Monday, November 9, 2015

Sugarloaf Mountain Scout

No water in Cave Creek
 With archery deer season a month away I've been itching to get outside for some scouting. I returned to the spot in Tonto where I put a stalk on a large mule deer buck last season. There's so many places here that I want to explore, and Sugarloaf Mountain has been on the top of the list. This time of year the desert is so nice. The heat is a shadow of its summer self. This area is a favorite of mine, partly because of its location to my house, but also because Cave Creek provides a reliable source of water in the desert, which is a rarity. So, I was shocked when I reached the creek and found it bone dry. The usual clear flowing water replaced with a bed of sand and dry cracked mud. I've been here over 20 times in the last 3 years, and I've never seen it dry. 

Coyote or lion?
 The dry creek bed offered me a rare chance to experience the area's wildlife in a whole new way. I saw dozens of tracks dried in the mud as I abandoned the trail and walked north in the creek as it wound further into the mountains. I spotted plenty of bird and rodent tracks, but no deer. I also saw what I originally took to be lion tracks, I was sure they were lion as I followed them along the bed, but after I got home and studied the photos I now believe they belong to a large coyote.

Garter Snake
I slowed down as I reached the approach to Sugarloaf where I saw the buck last season. It's hard to be quiet in the desert, and my footfalls were crunchy on the loose rocks. I almost stepped on a snake that was crossing the ground in front of me. I love seeing any kind of wildlife in the desert, so even a common garter snake will cause me to pause and just watch for awhile. Climbing up a nearby mountain was slow going, The country here is rough and rocky, and full of all manner of cacti. My pace was slow as I navigated the terrain, while trying to stay quiet and watch for rattlesnakes. Finally I reached a good spot with views of the valleys and hillsides surrounding Sugarloaf. I sat on my pack and glassed the day away with my new binoculars. I picked up a set of 10x42 Alpen Wings to replace my old Bushnells. They looked great in the store, but out in the field they just don't seem to be as good as I hoped. 

It was a fun and productive day. I didn't spot any deer or see any sign other than a few old tracks. Certainly, I didn't see anything to make me believe that deer of any number are in the area. I didn't even find any scat. Before I cross the area off my list as a potential hunting location I think I need to spend the night out there so I can glass at dusk and dawn. Such a trip is at least a week away however, as I am heading to Joshua Tree for three days on Friday. Stay tuned.