A camera with a long lens or a pair of good binoculars is the best way to “capture” or enjoy just watching wildlife, without disturbing it or breaking the law.
This time of the year is deer fawning season and many people will come across fawns while mowing hay or working in their yards. Since it appears on the surface that the fawn has been abandoned by its parents, its tempting to bring it home…bottle feed it, keep it, raise it.
Not a good idea, wildlife officials say. The baby deer probably hasn’t been abandoned at all.
The mother is probably within 100 yards, watching. You pick the deer up and take it home, she may then truly abandon it.
Also, it’s against the law to keep wildlife in captivity without the proper permit from fish and wildlife.
“We never issue permits for people to keep deer they find in the wild,” said David Yancy, senior wildlife biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
And keeping and raising a deer can be plain dangerous. A friend of mine took one of these cute little fawns home and raised it to adulthood.
In its first year, during the rutting season, the fawn that grew up to be a big buck charged him when he came into the fenced-in area where he kept it. It gorged a chunk out of his thigh.
The peak of the birthing season is the first two to three weeks of June. Fawns weigh only six to eight pounds at birth and have hundreds of white spots to conceal them from predators.
They are also born scentless and stay bedded down during their first few weeks of life, with twins and triplets bedded separately. The mother may leave them hidden like this for hours at a time while she feeds.
But she doesn’t abandon them, she returns to feed them and care for them. The last thing needed is human interference, regardless of how good the intentions may be.
“Sometimes people pick them up and bring them to us, thinking they’re doing the right thing,” Yancy said. “But generally what they have done is to seal its doom. Oftentimes you can’t return them to where they came from because the mother has looked for them and given up on finding them.”
Once raised in captivity, deer can’t be released because they lack the survival skills needed to live in the wild, Yancy added.
“And they have come to associate humans with food,” Yancy said.
There are “licensed rehabilitators” and they are the only people permitted to hold and rehabilitate injured wildlife. If you find an injured animal, call Kentucky Fish and Wildlife at toll-free 1-800-858-1549 to find a licensed rehabilitator near you.
“Generally, the best way to care for wildlife during this important season is to leave animals alone,” Yancy said.
It’s called the Kentucky bass because, more than 50 years ago, some legislator in the General Assembly pushed through a resolution naming the spotted bass – so prevalent in the waters of the commonwealth – the Kentucky State Bass.
I have no doubt that I, like other anglers, have caught spotted bass over the years without realizing it. They look so much like a largemouth bass that we thought that’s what it was and let it go at that.
I became pretty adept at telling the difference between the two some years ago while fishing for crappie with a guide on Kentucky Lake. Fishing with a small jighead adorned with a curly-tailed rubber grub, I had caught several nice white crappie from a partly-submerged treetop along the shoreline.
Then all of a sudden, something took my crappie pole down with such force that I knew it couldn’t be a crappie, which bites in a more gentle “excuse me” type of strike. I had whatever it was hooked good.
He swirled the surface to the right and swirled the surface to the left, then drilled straight down for the bottom. I held on, finally recovered, and reeled him up to the boat and pulled him in.
“It’s a largemouth,” I said.
“No. No it’s not,” the guide said. “It’s a Kentucky – a spot.”
Then he showed me the differences that identify a spotted bass from a largemouth bass. The spotted has spots along the lateral line down its side.
Its jawbone doesn’t extend back past the eye, as a largemouth’s does. He let me rub my thumb over the fish’s tongue and I felt the patch of small teeth there.
A largemouth will sometimes have this, but a spot always has it. Spotted bass evidently are even more of a schooling fish that the largemouth and the smallmouth, for we caught seven or eight more spotted from the same location in a short time.
No fish is better eating than the crappie (an opinion of mine), but the spotted bass is excellent eating, too. Some special regulations on some bodies of water allow anglers to keep a generous limit of spotted bass, as fisheries biologists would like to thin them out in favor of the more desirable largemouth and smallmouth.
Statewide in Kentucky, the limit on black bass calls for six a day, singly or combined among largemouth, smallmouth and spotted. There’s a 12-inch size limit on the largemouth and the smallmouth but no size limit on the spotted.
Be sure to check the 2012 “Kentucky Fishing & Boating Guide” or “Ohio Fishing Regulations 2012-13” because some lakes have special regulations on black bass. Late June and early July is still a good time to fish for the spotted bass.
Even though water temperatures have climbed into the 80s, they are more active than the smallmouth and the largemouth. The same lures – spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jigs, Jitterbugs, surface poppers – that catch largemouth and smallmouth also work on the spotted.
Go out there and catch you some spots. Fillet them, roll the fillets in flour, then in egg batter, then in flour again and drop them into the old iron skillet with a half-inch of bacon drippings, fry them up to a golden brown, and…well, you know what to do next. A little coleslaw and hushpuppies on the side, if you don’t mind.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (606) 932-3619 or Gsamwriter@aol.com.