Nice buck… a Large Forked Horn

“Nice buck… a large forked horn… he’s beginning the rut too… look at his neck… run little doe.”

We were watching a video we captured of Columbia Blacktail deer… buck and doe… a daytime video of the buck… unusual behavior for him…  not unusual for a doe, but the bucks prefer to hide during the day and feed at night.

The deer apparently noticed the camera… they looked directly at the camera several times.

Having recently purchased a Browning Trail Camera, the Dark Ops Pro XD, I am learning the technique of capturing wildlife videos. Browning claims this camera is “invisible” but judging from the reactions of the animals I have photographed they seem to be very aware of the camera.

The doe triggered the camera… she was on the move when the camera began recording… The doe may be escaping the attention of the buck rather than the camera, but the buck looked directly at the camera immediately and seemed nervous the entire video, glancing in the direction of the camera. I suspect both deer are aware of the camera.

The breeding season (referred to as “the rut”) for this species has just begun, evidenced by the swelling of the neck on the buck. Usually, the bucks “get stupid” during the rut, throwing caution to the winds… but this one is clearly distracted by the camera, whether it is noise or light I have not yet determined.

Look at the YouTube video of the Columbian Blacktail doe and buck and judge for yourself.

story and video ByLarry

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That’s not Shinola!

That’s not shinola

“I see a pile of scat! The bear has been here!  Let’s check it out.”

My friend has a small orchard containing apple trees, pear trees and one Italian plum tree… ripe plums were falling to the ground… some people call the fruit prunes but technically prunes are dried plums… sure enough, the bear left a calling card.

“I’ll set up my trail camera and see if we can capture a video of Mr. Bear.”

I had recently purchased a Browning trail camera… a Dark Ops Pro XD… for just such an occasion… we set it to focus on the ground under the plum tree. The camera would see anything that approached that plum tree, day or night. We installed the camera about 20 feet from the tree.

Ursus americanus Black Bear (infra red photo)

The bear came back that night. The camera captured a decent infra-red video… not the same quality as a daylight illuminated shot but we were thrilled with the result.

In a week we had 62 incursions… including black-tailed deer, coyotes, a lonely skunk, two possums and some robins… plus some passing vehicles. (For those of you planning to use the trail camera for security purposes, night time videos do not allow for reading license plate numbers… the plates reflect too much infra-red light, so the numbers are lost in the glare.  A special camera … expensive… is needed.)

When all the plums had been eaten, a matter of a couple days, we decided to move the camera to the apple trees which were still loaded with apples that were beginning to drop to the ground.

We captured 563 videos in five days and then the camera’s batteries went dead. Unfortunately, the wind was causing tall grass and limbs to move about enough to trigger the camera. Five of the videos contained animals (deer) and those were captured at night… the daytime videos contained movement of wind-blown grass.

The results were disappointing. We needed a strategy that allowed changing the camera sensitivity to motion. Unfortunately Browning believes the motion sensitivity is optimized and doesn’t need adjusting so no control is made available. Options are: various combinations of time-lapse control or set the camera to function only at night when infra-red triggering is more reliable.  

The perfect combination of daylight time-lapse and night time video is not currently available.

Check out the video on YouTube.

story and photos byLarry

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Stop… Stop… Stop… We are going to Roll Over


Blazer in the ditch Collawash Road 63

“Stop… Stop… Stop… we are going to roll over!”

My son Chris and I were exploring Mount Hood National Forest (MHNF) roads in Clackamas County. We were headed toward Estacada, planning to follow the Collawash River Road (MHNF 63) down to the Clackamas River Road (MHNF 46) when we came upon two small trees that had fallen across the road.

MHNF roads are maintained mostly by users. Winter snow results in heavy loads on trees and fallen trees are common.  Normally I carry an axe and a chainsaw in my Chevy 4WD Blazer when I’m traversing back country. But this trip was the result of a change of plans after we departed home, so the axe and chainsaw didn’t make the trip. Our satellite phone didn’t make the trip either. No one else knew of our change in plans.

When we came to the tree trunks blocking the road, we had to decide… backtrack about 80 miles or jump the tree trunks.

“Not a problem… I’ve jumped bigger tree trunks than that… we have a high clearance 4WD…  What can go wrong?… If we find bigger trees across the road we can come back this way.”

The Blazer easily cleared the tree trunks and we continued our way.

Barricade on Collawash River Road

A few more miles down the road we came upon an insurmountable problem.

Washout blocked the Collawash road

The road had washed out and there was no bypassing the barricade. We were forced to retreat the way we came.

We once again encountered the downed tree trunks. This time headed uphill.

While attempting to jump the tree trunks a wheel got caught up with a trunk and we ended up in soft roadside gravel which gave way. An attempt to back up made the problem worse and resulted in my son yelling at me to stop because the front end of the Blazer was heading sideways and threatening to roll us over into the canyon.

Blazer off road Collawash

“We’re hopelessly stuck. We’re not likely to see another vehicle. Our cell phones won’t reach out. It will be dark soon. We might as well start walking.”

So, we began to walk… hoping when we got to the 46 road down the Clackamas River we might catch a ride to Estacada some 40 miles distant where cell phone communications could be established. My home near Gresham was another 15 miles where my Dodge diesel 4WD pickup was located and I could retrieve the proper tools to extract the Blazer from its dilemma.

Fortunately for us a family was camping near Bagby Hot Springs and decided to return to their home that evening. We were about four miles down the 63 road when they found us walking toward Estacada.

They stopped and gave us a ride. We were rescued. They took us to our home near Gresham. All our lucky stars were in alignment.

The next day my son and I returned to the Collawash River with the Dodge 4WD… with ax and chainsaw… with tow cables… with a satellite phone… (in case we got the Dodge stuck too).

We extracted the Blazer from its precarious perch and took the long way home.

We vowed never to leave home again without an ax or chainsaw in our rig.

Story and photos byLarry

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What Does That Mean


signs at Cochran Pond

“What does that mean?” said Ralph.  

Ralph Anderson, the big tree guy, and I were exploring the site of the historic logging and railroad community of Cochran in Tillamook County, Oregon. The road we were following crossed railroad tracks belonging to the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad near Cochran Pond and we were confronted by “No Trespassing” signs, one each side of the road.

 “What is confusing you? The ‘No Trespassing’ sign appears to be in proper form.”

 “I’m not sure about ‘Violators will be prosecuted.’ Any defense lawyer would say, ‘It depends.’ There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip.”

“Maybe the sign is for insurance purposes… you have been warned the tracks have been damaged and are unsafe. The risk is on the one who trespasses.”

“It depends.”

“You might have to tell your story to a judge. I’m more concerned about the Salmonberry Trail sign… the use of ‘intergovernmental agency’ seems pretentious and misleading,” I said. “The United Nations is an example of an intergovernmental agency. Maybe they meant ‘intragovernmental agency’ instead.”

“I think the sign means they are looking for donations to improve the trail.”

“No doubt. Before I give any donation I always check credentials.  I look at their IRS Form 990 and see how they spend the donations they receive. I’ll check out their registration documents too.”

At home, a few days later, I called Ralph to report on the results of an online search:

“Ralph, after a frustrating search of online resources, I have yet to turn up the documents I’m looking for. The Salmonberry Trail Intergovernmental Agency is more convoluted than a bowl of spaghetti. The web page for is very professional… promises tax deductible status for donations… but doesn’t lead me to any of the documents required by the State Oregon. I am suspicious. I won’t be donating any money soon.”

Story and photo byLarry

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Head for the Hills

old growth logs at Douty Pond

“Ralph, I found a photograph of an old mill pond full of old growth logs… the logs look huge…  I think I found the location on Google Earth… it still exists… let’s go see if we can find it.”

Ralph Anderson is a big tree guy… he spent his working lifetime as a carpenter and has a love for anything to do with trees… especially the biggest trees of any species… he has traveled the world looking at big trees. I knew he would be interested in this old mill pond, now drained, containing old growth Douglas fir logs… perhaps a chance to verify the size of some of those trees.

We agreed to meet the next morning at six A.M. and head for the hills… the summit of the coast range… the historic logging town of Cochran… hopefully the Douty mill pond.

Our search for the Douty mill pond took us first to the town of Timber in Washington County. From Timber we followed NW Cochran road into Tillamook County…  up to the summit of the Coast range.

Road Closure to Cochran

Near the summit we found a man walking along the road… we stopped to talk… let’s call him “Steve”… Steve informed us he was about to close the road… he was digging drains… placing culverts… and the road would be impassable until he was finished with his work. What a revolting development that was.

Fortunately, we had arrived just minutes before the road closed in front of us. The question was if we continued forward could we leave?

Steve explained that other logging roads provided an exit, if we knew our way around… then he mentioned Cochran road would be closed for about three hours if we could wait that long.

We could… our project might take most of the day… so we elected to continue our search for the Douty mill pond… we continued forward… the road closed behind us.

I had found a likely location for the pond on Google Earth… and had a hiker’s vague description… but we didn’t find the pond at any of our best guesses. The terrain was too rugged for random exploration.

We were ready to admit defeat… leave… when a pickup came up the road from the direction of the closure… the road was still closed…  the driver stopped…  we chatted about what we were doing.

He lived nearby… he was an elk hunter… he knew about the mill pond… he could lead us to it… we accepted his offer.

We had been within an eighth of a mile from the pond and missed it. With our new-found friend as a guide… he knew exactly where to stop… he pointed out access to the trail… and we were on our way to a successful conclusion for our field trip. Voila. Unbelievable serendipity.

Ralph Anderson at Douty Pond

The logs were not nearly as big as they looked in the photo… we had guessed at seven to eight feet in diameter but in reality… the logs turned out to measure three to four feet.

We weren’t disappointed… we had a day filled with adventure… serendipity… met interesting people… successful conclusion… had a good time… willing to return.

Story and photos byLarry

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