoso at elevations ranging from 7,500-8,000 feet. The heavy snow made for perfect conditions to look for animal tracks. I found plenty. The area is crawling with white tail deer (more on that later) and their sign was everywhere. I also saw elk tracks, turkey tracks, and some large tracks of unknown origin (they appeared to have melted, refrozen, and then filled with new snow making them interesting but, to me at least, indecipherable). I set my new game camera up in a draw that seemed like it would be a natural funnel for wildlife coming down from the higher elevations to seek food and

water (there was a large lake below the draw). I left it out for two nights but it captured nothing. Judging by the absence of tracks in the new fallen snow I am guessing it was because nothing wandered by rather than some sort of issue with the

camera. I did put the camera up outside the family cabin the last two nights and only captured one shot of a white tailed deer. This would be fine but there were deer wandering around the property constantly. Snow did totally cover the lens and sensors one night. Still, I would have thought that more pictures would have been taken in this area. So, it remains to be seen just how good this camera will turn out to be.

The one negative, and it was a big one, was that I hit a very large doe with my truck coming down the mountain my second night there. This was a thick and heavy girl that I estimate would have tipped the scales at about 140 pounds. Totally destroyed my grill, bent my hood, dented my bumper and fender, and knocked out a fog lamp. While it was quite a mess, the damage turned out to be almost totally cosmetic. The truck remained road worthy and I was able to get back to the cabin that night and, later, home to Texas. Hopefully, repairs won't take too long and I'll be back abusing it on the back roads of the Lone Star State very soon.

As I mentioned, I am not too sure about my newest game camera. I decided, before I go to too much trouble placing it in some remote location, that I would put it out in an area near my home to see if it works well. The spot I chose is the first spot in which I had originally placed a camera. As you will recall, if you've been reading this blog very long, this is the spot where a local woman claimed to have seen a large cat cross the road about a year ago. I will leave it out 2-4 weeks and see what I manage to capture. The area where the camera was placed has actually produced a lot of photos. I've captured photos of skunks, a fox, a coyote, and many deer in this spot. I may not get the cat photo I'm after but, if history is any guide, there should be a lot of wildlife in the area and I should be able to make a judgment on how effective a camera I have.

I am hopeful that by the end of next week I will have my hands on two used Cuddeback cameras. These two cameras have been used in the TBRC's Operation Forest Vigil camera project for several years. The group is updating with newer cameras and I am getting these for a very good price. Even though they are a couple of years old, they will be a significant upgrade to any of the cameras I have used over the last couple of years. The addition of the Cuddebacks will also give me a total of three game cameras. This will allow me to start my big cat camera project again.

Well, that pretty much covers what I've been up to for the last week or so. More soon.