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blizzard warnings - 13:52 , 03 October 2013

heelerless - 21:32 , 18 August 2013

Red Coat Inn in Fort McLeod - 11:38 , 23 June 2013

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14 September 2004 - 23:50

buzzard check station

The view from my office window this morning:

Yeah, that's Independence Rock, there behind the buck pronghorn.

Another day on check station, waiting for hunters to come by with their antelope.

Only 11 did today. That's an average of one per hour, not counting the 75-minute commute to get there, and 75 minutes back.

So yeah, a slow day.

The weather forecast had predicted the day's high would only be in the 50s, quite a change from the 80s on Sunday. But they were clearly wrong, since within an hour of our arrival I was waiting for traffic on the highway to die down long enough for me to strip off my t-shirt.

Less than an hour later the wind changed, from the northwest, and I had to wait for traffic to die down so's I could get the t-shirt back on. By evening I had swiped the down vest from the little maskless heeler, curled asleep on the passenger seat, to stay warm.

She and I weren't the only ones feeling the chill. As is normal, a cottontail has taken residence by the bushes and posts next to the cattleguard on our county road.

But as the sun rose high, the bunny scratched out a bed in the soft dirt, on the lee side of the posts, and lay down to absorb the sun's warmth.

By then the cab of the truck was just as warm, and I had a heck of a time not dozing off with the rabbit and the heelers.

The first antelope of the day came through not too long after we set up the station. (The first dead antelope, that is. The first antelope was there already, not 30 meters away as we parked. Stood up and watched as the noisy heelers bailed out of the rig, before I even noticed him. Naturally, the masked heeler spotted him and spooked him off before I could get the camera out.)

Anyway, the first antelope of the day was another freak.

As seems to often be the case, the hunter and his buddy had scouted out this unusual "triceratops" horned antelope for months. And had been sitting at his usual haunt well before sunrise, waiting for the light to come and the season to open.

As I was snapping my photo, another hunter drove into the station, just starting on his hunt. And quickly peeked in to see what the other fellow had gotten.

The late-arriving hunter's face fell.

Yep. He had scouted that buck as well, and had hopes of bagging him. But as they say, the early bird catches the worm.

Or the buck.

Had one other unusual antelope in the day's batch. Taken by a 12-year old girl, her first big game animal. It was a respectable buck, with what I call "throw-back" horns.

The ancestors of our modern pronghorn, back in the Pleistocene, or whatever, once had five horns. A pair on each side, and one in the middle of the rostrum. Sort of like some of the asian deer. And every so often, I assume during years with good protein growth, you'll find one with an extra pair of horns behind the main horns.

As with all the others I've seen, these redundant little horny growths aren't true horns, because there is no bony core holding them to the skull. They just kind of swing around behind the real horns.

But it's nice to see the old genes being expressed, just to imagine what the ancient ones looked like.

And I should mention my morning was interrupted by a motorist pulling in to report hunters shooting off the highway a mile or so up from my station. A highly illegal act.

Naturally, I already know there's no game warden for many miles around. So, off I go.

Just in time to see the hunter loading back up, and then to follow them back to my station, where they sped down the county road.

Yeah, the warden caught up with them. And they confessed (it helped that a second warden was searching the crime scene and boot tracks at the same time, in radio contact, and was able to contradict the hunter's original story almost as fast as the words left his mouth). Finding the brass on the wrong side of the highway fence didn't hurt.

And we won't even mention me reporting their SUV as "light-coloured", when it turned out to be 80 percent pure black. At least I was 20 percent right. And I got the plate number right, which is more important.

Since it was such a slow day, we left station a little early. But still managed to enjoy a good sunset on the drive home.

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