A Lion in Winter

Blog Post

A Post Card from the White Wolf Mine
If you are quiet and you carry your camera with a long lens, there’s no telling what you will see up on the Mogollon Rim at the White Wolf Mine. 
Snow muffles sound and as you move slowly through the forest, the natural camouflage of the lions deserts them. This one was after a small herd of white tail deer, which were alert and escaped – but only just.
There are a lot of mountain lions in the area. You can hear them at night as they fight for mating rights and for territory. The local deer survive, which is a testament to their skill at eluding their predators.

An old mule deer doe, that I named Judy, has seen a few winters come and go. I see Judy almost every day. She stays in a relatively small territory. There are also white tail deer, smaller, less able to defend, but very nimble here on the property. It’s the white tails that the mountain lion was after today.
You have to get up very early in the morning if you plan to have a white tail deer for breakfast and this cat must have slept in its den far too long. This is almost mid-day.
The deer are in their rough, gray winter coats that stave off the effects of the cold. In most areas, deer and elk migrate with the onset of winter, but the herds here, in this place, are remarkably stable. 
I haven’t been out of the house but maybe one time when I didn’t see some sort of animal life. The elk herds between the hovel, where I now live, and Blue Ridge Reservoir, about six miles distant, are thick even though a fire swept through a lot of the area last summer.
The pygmy owl (left) asked me ‘who’ the heck I was to wander through its forest.
I introduced myself and it seemed to be satisfied. 
There will be more post cards from Arizona’s Mogollon Rim as the days move forward and the season’s change, for your amusement.
You don’t see many people up here. People have told me, “LL, you’re insane.” I assured them that there is plenty of company.

36 thoughts on “A Lion in Winter

  1. What a beautiful place!

    I don't see any problem with not having a lot of people around.

    Crazy like a fox you are.

  2. LL – you're NOT insane. Quite the opposite. I get the whole circle of life thingy, but I wouldn't want to see Bambi get nailed.

  3. "LL, you're insane."

    Let me echo the others. To surround yourself with beauty and tranquility instead of hustle and bustle is the complete opposite of insane. I can't think of anything better.

  4. The lions will take the slow and weak, but a healthy adult deer has an excellent chance against them. Lions aren't pack hunters the way wolves are. They're cats and cats are in it for themselves (and their offspring). There are two yearling 'spike' bucks (I've named Joey and Elmer) who appear on my Facebook page. They seem to be thriving in the presence of a lot of lions.

  5. I can visit people any time I want to. People in big cities seem to choke to death on each other's waste. And I mean that metaphorically and actually. I got tired of sitting on freeways, breathing in exhaust fumes, mired in traffic. I can go into town for supplies. There are two towns, each about 40 miles away and Flagstaff, a city, is 65 miles away. The greater Phoenix area (if I want warm to blistering hot) is about 100 miles to the south.

  6. It was that or die, SiGraybeard. People EVERYWHERE. Sure, I could barricade myself in my house, but how is that living?

  7. The old professional hunter's kid in me says you are very good at sneak and peek to get those photos.

  8. I was a hunter as a boy, then the Navy honed what skills I have. The cats are very skittish and you have to insure that THEY are not hunting YOU (red in tooth and claw).

  9. Not much bandwidth here, CUBE. I have to squeeze ever drop out of it. Not any progs up here that I know of. People keep to themselves and there are lot of animals.

  10. It really is. I have to pinch myself. I have large windows in the great room that span about thirty feet. beyond that is a very large covered deck about the size of the great room which serves as an outdoor living area in summer.

  11. Southern California has a way of choking the life and humanity out of many people.

    I don't think I would have lasted more than a few more years there…..

  12. You might need to get a couple of horses so you can explore off-trail sights. But then, there are lions and wolfs about. No need to encourage the to encroach any further than need be. However, ride a good hose through the forest seems pleasing to me.

  13. Not insane. Smart like a fox. Such better scenery and neighbors – even if they manage to eat each other – than you had in California. :)

    Haha. I was just reading back through the comments. I should just have said "What OldAFSarge said."

    I will look forward to the pictures as such time as you care to post them. God bless.

  14. Insane? Shoooot. Sounds perfect. I'd have to imagine the off-road dirt-biking potential there is TOP. NOTCH. And the cross-canyon shooting lanes? How's that action?

  15. Yeah, it steals the joy from almost everything that you do in time. It's like an anaconda, squeezing.

  16. The lions still identify as male and female, as do all of the animals in the forrest. None of them are progressive.

  17. My son-in-law (a city boy) asked me how far I had to go to take a quad off-road. He hasn't been up here yet. I told him, about twelve feet.

  18. Yes. Back in the late '50s when Dad was hunting, he came across lion prints. He tracked it around the top of a hill when he came back to where he first encountered the lion tracks, and found lion prints on top of his boot prints. He thought about waiting in ambush, but it was getting late in the day and he was getting a bit spooked, so he retreated with his head on a swivel.

  19. If that's insane, count me in. Those poor souls who would say that have been consumed by the collective.

    In my younger days, I made several deer hunting trips to my family's ancestral grounds north of Sanderson, TX and east of hwy 285. It is dry country. IIRC, the year 2000 had no measurable precipitation.

    The deer herds (at least then) were also a mule deer and whitetail mix. Given a few years of decent rain, the whitetail population would explode, with many of the does raising twins. This would of course lead to an increase in lions. The mule deer tended to move out, I suspect in search of better forage.

    During lean times, the white tail numbers would take a big drop again, and the mule deer would begin to filter back.

    It was quite easy to spend an entire day out there and not see another sign of human habitation. The high points provided a 360 view "from yesterday into tomorrow". It was wonderful.

  20. Err…about those lions fighting at night during mating season: they are probably, as Will Rogers said about the squalling and screaming that goes on during a Democratic caucas, "they are just making more Democrats."

  21. Beautiful! And I'm with Coffeypot, a couple of horses sounds like a great option. Useful, enjoyable and good for all round fitness.

    Great pics.

  22. It's a lot like that here. If you just take off across the pine forrest, you're not going to see sign of humans unless you blunder into an old overgrown logging road or a fire break. My sense is that the mule deer/white tail blend is generally stable. There are more elk here than deer.

  23. Naturally, if I had horses, I'd need to pick up a couple rusty old sabers, then a quatrain to practice on, then melons to chop in two while on the gallop…"If You Give a Mouse a Cookie."

  24. The cats are very skittish and you have to insure that THEY are not hunting YOU (red in tooth and claw).
    That was my main thought. Having watched cats from small to medium for years, I've concluded that if they're stalking you, most people won't see anything until the lion is on them.

  25. I agree. It's their turf, they know how to stalk prey and if you're on the menu, it will likely end badly. Which is why it's important to take reasonable precautions. But if you end up down with them eating your entrails while you're still living, that's bad.

  26. You need a proper lightweight ktm with trail armor to get good and "behind the rocks"… those off-camber, tight switchbacks are death on a quad. (I'm envisioning 5 miles of Hell outside Green River Utah, but with more piney woods.)

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