My All Time Favorite Song.
02 Jan 2015 Leave a comment
29 Jan 2014 Leave a comment
The View From between His Ears
HOWDY, and welcome to this site. Well, I’ve been encouraged by my best friend, to begin to write a BLOG. Truth is, I’m not exactly sure what a BLOG is, but it sound like something I would not want to step into, on my way to a nice dinner at a friend’s place. Actually, I think I’ve had a horse step in one once…he’s still a bit shy of those things. But, if I can find enough time to sit down and write, I would like to share some of my experiences serving as a Wildlife Officer (Game Warden) in the Colorado Rockies. I would like to write about some of my horse experiences….not because I’m such a great horseman. I’m not. In fact I know a few men and one exceptional woman, who are much better horsemen than I will ever be. But I have learned, in my 25 years of breaking colts and training horses, that every time you stick a boot in the stirrup, you learn something. Or you should. Because I guarantee you that the horse does learn something. Each and every time. And, riding in the Rockies is an experience in itself. Breaking and training horses, packing and working the back country, is about the greatest life that a person can experience, and I am blessed beyond measure in what the Lord has allowed me to experience. And since I have, for a brief, fleeting and terrifying time, been shackled to a desk, in the pretext of earning a ‘living’, I empathize with those who find themselves in that lot, and dream of a different life….outdoors and wild. So, with those kindred brothers and sisters in mind, I would like to share some of my experiences. I will not use my own name, or the names of those who are referred to here, to protect the innocent. However, please know that everything I write about here is true and accurate to the best of my ability and recollection. Remember, being a cowboy is a matter of attitude, not surroundings.
These short vignettes will not be restricted to horses, nor horse related events, but I would like to recount many events that have happened in the past few years, mostly associated with my tenure as a law enforcement officer in the back country and wilderness of the Colorado Rockies. Please be patient as I learn about this BLOG stuff….and if you want to comment or add to, or criticize please feel free. If you visit here, drop a note and say “HI”.
Perhaps the most valuable contribution I can make to your lives is not my stories, but the quotes and comments that I have collected, and love, from others.
And, remember: whatever else happens, don’t sweat the petty stuff….and don’t pet the sweaty stuff…And, things will turn out just fine.
Remember… Buck Snort Said So!
29 Jan 2014 Leave a comment
Well, sometimes you just have to make a change. I do get bored with things rather quickly, and thus I always felt blessed that I had a job that was never the same from day to day. In Law Enforcement and Natural Resource Management this was the case. Never were any two days the same. Some were really exciting and others just days, but never were any two the same. That kept me going. And going… for over 30 years, actually. And yes, some day I would like to write a book. But for now, I felt last August that I had actually found a job that warranted some serious consideration and could rival the one I was in at the time. And, since I really felt like the ‘old man on the mountain’ with my peers… most of whom were so young and naive that I marveled… wondering if I could have ever been that way. No, I know I was never that young and naïve. Ever. And add to that the fact that I knew fewer and fewer faces and names within the Department. Meetings were becoming guessing game for me: “Who is that? Where do they work?”
So, I finally found something that I thought could be a viable alternative. It came in the form of a phone call. Seems a fellow officer had given my name to a gentleman who is managing a group of ranches for a poor guy in Texas who owns several such ranches, and who was looking for a manager for one of them. Well, I visited the place several times, and turned down the offer twice. The third time I caved, and told him I would take it..
So with that I am now the manager of the Cielo Vista Ranch in the San Luis Valley. No doubt some of you might be familiar with the place, formerly called the Taylor Ranch, and its infamous place in Colorado legal history. Suffice to say that this 82,000 acre ranch is perhaps the most controversial piece of property in the US, or at least in the top 5. It sits in the Colorado case law records as the place where landowner rights first died. The courts (state, appellate and supreme courts) have told the owners that they must grant unlimited access and gate keys to a group residents of Costilla County, for the purpose of gathering wood, and to graze their cattle. Free gratis. And that has caused no end to the chaos and law enforcement problems, as well as the social turmoil in the area. The previous manager had his house burned down, and two previous managers were shot, one fatally. To say that it has an interesting past would be a grand understatement. So, in I step….like a sheep being led to the slaughter. Dumb…. In the words of my friend Larry Mahan..”Buck…just how many headaches do you want in your life?”
But, I can only assume that God is leading me, as I have prayed for a long time, to a place where I might be able to do something that would glorify Him. We shall see…. If not, I will have been severely disappointed. But for now, I and my dog and horses, are planted on this 125 square mile ranch near San Luis, Colorado – for what? I can’t answer that right now, and not much that I have found humorous, has happened here. But I will be adding to this blog in the very near future with more interesting observations and adventures. In the mean time, let’s all try and remember Proverbs 3:56 – ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on our own understanding. In all our ways acknowledge Him, and he will direct your paths.” One translation puts the last line this way: “In all your way acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.“ An encouraging promise.
So, until next time, remember the words of Helen Keller: “Life is an great adventure or it is nothing.” She also said: “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”
Quite amazing… she is one of my heroes.. or heroines.
One More From Her: ”
“Is there anything worse then being blind? Yes!
The most pathetic person in the whole world is
someone who has sight but has no vision.”
~ Helen Keller
02 Jan 2013 1 Comment
Roping… I’ve had the dubious honor of having a rope on several wild animals, including one bear, one adult Mtn. Lion, and one 6 point bull Elk. And I have pictures to prove the Elk and Lion. Actually, the elk incident is on a video cassette, and lasts about 15 minutes of anti-climax. The Lion is more interesting, but the pictures are in the form of one entire roll of 35mm slides. Never have I roped a deer. Actually, I did have a rope on one that had locked horns with another buck, which had died in the fracas, and I had to separate them myself. So the rope did help, and the deer was nearly exhausted. At the time, I did not realize how fortunate I was that that was the case.
This is a ‘guest post’ by an experienced roper who was not quite as fortunate as I, in having an exhausted deer to deal with. I hope you enjoy the story.
Why we shoot deer in the wild (A letter from someone who wants to remain anonymous, who ranches, writes well and actually tried this).
I had this idea that I could rope a deer, put it in a stall, feed it up on corn for a couple of weeks, then kill it and eat it. The first step in this adventure was getting a deer. I figured that, since they congregate at my cattle feeder and do not seem to have much fear of me when we are there (a bold one will sometimes come right up and sniff at the bags of feed while I am in the back of the truck not 4 feet away), it should not be difficult to rope one, get up to it and toss a bag over its head (to calm it down) then hog tie it and transport it home.
I filled the cattle feeder then hid down at the end with my rope. The cattle, having seen the roping thing before, stayed well back. They were not having any of it. After about 20 minutes, my deer showed up – 3 of them. I picked out a likely looking one, stepped out from the end of the feeder, and threw my rope. The deer just stood there and stared at me. I wrapped the rope around my waist and twisted the end so I would have a good hold. The deer still just stood and stared at me, but you could tell it was mildly concerned about the whole rope situation. I took a step towards it, it took a step away. I put a little tension on the rope .., and then received an education. The first thing that I learned is that, while a deer may just stand there looking at you funny while you rope it, they are spurred to action when you start pulling on that rope. That deer EXPLODED. The second thing I learned is that pound for pound, a deer is a LOT stronger than a cow or a colt. A cow or a colt in that weight range I could fight down with a rope and with some dignity. A deer– no Chance. That thing ran and bucked and twisted and pulled. There was no controlling it and certainly no getting close to it. As it jerked me off my feet and started dragging me across the ground, it occurred to me that having a deer on a rope was not nearly as good an idea as I had originally imagined. The only upside is that they do not have as much stamina as many other animals.
A brief 10 minutes later, it was tired and not nearly as quick to jerk me off my feet and drag me when I managed to get up. It took me a few minutes to realize this, since I was mostly blinded by the blood flowing out of the big gash in my head. At that point, I had lost my taste for corn-fed venison. I just wanted to get that devil creature off the end of that rope.
I figured if I just let it go with the rope hanging around its neck, it would likely die slow and painfully somewhere. At the time, there was no love at all between me and that deer. At that moment, I hated the thing, and I would venture a guess that the feeling was mutual. Despite the gash in my head and the several large knots where I had cleverly arrested the deer’s momentum by bracing my head against various large rocks as it dragged me across the ground, I could still think clearly enough to recognize that there was a small chance that I shared some tiny amount of responsibility for the situation we were in. I didn’t want the deer to have to suffer a slow death, so I managed to get it lined back up in between my truck and the feeder – a little trap I had set before hand…kind of like a squeeze chute. I got it to back in there and I started moving up so I could get my rope back.
Did you know that deer bite? They do! I never in a million years would have thought that a deer would bite somebody, so I was very surprised when ….. I reached up there to grab that rope and the deer grabbed hold of my wrist. Now, when a deer bites you, it is not like being bit by a horse where they just bite you and slide off to then let go. A deer bites you and shakes its head—almost like a pit bull. They bite HARD and it hurts.
The proper thing to do when a deer bites you is probably to freeze and draw back slowly. I tried screaming and shaking instead. My method was ineffective.
It seems like the deer was biting and shaking for several minutes, but it was likely only several seconds. I, being smarter than a deer (though you may be questioning that claim by now), tricked it. While I kept it busy tearing the tendons out of my right arm, I reached up with my left hand and pulled that rope loose.
That was when I got my final lesson in deer behavior for the day.
Deer will strike at you with their front feet. They rear right up on their back feet and strike right about head and shoulder level, and their hooves are surprisingly sharp … I learned a long time ago that, when an animal -like a horse – strikes at you with their hooves and you can’t get away easily, the best thing to do is try to make a loud noise and make an aggressive move towards the animal. This will usually cause them to back down a bit so you can escape.
This was not a horse. This was a deer, so obviously, such trickery would not work. In the course of a millisecond, I devised a different strategy. I screamed like a woman and tried to turn and run. The reason I had always been told NOT to try to turn and run from a horse that paws at you is that there is a good chance that it will hit you in the back of the head. Deer may not be so different from horses after all, besides being twice as strong and 3 times as evil, because the second I turned to run, it hit me right in the back of the head and knocked me down.
Now, when a deer paws at you and knocks you down, it does not immediately leave. I suspect it does not recognize that the danger has passed. What they do instead is paw your back and jump up and down on you while you are laying there crying like a little girl and covering your head.
I finally managed to crawl under the truck and the deer went away. So now I know why when people go deer hunting they bring a rifle with a scope……to sort of even the odds!!
All these events are true so help me God… An Educated Cowboy.
Rom. 8:35, 38-39 “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday!”
19 Dec 2012 1 Comment
Merry Christmas Everyone!
During this season, folks are always calling to ask how I’m doing. But that is not the real reason they call. If you listen closely, you can always tell what they really want. It’s either family or people who feel guilty that they have not talked with you for a long time, and since Christmas is coming, they are thinking of gifts. And what they really want is for you to drop some hint as to what you would like them to get you for Christmas, as a gift.
Well, this year, I found the perfect gift! If there is anyone who has not purchased my gift yet, this is it!
I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas season, and remember that Christ is THE ultimate gift to which all the others point! God Bless you all this season as we remember God’s Indescribable Gift!
Take a look!
15 Nov 2012 2 Comments
I just ran across this video, and I think folks might like to see it. It’s a horse show in which two Western and English Drassage riders perform together. Very interesting! Enjoy.
Well, I just saw that this has somehow changed. Let’s try it again. Enjoy.
29 Jul 2012 1 Comment
Well, you never cease to be amazed, and you never cease to learn, if you keep you eyes open. If you live long enough, you may just learn that the things you held to be certain will sometimes prove false. Such is the case with wildlife. When you’re in school, you know it all. The professors have all the answers, and who are we to question. But, as you go into the real world, you learn that the wildlife has never read the books. They do as they please when they please, and man made limitations just don’t apply.
Take lions, for example. It’s been my conviction that lions were something you did not have to worry too much about unless you’re walking or hiking in rocky country. And even then, since cats are generally so spooky of people, they give humans a wide berth.
Last week’s horse trip made me rethink that premise a bit. I was Camping along a stream with my partner, the horses in their portable corrals. Nice night and perfect weather once the rain stopped. Thoughts turned to the morrow’s ride to above timberline to examine a trail that would be used the following week for a bighorn sheep count.
About 2:30 in the morning, I awoke to a strange sound… The horse was ‘whoofing’. Not the normal “Snort” they do when they are alarmed, and want to confront something. This was just a “Whoof Whoof.” I jumped up and turned the flashlight on her, as she ignored me and stared off into the woods. I followed his line of sight to a point about 30 feet from my tent. And, there was a full grown lion, a female from my experience, walking past the tent. Unconcerned. It stopped and looked at me as I shined the light at her, hopefully alarming her a bit, and causing some night blindness. But the cat kept walking, stopping about every five feet to examine me, unconcerned. I awoke my partner to be certain I was not hallucinating. Nope, she saw it too.
We watched it for about a minute, at very close range, as it angled up a hill behind the tent. As it went into the trees, I followed it on foot for a short ways, wondering if it might spook and run, but it never did. It just slowly kept walking, as I paced it. Into the timber it went. I went back to the tent, and watched upstream, since I knew that one of their favorite tricks is to circle something and come in from another angle to get a better look. Especially something with which they are unfamiliar. I expected it to approach from another angle, along the stream, but it did not show up again.
So, I guess one lesson is listen to your horse. The other lesson is don’t assume anything when it comes to wildlife… Oh, and sleep in your moccasins.
To what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?
“Life is a great adventure or it is nothing”
– Helen Keller
“Is there anything worse then being blind? Yes!
The most pathetic person in the whole world is
someone who has sight but has no vision.”
~ Helen Keller
If I knew the consequences of all my actions, I’d never experience any adventures!
Obstacles are those fearful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.
02 May 2012 4 Comments
Bears can be a bit strange…a different kind of animal. I’ve handled a lot of different animals from Buffalo to Mtn. Lions. Up close and personal – had both species on the end of a lariat. Even had a bear on the end of a rope. Once. Now, I am the first to admit that I can not rope. I’ve caught a few calves now and then, and a few unbroke horses from on foot in a corral. But bears are just…different.
I had a call that a bear was up a power pole at the JV Ranch, and would not come down. So, I met the neighboring officer there, and sure enough, there was the little s..t, sitting in the pole. It was an old power pole, but quite alive, electrically. Over the years, folks had apparently added on to the place with barns and other outbuildings, and had taken power from the transformer directly to the buildings. Wires went every direction. The bear had climbed up the pole and was trying to negotiate the maze of wires. Sparks would occasionally jump, and the lights in the main house would go out, then back on. Made me wonder if the bear belonged to the IBEW. Probably not…so, he had to come down. How?
Well, I told Jim- ‘why don’t you just back the truck up to the pole, I’ll get in the back, and rope it?’ As I said, normally there’s not much chance of me catching anything with a rope, but this time..sure enough, first throw! Perfect header. The bear didn’t agree. That thing looked at me, and as I tightened the rope, he came straight down the pole as fast as his feet would carry him. I pounded on the top of the truck, yelling at Jim: “Go! Go!” The bear hit the ground running, and as we started off, it came straight toward us as fast as it would run. I don’t know what he thought he was going to do.. But he was determined.
So here we go, bounding off across the pasture, the bear running full out behind the truck, and me inside holding on to the end of the rope, my dog Rodie next to me watching the whole thing with ears straight up…. I told Jim to slow down, and let the bear catch up, just to see what he would do. Worst case, I could just let go of the rope and we could leave him.
The bear went right under the truck… “WHAT?”. Rope still around his neck, he gets it hung up in the axle. Great…now what??? He’s pulling and fighting the rope, and it’s not going anywhere. The bear is only about 120 lbs- he’s sure not going to move that truck. And that’s my rope!
There’s not much to hold a rope on the head of a bear, since it’s kind of wedge shaped, and it was able to finally pull out of it. By now the dog was involved, and I told the Rodie: “Get him!” and he did. The bear decided it was better to be somewhere else .. anywhere else. He headed north with, Rodie right behind him…healing him like he was a bull.
Another time, I trapped a bear that was getting into cabins. No issues with that, but normally when you take a bear somewhere in a trap, and you open the door, they come out like a cat coming out of a washing machine. This time, when I went to release him in his new environs, the bear didn’t want to leave. Standing on top of the trap, I opened the door…. the bear’s nose came out fist, then he slowly stepped out, like he was testing the waters. I looked down and said “Hi”. He went back in. I pounded on the top, and he walked out, then looked up at me. And sat down. I fired a couple of rounds from the pistol, into the ground, and he stood up, walked around the truck in a full circle. The more I yelled at him, the less interested he was in leaving. ‘This is weird’, I thought. He made several full circles around the truck, and sat down and looked at me. Ok, time for the big guns. I called Rodie out of the truck, and told him to take the bear. He did, bear followed by barking healer, over the hill they went. I gave them a few seconds and called the dog back. From over the hill, here comes Rodie…followed by the bear hot on his heals! That was a sight for a cartoon! I jumped in the truck, gave the command “Back” to the dog, and in the back he sailed… We drove a ways, then stopped to look back. The bear had gotten up on a large downed tree trunk, sat down, and was watching us go. As if to say “Thanks for the day’s entertainment!” Or maybe he was wondering why his friends were leaving him. Looking back, I half expected to see hiim waving.
It doesn’t matter how high you are on the food chain, once you inflict pain you FAIL AS A HORSEMAN.
If a horse never fights against you, he’ll never truly fight for you.
“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
Science, Philosophy and Religion: a Symposium (1941) ch. 13
25 Apr 2012 3 Comments
Bears. Already the problems start, and it’s only April. Cant wait till July. Aggghhh. The phone started ringing tonight. Frantic and angry subdivision caretaker. Bear’s been in three cabins in 24 hours. Bears are not supposed to be problems this early in the year. Their digestive system has been shut down all winter, and when they wake up, it normally takes a few months of vegetation only diet before they start eating human type food, but this year, for some reason, things are early. That means problems are here early also.
Problem bears always make me think of a couple of notable bear incidents in which I have had the dubious honor of being involved over the past few years.
I was called to a bear problem about ten miles south of town – the bear had been raiding cabins for about a month, and was finally to the point of no return. So, I hooked up to the trap, and the normal things raced through my mind. “Ok, I need to get this set and notify nearby residences so I don’t catch a dog or a kid, by accident- or get someone hurt or worse. (They can be deadly). Need to get some bait, and run by the store and buy a pair of panty hose.” First stop was the local restaurant where my friend Shawn was working. I asked her about food scraps, and she said “sure, help yourself.” I went to the slop bucket in the kitchen and picked out the most delectable items: Half eaten pancakes, sausage, and doughnuts and a container of gravy. Should work fine. I told Shawn that I was going to get pantyhose next at the store. I put the food into the panty hose and tie it to the trigger. The bear will pull on the stocking and set the door, catching himself in the process. She said “Gee, mine are torn, why dont you just take them?” She went into the restroom, and promptly brought me out the pantyhose that she had been wearing. I said ‘Thanks”, and went to set the trap.
I set it, and did my thing with the people, then drove back toward town. I got maybe five miles down the road when the Sheriff’s Office dispatch called me on the radio, telling me I had a bear in the trap. Already? I turned around, and sure enough, I had caught the marauding mammal. I hooked onto the trailer, and while driving back to town, I passed the restaurant. “Why not”? I asked myself.
I wheeled in and told Shawn: “Shawn! (Excitedly), You would not believe what happened! I used your panty hose to set the trap, and I was not even back to the truck when down the hill came the bear at a run! I had to get out of the way! It almost bowled me over, ran headfirst into the trap, and “slam!”- the door dropped! I’ve never seen anything like it! And from inside all I heard was grunting and groaning. Shawn, can I have all your old panty hose? I ‘ll sell them to the guys around the state for bear bait!”
I guess it’s a good thing there were not many customers in the restaurant. I had to leave in a hurry anyway. I think she still blushes when I see her and we share a little smile that’s a reminder of our little secret.
Bears…. More stories to come!
“Those people who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.” – William Penn
“Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.”
— Eric Hoffer
My goal in life is to be as good of a person as my dog thinks I am.
Who could believe in evolution and hold a straight face?
14 Apr 2012 2 Comments
Barry Hill is a Game Warden in the western part of the state, and he tells some good stories. One of the best is the time he was asked to ride in a parade, in the neighboring town, called Shotgun. It was “Shotgun Days”. What does that mean? Don’t know…nobody knows. It’s just a weekend celebration that every small town has…celebrating the past, or the future….or just celebrating today, because the tourists are here, spending money. It happens every year, and part of the festivities is the parade down Main Street: Fire Department, High School band, old cars, clowns and tractors. This year, Barry dressed up in his uniform, polished the boots, and put on clean hat. He had a three year old colt that was coming along nicely, and was pretty clam, for the most part, except for a few quirks, but Barry thought he could handle the parade ok. So, Barry packed the old mule with old fish stocking cans, like you see in the movies. They are metal cans about 35 gallons in size, with a fish on the side. We use to pack fingerlings into the high country with these cans, and they look neat on the back of a mule, sticking up in the air on either side of the pack saddle. And him riding in full uniform…very original and inspiring.
But, some days it’s better to stay in bed. Barry knew he was in trouble when he got all saddled up, leading the mule on the colt, they put him in front of the band. ‘Not a good idea’, said the colt…but Barry was too proud to say anything. The horse went to dancing around, but Barry was able to keep things under control. Off they went down Main Street, waving to everybody. Quite a sight. Made the Department proud!
About half way through the parade route, the band blaring and drums banging, trumpets blaring and kids screaming, and horse a dancing… the rope from the pack mule got under the horse’s tail. This, of course, spooked the horse, who clamped down hard on it with his tail, and there was no freeing it from the saddle. The horse, not sure what was attacking him from behind, starts backing up fast. That brought the mule, tied to the other end of the rope, around to where he was facing the horse eye to eye. The horse backed up till it hit the curb, which stopped his motion. Barry spurred the horse forward. The horse took three steps, which put him face to face with the mule, and the fish cans on top banging together… ‘clang, clang, clang’. That, or course, put the fear back into the horse, who started backing again. This time, when he hit the curb behind him, he reared just a bit. Barry spurred him forward again…face to face with the mule, the fish cans and the noise, which caused him to back again, this time with a lot more energy and fear. People were getting excited, running and shouting, and a dog joined the fray by barking at the horse, which caused more fear in the animal’s eyes. The horse backed again in a fury, and this time he reared straight up. Barry said ‘I knew he was going over, so I stepped off.’ The momentum threw Barry back against the brick wall of a building. He said ‘Ya know, I watched the whole thing in slow motion… The horse went up and then back, back… And, ya know, that plate glass window must have bowed three feet before the horse fell into Dr. Sunday’s dentist’s office.’ Fall he did, cutting off his right ear on the glass. Barry went in and retrieved his horse, led him out the same way he went in, blood all over him, the horse, the carpet in the office, and everyone standing around. Barry tried to put the ear back on the horse but gave up, stuck it in his shirt pocket, and headed for the truck, horse and mule in tow, leaving a trail of blood and the barking dog.
They got to the horse trailer, which Barry had had to disconnect from the truck to fit into the parking spot. Barry tied the horse, and walked over to get the pickup, when the dog that had been harassing them for the entire time came running out from under the trailer, under the horse’s belly, and bit him in the back leg. That caused the horse to rear again, pulling back, and dislodged the trailer from it’s chocks. The trailer began to roll backwards down a gentle incline…and landed in the front grill of a Cadillac.
Barry got the pickup hooked to the trailer, horse and mule loaded, and headed for the vet’s. He left town heading east, drove about a mile, and ran out of gas.
IM not sure what he said on the radio when he called in the accident, but the report he wrote was a literary masterpiece. The one eared horse is still in use over at Shotgun, and the State paid for a remodel of a Dentist’s office. No more parades for officers, however.
29 Mar 2012 3 Comments
It seems I am getting more calls lately from folks who want to spend more time in the wilderness with their animals – horses and other pets – all with common questions regarding wildlife encounters. Predators are the most common source of concern. “What do I do if..” “If I meet a lion, or a bear? My horse spends most of his life in the arena, and he’s not use to seeing bears. What can I expect?” “We are planning a pack trip in the Rockies, and are concerned about bears and lions. What advice can you give?” My first response is: ‘Your concerns are justified, and you are wise to ask in advance’.
Bears and lions are both plentiful, as are other wild animals, and the reality is, even for horses who have encountered wildlife before, it’s will probably be a frightening experience. A person is wise to be concerned, but there are some things that you can do to minimize your exposure to danger. As always, knowledge is power. Toward that end, here are some things that you can do to minimize your exposure to danger with wildlife encounters.
1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK The first necessity to safely enjoying the out of doors with your horse, or any animal, is to understand wildlife, make some plans based upon that knowledge, and use common sense. Think things through before an incident takes place. Talk to someone who knows the area: Local wildlife agencies, the Forest service or Bureau of Land Management.
Here in the Rockies, we have a large population of both bears and lions. I spend a lot of time dealing with bear – human encounters, and My all-time record is 16 reported bear incidents in 24 hours. But that’s unusually high. Any wildlife encounter can be traumatic for both horse and rider, whether it’s a bear on the trail, or a rabbit that suddenly bolts from cover, or a large turkey suddenly flushing from behind a bush. Any of these can be the beginning of an exciting ride. And none of them can be totally anticipated or prepared for. But the more you know about wildlife, and their habits, in your area, or where you are going to be riding, and the more you prepare your horse, the more you can avoid a potentially disastrous encounter that could ruin your day.
BEARS In our area, all bears are black bears, not Browns or Grizzlies. While bears come in all colors from white to solid black, the two designations refer not to color, but to two different animals. To us, the difference is significant, but not so for the horse. While Black bears are seldom aggressive, your horse will not know that. It does not matter to him what species it is, any encounter will be a reinforcement of his innate fears of the ‘boogyman in the woods’ that his momma and all his friends told him about. Black bears are basically overgrown raccoons, interested primarily, and secondarily, with their stomachs: storing food for the upcoming winter. Early spring is a time of recovery from the winter hibernation, when their digestive system is shut down. Eating is an activity that begins slowly, with grass roots, and vegetation. As the summer progresses, they turn to anything that will fit in their mouths, the stinkier and more rotten, the better. (Some Wildlife Officers swear by the us of dirty Baby diapers in bear traps). The feeding frenzy begins in early to mid June, and from that time until the onset of hibernation, eating is the order of the day. They become more focused on that pursuit as the summer turns to fall. This is the time when they pose the most significant threat to people, but only because they are so focused on food, that they lose much of the natural fear that we humans rely upon as a safety buffer. The more often a bear encounters food in the form of garbage, dog food, bird feeders, etc., during the summer around cabins or homes, the more likely it will be to appear aggressive when encountered in the wild. As more and more people come to the mountains to build cabins and homes, the more bears learn that people equal food. And the cubs learn form their mothers, so the problems compound as time goes by.
If the bear charges, as they do at times, to try and scare away the threat, just stand your ground (you cannot outrun it). Don’t scream or yell. Speak in a soft monotone voice and wave your arms to let the animal know you are human. Pepper spray is an effective deterrent, and you should consider having some with you. But, be prepared to experience some of the affects yourself. You could get some blown back at you, but it’s just uncomfortable, and will not incapacitate you.
Bears have poor eyesight, but a well developed sense of smell. So, when you encounter a bear, it may stand on its hind legs and stick it’s nose in the air. It’s trying to get a better look at what you are, and perhaps pick up a scent to help him make up his mind if he should stay his ground, or run. This action is often mistaken for a sign of aggression. But, most of the time, if you give him a bit of time, and space, he will gladly go his own way, and avoid contact with you.. Remember that his stomach is his driving incentive, not aggression. They are not killers by nature. In fact they are naturally quite shy and fearful. A mother with cubs can be more aggressive, but not always.
LIONS Lions are much different from bears, and a little education will go a long way. You don’t normally see a lion in the wild, even where they are plentiful. They are very secretive, and deadly. Most prey animals that are taken by a lion are never given a warning that danger is imminent. Cats prefer to strike from above, leaping from a rock outcropping or ledge, landing the back of their prey. I’ve investigated a number of horse attacks, and while it is true that the cat is not always successful in killing the horse initially, the wounds can be fatal in the long term.
With lions, the general guideline is to make yourself look as large as possible to discourage the cat. Do not make eye contact, as that focuses its attention on you – something you do not want. If you are with other folks, come together in a group. Gather children with you, as well as pets. Back away- don’t panic or run. It would probably be good to make noise, which helps to discourage it.
If you encounter a dead deer, or other animal, which appears to have been partially or totally covered up with leaves, sticks, or dirt, be especially wary! A Lion will cover up a kill and return to it until it’s eaten. He’s not far away.
Also, watch for lion tracks, especially in the snow. Many times you will notice the tracks, if you are watchful, and never see the cat. A lion track looks similar to a dog track, a bit more rounded in shape, but no claw marks will be seen. Cats often travel trails and roads.
2. DONT PANIC! In any wildlife encounter, the worst thing you can do is panic. Your horse will know you are out of control, and this fuels his panic. Remain calm and focus on calming the horse. Follow the guidelines outlined above.
3. HORSE PREPARATIONS Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to desensitize your horse to a bear or lion encounter. But, you can teach your horse to look to you for guidance during a fearful encounter of any type. This can be done by the repeated use of a key word or phrase that he will recognize. You can start this at any time in the horse’s life. All it takes is a concentrated effort on your part to develop a consistent pattern. This will serve to derail his survival flight mechanism. If he is use to hearing something that he understands, from you, he will focus on that, and you will avert a runaway through the spruce trees and rocks, or worse. Combine that with a practiced turning one rein stop, and you should be able to control the horse in a panic situation. But, you must work on this every time you ride!
I’ve found that horses are uncomfortable with the smell of a bear, and I can’t blame them. If your horse gets a whiff of a bear, he is going to be agitated and scared (and maybe a bit nauseated). It’s the same fear they exhibit the first time they encounter a llama. Even a backpacker can look strange to a horse the first time he sees one, with the big hump over his head. So, this preconditioned safety technique will come in handy more times than you realize.
4. MAKING CAMP Here are a few suggestion concerning making camp, whether you are packing or camping at your vehicle.
* Keeping a clean camp will help minimize the risk of a bear encounter. First and always, keep things clean! Food can not be left in the pans or dishes. Don’t sleep with your favorite chocolate bar in your bag. Peanut butter and jelly is a no-no too. Store food away from camp. You can buy ‘bear proof’ plastic containers that do help. I have never felt totally comfortable hanging food from a tree, as it can increase the range that the smell can be detected by a bear. But, on the other hand, it’s better to have it high and out of reach, than in your panniers next to the tent. In over thirty years, often packing and camping alone, I can honestly say that I have never had a bear-in-camp encounter. Yes, there have been nights when the horses are especially agitated and that certainly could have been bear induced, but it’s never been more of an issue than that. The secret? Keep the camp CLEAN!
* Keep a flashlight handy, and sleep in moccasins. You will probably need to check on the horses several times during the night, and if there is a wreck, it’s much better to have those on your feet than to go dancing around in the dark, barefoot. I always have a pistol handy, but have never really needed it. More for my own peace of mind than anything else. As a Colorado Law Enforcement officer, I would strongly suggest that if you carry a gun, at the very least complete a Hunter Education or other Gun Safety course. Again, training , preparation, and education.
* I have used many different setups for keeping a horse over night, from tying him directly to a tree, using a one-legged hobble, turning them loose with a two legged hobbles, using a high line, and using a portable corral. The worst arrangement is tying them directly to a tree. I’ve used that more than any other method, but now it’s a last resort. Many horses will not stand still all night, but will paw and complain and keep you awake. A high line works better, but it’s not foolproof, and a horse can still get into problems, or spend the night pawing and complaining. I’ve had them roll and get tangled up in the rope. From my experience, the portable electric corral with a D-Cell battery operated power supply, is the way to go. Your horse will spend the night eating, and in the morning will be ready to go, not concentrating on filling his belly. He will stand quietly all night, and you will sleep soundly.
* One note of caution: get a book, and learn to identify noxious weeds. Nothing would be worse than putting a corral up in a field of loco.
I hope this information helps you in your enjoyment of the wilderness by horseback, whether it’s a one dayer, or a two week pack trip. It’s just a matter of a little knowledge, preparation and common sense. As the man said, “Keep your left leg on the left side, your right leg on the right side, and your mind in the middle.”
Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.
“Those people who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.” – William Penn
09 Feb 2012 4 Comments
Another incident that has made the annals of Game Warden history is the night two officers were working in a sedan. IT was just a law enforcement patrol car – one of the late 70’s classic boats. They were watching for spotlights and sure enough, a pickup truck accommodated them. They blacked out, and pulled in behind the truck as it drove slowly along forest roads. The going got a bit hard on the car, but they were undaunted. Being Game Wardens and all, what’s a few rocks.
The road would up higher and higher, and got rougher and rougher, until the car was bottoming out on rocks. SO, John Horvat, an absolute monster of a man, who was sitting shotgun in the car, grabbed his 870 pump shotgun and exited the car, leaving Sly Conaker in the car. John walked along behind the truck for a while until it came to a creek crossing. When the truck bounced over large rocks in the creekbed, John hopped onto the bumper, and then into the bed of the truck. The two men in the cab continued looking for deer. This went on for about a mile, when, sure enough, the spotlight lit up a nice buck in the timber. The rifle came out of the passenger window, and the deer dropped with one shot.
The two men jumped out of the cab, and ran over to the deer, talking and laughing. One more shot finished it off, as the muzzle blast lit up the forest. The men each grabbed a back leg, and the ran back toward the truck, dragging the deer, mumbling something about getting out of there in a hurry, before the Game Warden has time to get a call and respond . They pulled the deer around the back of the vehicle, and dropped the tailgate, about the same time that Big John chambered a round in the shotgun. If you have ever heard a 12 gauge shell being chambered into an 870, it is a commanding and ominous sound that one never quite forgets. It has a way of causing the most hardened of men to say ‘yes sir’. .
The two men looked up into the business end of the 12 gauge, as John said “Good Shot, men.”
“Athenasius, the world is against you!” “Then beware, for it’s Athenasius against the WORLD!”
Courage is fear prayed for.
02 Feb 2012 2 Comments
As Im thinking about Spotlighting incidents that have happened to me, or other officers around me, a few stand out in my mind. Most are humorous and a bit frightening. When working at night, most times alone, it behooves one to remember that you are dealing with people who have loaded weapons, who often have had a few beers or worse, and who are seldom alone. The element of surprise is always to be reserved for the officer, but safety is paramount. Espeically since you know your closest backup is maybe hours away, if they can find you at all.
I recall that the adjoining officer, Carey Crawdad (not his real name….did you guess?) was working a problem area: a pasture on the edge of a river bottom, which was a favorite for whitetail deer poachers. The kids from town would have a few beers, and go out to see if they could shoot something.
This night, Carey was working alone, watching the area. This was a secluded place, it was very early morning, and nothing had moved all night. He was ready to call it quits, when a truck appeared, moving along without lights, and sure enough, the occupants pulled up on a rise, shut off the engine, and started shining the fields. Carey knew that if he drove toward them, he would be seen. He was parked in a safe place, not far from the suspect vehicle, but what to do? He got out of his vehicle, and walked over to the truck, and stood behind it, to one side, hoping that the shooter would not swing the light in his direction.
The occupants were drinking their six-pack of Coors, with guns and spotlight in hand, in the dark, watching the river bottom for deer, or any other hapless creature that might venture out into killing range. Carey was contemplating what to do next, when suddenly the spotlight caught a set of eyes. A large Whitetail buck emerged from the willows, and was lit up by the lights. All eyes in the dark pickup were fixed on the deer. The window of the passenger side came down, and a rifle came out the open window. Carey thought to himself. “I’m just not going to let them shoot that deer.” So he reached out and grabbed the rifle from outside the vehicle, and yanked it out of the shooters hand! The screams of terror sounded through the valley.
The story is still circulated in the bars and sporting goods stores in that town. Carey arrested the drunk shooters, and the deer bounded off unharmed.
“Actually officer, if you factor in the earth’s rotation, we were all speeding.”
27 Jan 2012 3 Comments
I use my horses daily as part of my job. That can be great, and at times, it can be a challenge. For all of us: me, the horse, and the public. Sometimes people don’t know what to expect…and neither do I.
KC is a little paint mare who loves to work- she just loves to go..anywhere, any time. “Just point me, dad!” And she is so gorgeous that people just love to see us coming… Most people. Most people want a picture, and kids always say “Can I pet her?”
We were on the South Platte River contacting fishermen on a stretch of river that is prime trout fishing. It’s all fly and lure only, catch and release water, which means that the fish can only be caught with a fly or a lure, not with bait. And, all fish must be returned to the water alive, unharmed, and immediately. That means that the water is normally teeming with trout, and the grow big there. The “Fly and Lure Only”, “Catch and Release” regulations mean that only a certain type of fisherman frequent the area. Actually, two types. First there is the illegal type, who come to take advantage of the fishing, and go home with a large, illegally taken fish. But most are legal types, who enjoy catching a lot of fish, and releasing them unharmed. It’s not uncommon to hear of fishermen catching 100 large rainbows in a day.
This is a really nice ride, the river meanders through sandy soil, great for riding, and the bugs are not too bad up until about July. A leisurely 2-3 hour ride, good for everyone involved. Most of the time.
Last summer we picked a nice warm day to take the ride, and sure enough, the parking area was filled with Lexus’s, BMW’s, and even a Hummer. The folks who go in for this type of fishing, the self-proclaimed “Elite” fishing crowd, can afford the best. That includes fishing gear. I think some of these folks wear gear that’s worth more the all the vehicles I own. The fly rods alone sometimes go for more than $1000.00 Nice stuff, but I wouldn’t know the difference, personally. They all look the same to me. How do they look to a horse? KC knew, I guess.
As we completed our ride, we saw a couple of fishermen whom we had missed, heading back to their Porsche SUV in the lot, and they had walked through the gate as we approached. I rode KC to the fence, and they walked over and said hi, and ask me how old “he” is, meaning the mare. Sometimes I think KC understands and is actually offended at being called a ‘he’. Especially when I correct the gent, and he just shrugs it off like it’s not worth acknowledging. That really offends KC.
The guy was bragging about his fishing success, and the quality of his equipment, his skill, his vehicle, and anything else he could think of, as fishermen are known to do, thnking he was impressing the Game Warden. I was not impressed. Neither was KC. It got a bit old, in fact, since I hear the same story about 10,000 times a summer, and since I don’t partake of the sport, at least not at that level, I can only yawn with boredom, and wonder if maybe that is all some folks live for. KC is getting agitated at all this and the guy keeps waving his $1200 fishing rod in front of her nose. I ask him to please don’t let it hit the horse. He shrugs me off with arrogance, and keeps on talking and bragging. The rod keeps waving around the horse’s nose. I checked his license and get ready to hand it back to him, when KC just reaches down, and opens her mouth and bites the rod in two! Just like it was a piece of grass. Then chomps. And Chomps. And spits it out. The guy just stares at me, and then at the horse. What do you say at a time like that????
Me, I just said “have a nice day.” Did a rollback on the hindquarters, and trotted away.
“The whole thing is pretty funny if you pretend you don’t work for the outfit”
Sign on my office door:
“I can please only one person per day.
Today is not your day.
Tomorrow isn’t looking good either”
26 Jan 2012 Leave a comment
Howdy, and Welcome to “The View From Between his ears”
Well, I’ve been encouraged by my best friend, to begin to write a BLOG. Truth is, I’m not exactly sure what a BLOG is, but it sound like something I would not want to step into, on my way to a nice dinner at a friend’s place. Actually, I think I’ve had a horse step in one once…he’s still a bit shy of those things. But, if I can find enough time to sit down and write, I would like to share some of my experiences serving as a Wildlife Officer (Game Warden) in the Colorado Rockies. I would like to write about some of my horse experiences….not because I’m such a great horseman. I’m not. In fact I know a few men and one exceptional woman, who are much better horsemen than I will ever be.
But I have learned, in my 25 years of breaking colts and training horses, that every time you stick a boot in the stirrup, you learn something. Or you should. Because I guarantee you that the horse does learn something. Each and every time. And, riding in the Rockies is an experience in itself. Breaking and training horses, packing and working the back country, is about the greatest life that a person can experience, and I am blessed beyond measure in what the Lord has allowed me to experience.
And since I have, for a brief, fleeting and terrifying time, been shackled to a desk, in the pretext of earning a ‘living’, I empathize with those who find themselves in that lot, and dream of a different life….outdoors and wild. So, with those kindred brothers and sisters in mind, I would like to share some of my experiences.
I will not use my own name, or the names of those who are referred to here, to protect the innocent. However, please know that everything I write about here is true and accurate to the best of my ability and recollection. Remember, being a cowboy is a matter of attitude, not surroundings. These short vignettes will not be restricted to horses, nor horse related events, but I would like to recount many events that have happened in the past few years, mostly associated with my tenure as a law enforcement officer in the back country and wilderness of the Colorado Rockies. Please be patient as I learn about this BLOG stuff….and if you want to comment or add to, or criticize please feel free. If you drop by here, write a note and say “howdy”. Perhaps the most valuable contribution I can make to your lives is not my stories, but the quotes and comments that I have collected, and love, from others.
“Are you all alone?” asked the man as I rode in the dark past his cabin in the snow.
“Are you all alone?” asked the stars. Are you all alone?” echoed the hills. If a man is all alone in this miraculous world, then a neighbor is no help.
– Renne Russell
26 Jan 2012 4 Comments
SPOTLIGHTING, PART 1
Working Spotlighters is always exciting…between long hours of extreme boredom, that is. It’s normally a matter of sitting for hours …………. waiting for a light to go flashing by, coming from someone’s spotlight. Many nights it never happens. Those are the nights you try to forget. It’s hard to keep your mind from playing tricks on you – making you see things that are not there. They say that law enforcement is 99% boredom, interspersed with 1% sheer terror. If that’s true, then this type of law enforcement is more so.
Of course, it’s always better if you have some help: either another officer spotting for you from some high point, or a plane watching from the air. But, most night’s you are alone. You and the dog.
And, once in a while, you actually see one! A light goes flashing through the meadow, or trees. You sit up straight, Eyes wide! Wow. You know that behind that light is a truck with men with guns, loaded and ready for green or blue eyes to be seen in the light. Then the gun comes out the window, and bang! From that point, you have maybe two minutes to close in, make the stop and secure the scene, and make an arrest. Without getting shot in the process.
Once a light is located, all your senses come alive, and any thought of drifting off to la-la-land is gone. You reach to your hip to your pistol which you knew was there, and your hand then slides over to the trusty 870 pump 12 gauge in the rack! What a comforting feeling that is. My weapon of choice – 12 gauge slug! Nothing better then hearing the sound of a shell being racked into the chamber of an 870 to make a hesitant or rebellious soul stand to attention, say ‘sir’, and drop his weapon. Nothing more commanding or ominous.
Sometimes it’s hard to find the source of the light – since you first see where the beam lands. But soon it appears. You start the truck, call dispatch to let them know what’s going on, just in case. Hit the cutouts… Every game warden worth his salt has cutouts on the tail lights, for ‘silent running’: driving without lights, in order to not be seen. The cutouts kill the tail lights, so you can drive without lights, and the brake lights do not give you away. It’s fun to fall in behind a vehicle that’s driving along, spotlighting, and follow it from 25 feet, for miles sometimes, and know that you are not being seen. Sometimes, you’re so close that if they hit their brake lights, it reflects off your front bumper, and they might see that. I’ve known officers who cover their bumper and all the chrome on the front of their trucks with flat black paint…that’s why.
Fun stories abound at training classes, while talking with other guys and gals over a beer. “Did you hear about the time when two Officers were working a valley, both blacked out, and they ran into each other, head on?” True. Try expalining that one to the boss. Or the time Officer Johnson was stopped by a trooper….who just happened to be cruising along an elevated highway, late at night, and looked down to see his patrol car being paralleled by a cloud of dust…no vehicle – just a cloud of dust moving along next to him. I think dispatch still plays that tape at their training classes.
The excitmenet begins when you hit the lights and siren…or make the stop in some other way, like on foot. I’ll talk about that in the next post.
So, with that background, I will relate a couple of stories about spotlighting incidents in which I, or a close officer, was involved. Stay tuned for more….
Give God the reins and you’ll always be on the correct lead
Vegetarian” is the Indian word for “Bad Hunter”
22 Jan 2012 1 Comment
09 Jan 2012 2 Comments
08 Jan 2012 2 Comments
Working a check station, checking deer and elk hunters. We stopped a Blazer with two deer in the back behind the rear set. We were talking with the hunters, when I walked over and opened the body cavity of the field dressed bottom deer. Stuffed inside was a goose! I looked at the hunter who jumped back and said “Why, that goose-eating son of a bitch!”
I was working, as a trainee, with an officer in another part of the state, when we contacted a jeep load of hunters from Texas. They had killed an elk, and had it boned out, with only the meat in plastic bags. In our state, hunters must keep evidence of sex on the carcass, to insure that they kill the right sex animal. It’s common for someone to try and sneak out with a an illegal animal with no evidence of sex. That is a violation in itself but it’s much more serious if you can prove that it is the wrong sex, and thus have an illegal animal. In this case, the hunters had a bull tag on the meat. No evidence of sex = violation #1.
Violation #2: The officer with which I was working picked up the bag of meat, looking at the hunter. He felt it through the bag, then he opened it, and sniffed it, Staring at the hunter. He felt the texture…his stare intensifying. The hunter squirmed a bit. The officer took a pinch of meat, sniffed it, then put it in his mouth….and blurted: “You killed a cow!” The hunter bowed his head, and said “You’re right. I give up. I’ll go quietly.”
Word came from an anonymous caller that George had killed a deer the previous night.. On the way home, Officer Kyler saw George’s pickup parked in front of the local pub. In uniform, Kyler walked into the bar, and sat down next to George at the bar, and ordered coffee. He sat sipping the coffee, and turned to George, and said: “So George, I’ve been out all day counting my deer. I am short one. Any idea where I might find it?”
George: ‘Ok, ya, It’s in my garage”.
Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. Neh 9:5-6
08 Jan 2012 2 Comments
I know the handcuffs are tight. They are new. If you wear them for a while, they will loosen up.
Ok, run if you want to. You’ll just go to jail tired.
Have you ever thought of taking up golf?
New Mexico. You need to go to new Mexico. They have great fishing there.
Q “Does that dog work for the Division of Wildlife?”
A “Only on command.”
Q “When did they let you guys carry guns?”
A “In 1895, when the agency was formed.”
Q “Where are all the fish?” A “I’d get close to the water.”
Q From an ATV Rider: “There are no elk around here! Where are all the elk? I’ve been riding for 8 hours and have not seen a thing!”
A “Well sir, the hunters are not having any problems.”