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White-tailed Deer bucks

This is an oft-viewed vista at the Wilds - the landscape as seen from the birding platform at Jeffrey Point. I was exploring the 10,000 acres of this massive reclaimed strip mine area last Saturday as part of the Chandlersville Christmas Bird Count. Towards day's end, a few hardy teams went to favored Short-eared Owl hunting meadows to tally these strange birds. Chilly and windy as this spot may be, I was not disappointed - five owls were hunting the grasslands before me, at times so close that I could hear their curious terrierlike barks.

Owls weren't the only thing in view...

White-tailed Deer, Odocoileus virginianus, abound within the Wilds, and it's not uncommon to sizeable herds of the beasts grazing in the fields. There are always some good-looking bucks sprinkled in, such as the fellow above. While he's a fine-looking specimen, the animal probably isn't much above average size, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 lbs. That's a far cry from the heaviest specimen on record, which was shot by Carl Lenander in Minnesota in 1926. The brute weighed in at 402 pounds, field dressed, and it was estimated to have been about 511 pounds when alive.

I never tire of looking at deer, especially bucks with racks. Judging by the condition of the base of this one's antlers, I'd say he'll soon shed them. Bucks lose their antlers every winter, and begin to regrow a new rack in spring. Many people enjoy searching for the "sheds", but it can take a lot of time and footwork to luck into some.

If you want to explore the Wilds firsthand with experienced guides, the Ohio Ornithological Society hosts their 9th annual Wilds Winter Raptor Extravaganza on January 19th. Participants should see some interesting birds - we had the old reliable Golden Eagle last Saturday, and numerous Northern Harriers and Rough-legged Hawks of both color morphs, among many other species. All the details ARE HERE.

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