Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Un-Dead Deer

I recently watched a video on the internet of a young man who shot a deer and went running to find it. 
After a short search he came upon the nice buck lying on it’s side. He poked it with the barrel of his gun and it didn't move. But as he reached to grab a hold of it, it suddenly jumped up and took off. Scaring the daylights out of the young hunter. You can see it here:  

My life long friend, fishing and hunting companion Jeff and I had something similar happen to us once. 
It was about 15 years ago, we had both already gotten our bucks opening day and purchased another license so we could continue hunting. We decided to go up to his paternal grandmother’s old farm for an evening hunt. We got there plenty early and were taking our time getting set to head for the woods.
It was a beautiful warm autumn day with almost no breeze. We decided to walk the ridge-line above the Pinebog River to the neighbors homemade bridge, so we could cross the stream without getting our feet wet.  As we neared the ridge we could hear the buzz of the bees from the ancient hives nearby. We went and checked them out and saw that they were as busy as bees always are on a nice sunny day. We had struck up a conversation about the bees and old farm life when we came to a stop at the top of the ridge. Looking out over river, we surveyed  the wide swampy flats. That’s when I saw it. A deer laying on its side all stretched out next to a big old log. My .58 caliber Zouve Musket automatically came off my shoulder, cocked and into firing position. (Since I had meat in the freezer I decided to leave my trusty shotgun home and had  taken my old smoke pole to see if I could get my first deer with it. Here in lower Michigan we are limited to using  either shotguns or muzzle-loaders.)  Jeff spotted the deer about the same time as I and was also into firing position.  One of us asked the other “Is it a buck or doe?” at the same time as the other asked if it was alive.

While I covered it, Jeff rummaged through his pack for his binoculars.  It would be a difficult shot, we were standing about 90 ft. almost straight above the river and it was laying broadside about 30 feet from the bank about 70 yards from us. From all of our target  practice behind my parents house at the old gravel pit, I was pretty confident about how much drop I should give the aim with my .22 but I wasn't using that. My muzzle-loader was sighted in at 100 yards, but with the load I was using it was still on the upwards trajectory and it was pretty close at 400 yards, on the downwards side. I was madly figuring calculations in my head. Around this area things are pretty flat and most of our shots are horizontal and better measured in feet than yards.

What was taking Jeff so long? With all of the noise we had been making I figured that it must be dead or almost. It hadn't so much as twitched an ear and this damn gun was getting heavy. Jeff finally said “It’s a doe and it doesn't seem to be breathing and it's eyes are open.”

Thank God, my arms were turning to jelly.  As seasoned hunters we knew better than to trust a deer with it's eyes closed in death. We had heard the stories and knew enough to put another round in a supposedly dead deer. We talked over what we should do. Jeff wanted me to shoot it, but I would rather save my best shot on a live target since I didn't bring any cleaning equipment along. So we looked for a stone for him to throw. It was close, but still no movement. So we headed for the bridge.

As we came closer we thought for sure was dead. She was a small probably year old deer. But we saw no blood or wounds. Jeff poked it with his gun barrel and then poked it harder. Still not so much as a twitch. Jeff  felt it’s side and found it was still warm. We talked it over and decided to gut it.

Jeff put his gun down and grabbed his knife as I stood guard. Many a big bucks have been missed while hunter's are busy doing other .... things.  As he grabbed it’s leg to turn it over jumped up and took off. Jeff fell backwards and grabbed his gun. It must have been breathing so shallowly that we never detected any signs of it. When she came to life, she headed for the river. It was only about 12 feet wide and about a foot deep there.  She jumped in the water but was stopped by the high bank on the other side. She turned around and stood there looking at us, gasping for breath and shaking,  as we were looking at her through our gun sights for any signs of injury. She looked very healthy and very scared, but little else. I told Jeff to look for blood on the ground where she had been laying. He said there was none, so we let her go.

She must have been very tired or very scared to put up with all of our shenanigans. With all of the noise we had been making and poking, it was unbelievable. When we crossed the bridge she had of opportunity to escape. Even though I had a doe permit and was itching to try out my muzzle loader, I felt good about letting her go.

And the “why's and what if’s” make a much better conversation than any shot I might have made.    
Sometimes while hunting, the experience and the story are worth more than the meat.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Once Upon a Mid-night Weary

 It was a sound that was felt, more than heard.

Like the faint hammering of fists on the oaken door of my soul.

I awoke from my death-like slumber to find a large long haired animal on the floor by my bedside, 
where my golden lab should be, and in the dim early morning light, the opening verse 
     to "The Jabberwocky" on my lips.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

It had been a Hellish night of pain and distorted dreams. 
Fit for writing by Poe, in his madness.
I listened for a repeat of the noise that had awakened me.
And found none.
I moved Bear out of the way with my feet and got out of bed. I stumbled my way on rubbery legs to the front door to let the dogs out. Upon opening the door I found it was raining and neither wanted outside.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

There was no sign of vehicle traffic in either driveway and no muddy footprints on the porch.
What was the sound that had disturbed my sleep? I listened for any rumblings of distant thunder and heard none. 

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

I made my way to the kitchen window and searched for any sign of what had raised me so early from my bed. 

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

Finally I sat before my computer and started to type.

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

The panic of the offending sound was gone.
Bear and Harley curled at my feet.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

Mayhap I shall return to my slumber after all....

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

P.S. - A big Thank You to the late Ms. Isbister, my 10th grade college prep. English teacher. 
           For her stellar performance in the reading of Lewis Carroll's famous poem, which caused me 
           to memorize the horrid thing.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Vampyre Bugs

I don't know what happened this year, but it has been the worst ever for mosquitoes.
We have literally been held captive in our house because of these blood sucking bugs.  When we venure out of the house to take care of the animals we must be covered with insect repellent from head to foot.  Not that it does much good, they just seem to laugh at us and bite anyway.

When we mow the lawn a cloud arises of these winged predators and follows us around the yard, sucking blood at every opportunity. For every gallon of gas I use, I lose about a pint of blood too.
I had to put up warning signs so visitors would be aware of our problem.

We have been battling these miniature vampires since the weather warmed up and the rains started. The woods that surround us are very swampy this year and our local Mosquito Abatement crews have been nowhere to be seen. I called last month to see how soon they would be roadside spraying and they said that they had no idea, but they were working overtime on the problem. They claim that the problem this year is that both the spring and summer varieties are hatching at the same time. 
All I know is that the stores cannot keep insecticides or repellents on the shelves, and no one has seen or heard the Mosquito Abatement trucks spraying. Personally I believe that they are afraid of being caught spraying with only the protection of their light pick-up trucks.

Tonight after taking care of the animals, I got fed up ducking and dodging the avian epidemic and took drastic measures.....

It may not be sporting, but it works.  This one didn't get blasted too badly.  But since I shot it, I can't figure out what to do with it, have it mounted or have it for dinner !!!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

How High's the Water

It's been raining a little bit and the river has been raising. So when I headed to town yesterday I grabbed the camera to take a few photos.  Looking at all of that water reminded me of a song. Click on the video below so you can get on the same page as me.

Now that I've got you the right frame of mind, let's continue.

I've lived near the Cass River most of my life. Most of the time it's hardly big enough to call a river. With a depth in this area of about knee-deep in most places. With its slow pace and many rocky rapids, you can't even canoe much of it in the summer. About the only time it looks like a real river is during spring runoff or after a bad storm.

So we have this.....

instead of this.

And this.....

instead of this.

Now the next photo got me to remembering a tale about a couple of "young men" not long out of high school. It was about 40 years ago, and these two hooligans who thought they were so smart and fearless, decided to canoe the Cass after one of these storms. After a night of sucking suds, there hung over minds told them that since it stopped raining and turned into a beautiful day, that they should go canoeing. So they went down to the river to see what it looked like.

This was pretty much what they saw, only the water was even higher. The water was only about 3 feet below the bridge. So they went back and loaded a canoe up on one of their cars, and brought both of their cars back to the river, parked the one without the canoe by the bridge, and drove about 4 miles up river to launch the canoe.

Evidently these two idiots thought it would be great fun to get in a little white-water canoeing. However they neglected to take into consideration that the speed of the river turned their canoe into little more than the rest of the debris floating down the turbulent water. They had a very difficult time trying to avoid logs, limbs and other junk that was caught in the path of the onrush.

Some of what used to be curves of the river, now took them on a high-speed trip through the flooded woods, fending off trees and snags with their canoe paddles. Then they came up to what should have been a hairpin turn and all of a sudden ran aground. They had hit an underwater boulder that shouldn't have been there. The force of the water pushed half of the canoe up on the rock and they were stranded there. The water was so deep that they couldn't touch bottom with their paddles to work themselves off the rock. After a few attempts which almost capsized the canoe and spinning around on that rock like a compass needle, they finally managed to get loose, going backwards down the river.

Before they knew it, the bridge came in sight, along with the realization that the water had risen since they had last been there. Now there was only about a foot and a half separating the water from the bottom of the bridge. They paddled for all they were worth, but couldn't get out of the mainstream of the wild river. Quickly the bridge was upon them and all they could do was duck down in the bottom of the canoe and grab onto their life vests, (which of course they weren't wearing), and pray that they could make it under the bridge.

The bow and stern of the canoe scraped along the bottom of the bridge. The noise and darkness under the bridge seemed to last forever, but soon they shot out from underneath. They were able to get their canoe under control and finally break from the mainstream at the next curve of the river.

After they finally landed the canoe, and their knees stopped shaking, they had to walk back to get the car. They had made the whole trip in less than half an hour.

Word of their escapade got around town, and a lot of folks just didn't believe it. But I have seen the marks on the bottom of the bridge when I have waded underneath it fishing. What at first were two bright aluminum scrapes on the cement faded over the years to a dull grey.

It's been many years since I was under that bridge, I wonder if the marks are still there.

I know they are still on my canoe.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Peaches' Triplets

About an hour after being born.

After the death of our beloved Fern, we devoted our time and attention to making sure the same thing didn't happen to our other pet goat Peaches. She missed Fern very badly and looked for her constantly. We tried to make up for her loss by spending more time with her. With her due date coming up fast we knew that Peaches wouldn't be alone for long. And then finally Sunday about 11:00 AM she started to go into labor. We spent the next nine hours sitting with her, waiting for her to give birth.

A contraction.

Wifey had to help get the first one out. She grabbed hold of the tiny little front legs and gently pulled to help get his head out, the rest came easy. A beautiful little brown buck with a blaze on his forehead  While she was busy cleaning him off, the second one popped out. I hurriedly broke the sack and started cleaning him up. Another buck, this one totally dark brown. We got them cleaned off and placed in front of their mother so she could lick them dry. As we sat there admiring her two babies, we debated whether she was going to have any more. 20 minutes later she popped the last one out. A little girl this time, and beautifully multicolored.

When Peaches finally started to deliver the afterbirth, we could sit back and relax for a while. Now it was time to call friends and family, and take photos. Then we tried to get the babies to nurse. This was a problem. Peaches was not too keen on the idea. The babies were ready and willing, but mom wasn't. When we finally got her to lay down and accepting nursing, the first and last born were more interested in sleeping than nursing. After finally getting at least a little milk into each one, we decided it was time for us to finally go get a well deserved rest.



A few short hours later, we were back to trying to get the little ones to nurse and to get mom to eat. We didn't get a whole lot of luck with either endeavor. So all day Monday was spent trying to coax somebody to eat. The second born buck seems to be doing the best, he is the biggest and strongest of them all. We finally got our first six hours sleep in weeks. We've been making do with naps and maybe four hours of sleep at a time.

Tuesday things seem to go a little better, even mom ate a little bit. However she has me worried as she is just nibbling at her "Goat Chow" but not eating any hay. The baby goats were out and about a little bit more, and they are developing their own personalities. Wifey is talking about keeping the boys and sending the girls to live with our eldest daughter so she can start her milk herd.We will probably have one of them neutered and keep the other as a stud.

Peaches and daughter.

We got our first full night sleep, it was wonderful and much-needed.

Wednesday morning and the goat babies were doing well. I got Peaches to go outside to eat a little browse and some grass. This was a big step, but we still need her to eat some hay. She also ate about a quarter of her normal ration of food. Hopefully things are going to get better in the days to come. Things are looking up, finally.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Goat Pregnancy Toximia

Three dreadful words I hope never to hear again.

The main problem was, I had never heard of them before. And wish I never had. Ignorance IS bliss...well not really. As a first time goat owner I still have lots to learn. However experience is a brutal teacher.

Before we brought the goatie girls home two years ago, we thought that we did plenty of the research we would need to successfully raise goats. Ha ha very funny.

After purchasing the girls we found out just a little we knew. At four and six weeks old they were both a joy and a handful. The bottle feeding of course bonded us, and all of our attention turned them from livestock into pets (read : family). The morning and evening walks around our property and the rides on the golf cart did even more to cement the bonds of love. We didn't endure the destructiveness that most encounter when raising goats. Maybe it's because we got them so young and showered them with attention or maybe were just lucky. However Fern showed us just how closely goats are related to mules with her stubbornness at times. That and her meanness towards Peaches earned her the nickname "Fern-instein", because at times she was a real monster
When it was time for their first breeding season we were torn over the decision we had to make. It was either breed them then or wait until next year when they would be fully mature. We decided to wait. Last November when we had the girls bred by the neighbors Billy we were hoping that only Fern would get pregnant. However such was not the case. Peaches fell immediately in love, while Fern wanted nothing to do with this new goat. In fact we figured the Billy was going to be too short to even reach Fern. After about 10 days Fern no longer wanted the Billy anywhere near her, Peaches or our farm. She was constantly butting him with her head or chasing him. So we sent him back home. By the end of December it was apparent that Peaches was pregnant and took another month before Fern started to show. By the size difference in the two goats, I figured that Peaches would probably have three or four kids and Fern probably just one

Things went well and we were expecting births take place sometime around April 9. However this was all the change, for the worse. Here are my notes on the following event:

Friday, March 15 - Noticed hesitancy to go outside this evening. Laid down while chewing bark from pine tree by picnic table and had a very hard time getting up.

Saturday, March 16 - Would not stand unaided. Front legs shook when standing. Not inclined to walk. She gets around by standing on her hind legs and crawling on her front knees. From the looks of the bedding she has been getting to her food and water okay. We assumed that the problem was with her feet because her hooves needed to be trimmed badly, something I've been putting off because I was worried about the trauma to her and her babies. She absolutely hates having her hooves trimmed and it's a real battle both physically and mentally to get the job done. However this time she didn't put up much of a fight at all. But after the best trim job ever she still wouldn't stand on her own.

Sunday, March 17 -  No change other than appetite loss, she just nibbles at her food and hay. Doesn't seem too interested in water and will sip a little if the bucket is brought to her. Wifey checked internet for help and feared it might be "Pregnancy Toximia" . Some advice as to what to do was given. Our local TSC didn't have the NUTRI-DRENCH to help give more energy and restore appetite. So we had to make a two hour drive to get it. Started giving three times a day. After yesterday's surprise with easy hoof trimming, today it was the usual knock down drag out fight to try and get the medicine in her. I bought a special syringe with the long metal and nozzle and bulb tip, to administer the liquid between her cheek and back teeth. I had to put her into a headlock so that Wifey could attempt to get some of the liquid in her mouth. About half of what she got in was spit back out. One fluid ounce doesn't sound like much but it sure looks like a lot when it covered Wifey, me and Fern's face.  Also purchased a pro-biotic paste that we had to force down her once daily to aid digestion.

Monday, March 18 - this morning I called all of our local vets looking for someone who dealt with goats, of course none did, but they recommended the  "Mayville Vet Clinic" . I called and spoke with Dr. Nicole who confirmed our diagnosis, given the symtoms over the phone. She couldn't come until Thursday afternoon to check Fern out. There was no way we could get the 150+ pounds very pregnant goat to her office to be seen earlier. She told us to continue treatments and make Fern stand as often as possible. Oh my aching back. You should try lifting an unwilling goat and try to keep her standing. It's a job for much younger man than I.

Thursday,March 21 - Continued decline, harder to get Fern up and standing, and her continued fighting at medicine times is wearing us all out. Hard to say just how much she is actually ingesting. We never see her eating or drinking any more.
Dr. Nicole came and confirmed diagnosis of Pregnancy Toxemia but without Ketosis as is normal. Our hopes rose until she confirmed that she would still have to start labor to save Fern's life. The kids would not survive this. Fern got an injection of Lutalyse and one of Dexamethasone. We were told labor would begin in 2 to 80 hours and to watch her close and continue as we have been doing, She also gave us her emergency phone number and told to keep her updated daily to Fern's condition. She also showed me an easier way to lift her.

Friday, March 22 - Called Maville Vet Clinic because Fern started a vaginal prolapse. Sent photos via the Internet. Dr. Nicole called back to say all is ok. Lynn has been spending most of the day and night with Fern since the injections. I relieve her as often as I can and we sleep in shifts. Fern seems to enjoy the music Lynn plays for her via her laptop. We have added an electric heater to the heat lamp to keep everybody warm in these freezing temps. Also a blanket for Fern.

Saturday, March 23 - Called Dr. Nicole because the prolapse is getting bigger and Fern is having contractions but also seems to be weakening fast. She decided to come check Fern out. Fern was just barely begining to dialate but she forced dialation manually and started pulling kids out. They were very floppy and none lived very long. I tried my hardest on the only doeling as she seemed like the strongest but to no avail. It was very sad. Peaches got very upset when one of the three kids bleated and almost trampled Fern and the Dr. to get to the door.
Fern recieved an injection of Oxytetracycline and one of Oxytocin to ward off infection and help her deliver the placentas.
All of the anxiety and worrying for the last week was nothing compared to watching those three baby goats attempt to live. Even knowing before hand what the outcome would be, it was still heart wrenching.

Sunday, March 24a - Fern has delivered only one placenta and seems to e getting weaker as the day progresses. The vet called to see how she was doing and prescribbed 2 regular asprin every 12 hours for pain, Also to try force feeding her ground up goat food mixed with water.  We could only get an ounce or two in at time and we continued her medications.  During our last check at 4 am. I told Lynn she wouldn't make it till morning.  We decided to call the vet and have her put down if she did.

Monday, March 25 - Fern died sometime before I checked on her this morning. Probably shortly after our last visit with her judging from the rigormortis.
Goodbye Goaty Girl.

We're still getting over this tragic ordeal. I have watched my parents die and this was no less stressful or painful.

Forcing a sick creature to do something it doesn't want to do is not easy. Even when you think it is best for them. All of our blood, sweat, tears and prayers didn't seem to help in this case. And we still wonder if there isn't something could've done to prevent this in the first place. The vet told us in her 15 years of practice, that this was by far the worst year ever for pregnancy toxemia in all livestock. Her belief was that last year's drought caused a deficiency in the feed supply due to improper nutrients.

Again we found out that whatever you search for on the Internet always has two sides. It was no different in this case. Pros and cons of what to do all sound plausible and is up to you to decide the best course for yourself. Luckily we found a very caring and concerned veterinarian who was willing to go the extra distance for us. Thank you Dr. Nicole.

Disposing of the bodies was another ordeal. The ground was frozen and we had to wait a few days for it thaw enough to bury Fern and her babies in the orchard. It takes a long time for a couple of crippled old farts dig a 5' x 4' hole 4 foot deep even in sandy soil. After we buried the bodies we covered the grave with fieldstone to try to keep dogs and other creatures from digging there. RIP Fern and family.

We are awaiting Peaches birthing any day now.Needless to say we of been watching her extra careful for any signs of toxemia. She misses Fern something fierce and we have been trying to make up for the loss by showering her with extra attention during the day and checking on her often during the night. Hopefully her births will be uncomplicated and provide her with the much-needed companionship of her own kind.