Friday, May 20, 2011

Wildfire - Part 2

Now for the results of the fire.  Here are some panoramic pictures from a the highest vantage point I have on my place. Pretty much the only thing that didn't burn was bare dirt. The road and some long narrow food plots that I planted last October but they never grew because it didn't rain.

This picture is a little over 180 degrees of panorama. It starts off looking north and then pans around to the southeast.  Just click on the image to see it full size.
This picture starts off looking northeast and ends up looking southwest.
Last panoramic picture. This one starts off looking southwest and ends up looking due north of a complete 360 for all the pictures combined.
The area looking north was the thickest nastiest stuff on my property and you can see from the ashes that there was plenty of fuel to burn there. That area took the brunt of hottest fire. There were actually a few stumps still burning today when I was down there checking on things. The rest of the place didn't exactly come out unscathed, but some of the trees look like they just might have a chance.

Now for some close up pictures of the damage.  Our travel trailer is toast.
The blind on the hill made it.
Protein feeder made it.
Grain drill is going to take some repairing.
Some of the stumps were still on fire when I was down there today.
My biggest and oldest mesquite burned from the inside out.
I took a timed shot with the camera to try to give some perspective on how big it was.
Another big mesquite gone.
Lost another smaller blind that I had in a different spot.
Maybe you can see it in this closeup?
My tripod stand made it but the big mesquite behind it didn't.
Here's what it looked like when I first put it up.
Not much left of my south fence line. Wooden posts don't hold up very well to fire.
The crazy thing is that the brush seems to have just completely burned up with no trace left behind. This area had lots of brush mixed in with the grass and it is completely wiped clean.
Not just a pass on by type of fire.
I only found 2 dead animals walking the place. A cottontail rabbit and this bird. Craziest looking bird I've ever seen. Several folks have identified it as a Painted Bunting. Too bad it is dead, it was a beautiful bird!
And this picture just shows the worst of the fire. The tree in the front center of the picture still has green leaves for now, but it completely burned up at the base and then fell over.
That is not a small tree by any means either, just a couple trees up from it is the large mesquite that I was sitting on in one of the timed pictures. The tree laying on it's side was at least 30 feet tall and I wouldn't be able to reach my arms around the trunk of it.

I'll try to get some before and after pictures posted as well. I will be documenting the progression for the next several years as well. The big trees can't be replaced in my lifetime, but with a clean slate hopefully the habitat can even better than it was before the fire.

That's it for now.  Nathan

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wildfire on my hunting land - Part 1

Well, our hunting property burned up last week, but I'm just now getting around to posting in on the blog.  I was actually down there the Saturday before it burned up and that was when I shot the pig in the last post.  The fire occurred the very next day.  According to the newspapers the cause of the fire is thought to be lightning, but they haven't completely confirmed that yet.  The fire burned a total of 8,500 acres so I was by no means the only one affected.  No permanent homes were lost, but a lot of damage was done.

At least I got some neat pictures.  I had 5 trail cameras out when the fire hit and ended up with pictures of the fire on 3 of them. 2 of the cameras are going to be okay, 1 might make it and 2 are toast.  I didn't have the time on the cameras syncronized, so I can't really tell how long it took to go from one setup to the other, but you can see by the time stamps on the pictures that it was moving pretty fast.

Here's the camera that got hit first. Picture quality isn't very good, I'm guessing it was struggling with the smoke. You can see the leading edge of the fire toward the top of the picture.
50 seconds later and the fire has moved a bunch. The flames weren't even in view on the left side of the picture on the first one and they are pretty close on this one.
Just 3 seconds between these two pictures and the fire noticeablely advanced.
4 more seconds and it is back burning pretty intensely. I mowed a path in front of this camera and that slowed down the advance quite a bit when it hit the shorter grass, but it didn't stop it because the straps burned off the camera and it ended up on the ground. It might be salvageable.
Next camera. This one is setup on my protein feeder which somehow didn't end up burning up. This one doesn't have seconds on the time stamp so you can't really tell exactly how long elapses between each picture. These pictures do give a pretty good feel for the intensity of the fire.  Notice all the ash in the air in the first picture.
You can even see flames coming in front of the lens on this shot. This camera was pretty melted and I'm pretty sure it is toast but the SD card seems to still be fine.
The brush is burning pretty intensely in this shot.
Just 2 minutes on the time stamp from the first picture and the fire is already moving on with pretty much everything burned up. You can see that the plastic housing on the camera has melted and is covering up some of the lens.
This camera is setup on one of my spin feeders. In the first shot no actual flames are evident. Lots of smoke though.
37 seconds later and there are now plenty of flames.
32 seconds after that and things are pretty well engulfed.  This is just one minute and 9 seconds from the first picture when you couldn't even see the flames.
37 seconds later.
Less than 2 minutes later and the fire appears to be already out. Notice the temperature recorded on the bottom right of the screen, 128 degrees!
A few minutes later though and if you zoom in you can see that the fire isn't out, it's burning in the crack of the big mesquite tree.
The fire would burn in the crack of mesquite trees and over the next several hours burn the heart of the tree completely up and even down into the roots. The tree in that last picture ended up burning completely to the ground at the stump.

Here's an example of another tree that suffered the same fate.
Pretty amazing to have the fire documented with the trail cameras.  The damage to my property was pretty severe with nearly all of my largest mesquite trees destroyed and my travel trailer and a few other items burned up as well.  I'll post the details of the damage on another post.

That's it for now, Nathan.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Turkey hunting = pork?

I made a quick run down to the land Saturday afternoon and was hoping to find some Turkeys, but after spending the afternoon without hearing a gobble, I hung the shotgun up and grabbed the Rock River Arms AR-15.

I was afraid that the pigs would have skipped town for the summer since my pond was dry, but I figured I might as well sit for a couple hours and see what showed up. I saw lots of deer, at one time I could see 8 all at the same time in 3 different groups. The bucks are starting to grow antlers, they had nubs a couple inches long or so.

Solo boar came in to one of my feeders and the RRA put him down.

Amazing that a tiny little piece of lead can smoke such a big animal if you put it in the right spot. I didn't put him on the scale, but I'm guessing him right around 200lbs, maybe a little more. He had really good cutters for his size, and they were both intact (sometimes the bigger boars end up with a broken cutter).

Took some work since I was by myself, but I got him on the tailgate so I didn't have to bend over quartering him up. A LOT easier on the back. He looks a lot bigger on the tailgate.

Quartered him up and was home for Mother's day! He's on ice now and I'll probably turn him into pulled pork this week. I need to buy a bigger smoker! Need to do an inventory on my sausage before I turn him all into pulled pork though.

That makes pig #4 off my 160 acres so far for 2011. My friends from Wyoming came down and shot 2 back in March. They actually shot more than 2 but that's all we recovered. Pigs vitals are so much farther forward that a lot of deer and elk hunters shoot them too far back and they can run forever and don't bleed much at all if you shoot them too far back.

With it being so dry, the conditions were perfect for finding old sheds. The grass has withered up and is flat as a pancake compared to normal. Didn't find any from this year, but found 4 old ones. I would prefer rain over finding these old sheds, but they were a nice bonus.

The Northern Rockies are still dealing the affects of record snowfall this winter, and the Midwest is having record 100 year flooding this spring, but it hasn't really rained here in over 6 months.

Here's what the pond down at the land looked like Saturday!

And here's what it should look like in the spring. This picture was taken on May 5th, 2007.

We don't normally get a lot of rain, but here's our total precipitation for the last 7 months.

0.01 0.00 0.04 0.35 0.20 0.00 0.09 = .69 inches!

Did see one hen turkey, and she showed me that the neighbors pond isn't dry yet since she headed that way and came back with muddy feet, but we sure need some rain!

Oh well, thought I would share my Saturday.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Weekend in Vegas!

Okay, I'm back to being behind on posting again already! I'm finally getting around to post on our weekend trip to Las Vegas from 2 weeks ago.

Getting in shape seems to be a constant battle for me. I like to eat, and I like to sit around and be lazy so those two things don't really correlate to being in tip top shape without making some effort. Top that off with the fact that I sit behind a desk for my job, and being in shape is something that I really have to make a constant effort at.

I'm starting to jog again after a layoff during my busy season at work, and have been using a program on my iPhone called Runkeeper. It is a pretty neat little program that tracks your distance, time, average pace, etc. and then gives you a nice little graph at the end of each workout. I'm jogging a little over 2 miles each time I get out and my average pace is just over 10 minutes right now. Not great, but I hope to push the distance up to at least 6 miles and am actually flirting with the idea of running a 1/2 marathon sometime late summer early fall. Not sure if I'm going to make that or not though.

Anyway, a few weeks ago Cathy and I went to Las Vegas, Nevada to celebrate the end of my busy season and our birthdays. One thing we love to do when we go out there is hike in the Red Rock Canyon recreation area. I was hoping to talk her into going a little farther out of her comfort zone and try some shed hunting in the mountains farther north, but still a close drive from Las Vegas but I didn't get it done. We did break out of our standard routine at Red Rock though and went on a nice loop hike that ended up being just over 7 miles.

We hiked up to Laguna Springs which is supposed to be your best chance of seeing some wildlife, including desert bighorn sheep, but all we saw were lizards.

Here's a picture of the springs.
Usually we stick to the most popular area which is right at the front, but this time we made a loop around a huge outcropping of rock. Pretty much a little mountain sitting off by itself.

Here's the back side as we made our way around it to the north.
Another picture looking back the way we came up.
Here's a picture of the mountain itself. I thought about going over the top while Cathy hiked around the base, but we ended up hiking around the base together.
Last picture. This is as we were leaving and looked back and you can clearly see the mountain sitting out all by itself. It really was a neat hike.
Here's a screen shot from the runkeeper program. There are several other screens that show your pace, elevation, etc., but I thought this was a neat representation of the loop.
The only problem is that it burns through batteries and it would be tough to leave it running all day. It took us just over 3 hours to do the 7 miles and I was down to less than 10% battery when I got back. The area we were hiking didn't have cell coverage so that probably burned the battery a little faster looking for coverage the whole time, but I'm not sure if I can turn the phone part off and keep the runkeeper program running or not. I may just have to keep my workouts to under 3 hours!

Oh well, not exactly what most people do on a weekend in Vegas, but we had a great time.

That's it for now, Nathan