Then they bit my tail off

Pictured is an antelope doe searching for shade. Courtesy photo

OPINION — Saw my first antelope fawn of Spring.

Still wobbly on soft legs, kind of like a three-year-old in daddy’s cowboy boots.

It wasn’t covering a lot of ground or able to follow a straight line, but it was enjoying the ride as it darted from one patch of grassy cover to the next, figuring out its new limbs.

I’d been hopefully watching.

The does have been spread out for a few weeks, but I had only been seeing dejected singles without young.

The coyotes spent their days below ground in their dens to escape the heat, coming out in the evenings to call and chase throughout the night.

Each species has its own plan to maximize the survival of their own kind.

The mulies and elk fight back, stamping their feet and charging incoming predators.

The first bobcat I’ve seen this year got just such a drubbing as he was discovered stalking through the tall grass of the valley floor.

I was a silent observer and might not ever have seen him if his white-tipped stump of a tail hadn’t flagged his departure after he was routed by angry does.

The whitetail seem to sense zones of danger and safety and plant their fawns were previous young have found shelter and survived.

A doe has returned from again this spring, having figured out that my backyard is a safe place.

My Airedale has a nose so poor he can hardly find the food dish but his size and aggressive nature make the grounds a no coyote zone.

I enjoy her morning and evening visits as she trots in to feed one fawn then races back across the valley to find and nurture the other.

I can not claim to enjoy a young deer more than a coyote pup, but my Scottish stalker ancestry urg es me to intervene on the side of the hinds.

Sadly, the antelope seem to have no other plan other than speed.

I have seen does rush in in an attempt to distract the coyotes, trying to persuade them to chase her instead of her young.

It works as long as there is only one coyote, but rarely is this true. After the pups leave the den, they hunt in packs and as soon as food is spotted the howl is sounded and they all converge.

This last week I notice a dejected and battered pronghorn doe. It isn’t often that they venture away from the open prairies up into the timbered hills.

But the weather was unseasonably hot and she camped out in the shade of a pine near my hilltop home.

Occasionally she would rise as the shadows moved with the sun and I could tell she had been nursing and I wondered where she had hidden her fawns.

Her movements were unusually awkward and stilted. Upon closer examination I discovered that she had a healing injury.

An antelope can easily outrun a coyote, unless she feigns injury in an attempt to lure them away from her young.

I could imagine her waving her short tail just out of reach of a predator’s jaws, racing with just enough speed to encourage the attack but dodging out of harm’s way.

The game must have become too real, and the jaws must have clamped down just enough to strip flesh from the bone.

She was diminished, but hopefully successful in her efforts.

The injury to her hind end reminds me of the comments of this year’s unsuccessful big game lottery applicants.

South Dakota has legalized gambling for big game permits. Each year applicants are allowed to purchase a place in the draw.

The odds of success are published so no one goes blindly into the contest.

Hunters are allowed to buy preference points to build their chances for future seasons.

Anticipation grows as their odds increase. Each summer, as various draw results are released, the winners wave their licenses like Charlie at the Willy Wonka Chocolate factory.

A few of the most vocal among the unsuccessful electronically gnash their teeth and curse the computers, GF&P, and landowners.  

I and a few others came up with a different plan. Decades ago, we persuaded or wives that we didn’t need new cars, vacations, or expensive clothes for the kids.

We hunted down willing landowners with patches of grass large enough to qualify for landowner permits and bought our own places.

Fifty percent of all tags are set aside for the folks that feed animals year-round. You might not agree with the idea, but it is a sure way to get tags without gambling.

It just takes a while.

The Speirs family has owned and operated Crow Creek Wildlife Management Service since 1996.

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