Settling In For Winter

Our fenceline marks the border of the Mesa big game winter range. It’s located south of Pinedale, Wyoming and is closed to motorized traffic from Jan. 1 through April 30 every year so that the mule deer and pronghorn antelope can spend winter days free from disturbance. This 76,000-acre range covers the broad expanse between the Green River to the west, and the New Fork River to the east.

The mule deer migrate from surrounding mountain ranges to concentrate on this lower elevation sagebrush country. Our place is at 7,200 feet in elevation, and we enjoy watching our winter neighbors.

We see a lot of gorgeous bucks, but the does are the ones I view as the most magnificent.

December in the sheep pasture

The Wind River Mountains are magnificent in their snow-covered spendor, but the sagebrush rangelands still contain only a scattering of snow.

The image below is our New Fork River pasture where the sheep are currently located, taken at sunrise earlier this week. It was about -8 degrees that morning, which is a typical overnight low for us this time of year.

This herd of mule deer have been a constant presence in the pasture for the last few weeks, safe from disturbance for breeding season. I’m still trying to get a good photo of the muley/white-tailed hybrid buck that hangs out with this bunch.

We turned the rams out last weekend, to join the ewe herd, so we’ll have lambs five months from now. This ram has wounds from recent skull-crashing disputes with another ram.

While I fed the guardian dogs and had a look around the pasture, I heard the sound of branches breaking. It was two bull moose, browsing their way through the willows.

Western Wyoming’s Shiras moose population has been suffering, so it’s a great pleasure to share the pasture with these fellows.

Muley ear notches

Saw these two young bucks in the neighborhood today, and was curious that they both have ear notches. The best reason I’ve heard so far is that the bucks do a little scrapping, and ears take a bit of a beating. The notches are not research-related. I’m still open to other theories if anyone has ideas.

Bitterly cold

When a winter storm hit Tuesday morning, mule deer came pouring down the migration trail from the mountains, crossing what has become a very famous migration bottleneck, Trapper’s Point outside of Pinedale, Wyoming. Here’s a group of deer traversing the bottleneck between two rivers and crossing U.S. Highway 191. It is -32 degrees this morning at the ranch – not fit for man nor beast. I’m looking forward to Saturday’s predicted snowfall, so we’ll have highs of nearly 30 above zero. Sounds wonderful. Sixty degrees warmer than currently.

Ear notches

I am surprised at how many mule deer I see with notched ears, including this young buck Jim and I encountered today. Theories anyone?

I love seeing mule deer at this time of year. The does look so absolutely feminine, and the swollen-necked bucks so masculine.