Camp Kingsbury, 2023, or I Got an Elk

By Patty Wilber

I finally drew an elk tag for Unit 52, up near the Colorado border, and I am proud to say, I managed to fill it, in the last minutes of the last day I was planning to hunt. Many thanks to Amber and Richard Kingsbury for organizing the whole expedition from food to tents with wood stoves.  Amber was camp host which entailed keeping us all fed and keeping an eye on the animals, among many other things.  Richard got everyone going in the mornings (at 530 a.m.), gave great tips on elk hunting, and was invaluable when processing my elk.

Jim, of course, was my rock of support and was with me every step of the way.  Our 37th anniversary was during the hunt and there was no better place to celebrate!

If you wear camo of three different patterns (pants, shirt, hat) you really, really blend in? The orange backpack is another camo trick (not really). But no matter, my top walking speed is still so slow as to be hunting-appropriate, so we were able to see elk three out of four days! On the last day, I had lots of time to set up my 80-yard open sights, muzzleloader shot, and I filled my tag. I was proud of my effort, but my heart is still a little sad as she was beautiful alive.

Trying to smile but I was sort of crying instead. We will have over 100 pounds of meat in the freezer for the year, though.

But, since this is a horse blog, what I really want to write about is taking the horses to water at our camp.

Camp Kingsbury is three miles from the Osha trailhead in the Cruces Basin Wilderness area.  On Thursday and Friday, we packed in the supplies we needed for the Saturday to Wednesday hunt.

It is a dry camp at over 10,000 feet.  The stock are high-lined and also get grazing time at the campsite, but have to be taken to water, which we do twice a day.

Lucy, Cometa, and Penny. Lucy was ridden, packed, ponied a string of two, and was tagged at the end of a string. She did it all with her usual calm and interested demeanor. Cometa, old man at 26, seemed to have a blast, especially with the watering. Penny, unfortunately, did not feel very well. Fortunately, the weather was outstanding and she spent a lot of time sleeping in the sun. She is on antibiotics on the advice of our vet now.

View into Cruces Basin from the ridge just south of the campsite (see high-line photo).

The Kingsburys have four mules and a lead mare that all the mules adore.  To go to water,  they keep the mare on a lead line and the mules (who have been to the camp many times) charge gleefully down to the water tank but always keep the mare in mind.  When the mare is led back to camp, they all come charging back! It is even more entertaining at night, and while they all return promptly to the camp area, they do not all line up neatly under the highline to be hooked up.  Instead they trot into the the grazing area and sometimes play hard to get.

It is amazing how one mare can so strongly influence the four gelding mules!

Enter my herd.  Granted they have all been to Camp Kingsbury before. Cometa probably the most.  I did not trust them to want to come back to camp on their own, however, so we elected to let Cometa run free and keep Penny and Lucy on lead lines. Cometa is bonded to Penny, and he does not like to be alone, so we figured that would work.

Cometa is 26, but he galloped off with the mules as if he were just a young whipper snapper! When he came back to camp, he trotted in with his head held high and tail streaming out.  He looked like a proud young gun.

Then we decided to let Lucy go loose, as well, and the first night she stuck really close to Penny on the way down and back, so that went well.  But the next morning, when Amber took my three down on her own (as one of her camp host services) Cometa and Lucy decided they would just stay at the tank and enjoy the tall grass.  Penny got almost all the way back to camp with Amber before she realized her herd had deserted her.  She called to them and I had also gone back to get them. Between her neighing and my urging they both headed back to camp.  Cometa went right there, but Lucy over shot the “on ramp”, a short upward trail between two trees that leads from the water trail to camp and had to bust through a little brush to get back.

That night, against my better instincts, we tried the Penny on a lead line and Cometa and Lucy free, again. Since the whole camp was going, we figured the mules and Penny would draw Cometa back, and Lucy would stick with him. Ha.  On the way down, Lucy hung closer to Cometa than Penny, and the two of them also recruited one mule, Leo, to their club. After drinking, five animals returned and three did not.  Penny started calling, and Jim went to find them.  They were still at the tank, grazing.  Penny’s calls and Jim’s presence galvanized Cometa and he and Leo made a break for camp, abandoning Lucy, who sort of panicked when she realized they had dumped her! She would not let Jim catch her, but ran around him in circles as he started to come back to camp.  When they got close, she tried to get there, and was calling out, but again missed the on ramp and had to bushwhack.  She whinnied again for help and Penny called back.  Finally, Lucy burst into camp.  She spotted Amber’s head lamp and went right to her. Lucy was really happy to have found camp. “a human!  thank goodness!”, she said, with a big sigh.

We went back to Penny and Lucy on line

A page in the Appaloosa Project says that based on retinal measurements, all LP/LP horses are completely blind at night. Lucy is LP/LP. However, according to another page on the Appaloosa Project, Congenital Stationary Night Blindness (CSNB) results in “impaired or absent night vision”.  It is present at birth and is not progressive. The UC Davis site also states that LP/LP horses have CSNB and “have reduced to no vision at night.” And this site says “Horses with CSNB have vision ranging from reduced to none at night. It is not possible to tell by behaviour if they are night blind as horses respond differently to this condition.” So, is this inability to tell if a horse is night blind because some horses actually see at night in spite of the CSNB, or that some horses are masters at coping? Still other sites say that “current research” indicates that expression of CSNB is more complex than originally thought, supporting a range of vision at night, but I could never find a reputable source to support that statement, so I am forced into anecdotes.

Lucy does seem to have impaired night vision as evidenced by her worry when left alone in a dark place, but on the other hand, she has never seemed to be 100% night blind.  She does not run into things or get injured at night and she was certainly able to navigate somewhat without hitting trees or tripping when she was in a strange place in the dark. Now I want someone to do more study on this to understand why horses that are currently thought to be 100% night blind can navigate quite well in the dark.

Well, that’s it for now.

Cancer update.  10/6/23 marked one year since my first infusion.  I am feeling good.  My new drug is giving me some zits, but not knocking me off my game, and the zits should calm down pretty soon. I am liking the shots better than infusions, and I get to have my port removed 10/20–that is next week! It feels like progress!

About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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