Posts Tagged ‘deer’

Deer Season

We left Maine a couple of days after deer hunting season opened and headed back to our hometown to celebrate the bar mitzva of our oldest grandson.  At dusk I was reading in the den when I heard what sounded like large pieces of plastic broomstick handles clicking against each other.  I looked out the window but couldn’t see anything, so I ventured outside.  Just outside our chain link fence were two bucks in rut, clashing with their antlers!  I ran to get my camera.  The bucks were oblivious to my presence, and were focused exclusively on one another.  Their antlers actually locked at one point but fortunately they were able to separate.  I was standing no more than 3 feet away, on the other side of the chain link fence.  A few times they actually lost their balance and fell against the fence where I was standing, so I stood back a little further!  Eventually one must have overpowered the other because they went their separate ways once they figured out who was boss.  It was only when I looked at the resulting photos up close that I noticed that the tip of the antler of the deer on the left was bloodied, and the deer on the right had some small wounds near his shoulder and ear.  The irony was not lost on me that I was not witnessing this show in Maine, but right in a major east coast city neighborhood in the mid-Atlantic!  Our hometown backyard in the city is visited by a herd of about 20 deer (Bambi fawns included) on a daily basis.  If not for our chain link fence, the garden would be stripped bare.   In Maine, I do see deer sign (pellets, scrapings, and tracks) on a frequent basis, but I don’t actually see more than one deer a month.  So far in Maine, the deer have left our apple saplings alone, despite the lack of a deer-proof fence.

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Two bucks locking antlers 3 feet from where I’m standing, on the other side of a chain link fence in our backyard.  The tip of the left antler of the deer on the left is tinged with blood from this battle.

Two bucks locking antlers 3 feet from where I'm standing, on the other side of a chain link fence in our backyard

The base of the right antler of the deer on the left is bloodied. I’m unsure if his right antler is puncturing the shoulder of the buck on the right, or if the point of the antler broke off upon impact.

I may be imagining this, but it looks like the winning buck has a smile on his face

I may be imagining this, but it looks like the winning buck has a smile on his face

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Deer Sign

During deer hunting season I didn’t see a single deer, but now that deer hunting season is over, I have seen two bucks.  Due to a very harsh winter three years ago which resulted in death by starvation, an increase in the predator coyote population, and overhunting (the number of deer hunting permits is limited, but there are poachers), the deer population is down and sightings are rare.  Unless hunters are incredibly lucky and just happen to see a deer when their rifles are handy, it takes some good scouting work to locate areas where deer have visited.  This is usually done by taking long walks in the woods to look for deer signs: tracks (hoof prints),  pellets (excrement), deer scrapes, and antler rubbings.  From the website Foremost Hunting I found the following helpful information:

Deer “scrape” the ground with their hooves- – and at times will do so with their antlers. The scrapes will range from the size of a dinner plate to that of a child’s portable swimming pool. Put money on the fact that if you find a swimming pool sized scrape, you’ve either got one huge trophy buck, or it’s a “community scrape,” where all the deer are together. That type of community scrape usually means younger, or immature bucks. A mature buck will normally stay to himself and scrape distinct areas to announce his presence and mark his territory.

Different types of scrapes mean different types of bucks. Young bucks go along, and they really don’t know what they’re doing. It’s like a 16-year-old going out on his first date – -he has some instinctive idea of what he’s supposed to be doing but doesn’t really know the ball game. So young bucks go out and start marking territory everywhere. There’s no rhyme or reason to their scraping. If they see a scrape from another buck, they’ll scrape in the same area, and in the end the area will become a community scrape, of sorts. The young bucks will return to these areas to check out what’s happening. They don’t really recognize that they’re marking the area.

On the other hand, a mature, dominant buck knows exactly what he’s doing. They scrape, and they announce by their scrapes that they’re marking their territory, telling other bucks to stay out of it.

Savvy hunters recognize what are called “scrape lines.” Dominant, big bucks will move up and down and around their territory marking with scrapes anywhere from about every 30 to maybe a 100 yards. They scrape along a specific trail or “line” as it’s called. These scrape lines will attract knowledgeable hunters who will set up along these lines, taking the wind into consideration (remember – -it’s critical to always locate downwind from your quarry), and then the hunters wait for that big trophy to show up on his scrape line.

Very much like the scrape line is a rub line – which is done on trees or bushes. Bucks use these rubs in two instances. The first is when they rub off the velvet on their new set of antlers. Usually that’s earlier in the year and smart hunters know that these rubs may not indicate territorial markings, but rather just the opportunity for the bucks to get the velvet off their antlers. Early in the year, rubs will mostly appear on small saplings or trees, and you can’t tell much about the size of the deer or if there’s any territorial rubbing going on. As the year moves on and the antlers harden, the bucks instinctively try to get the velvet off as quickly as they can. At that time, you can really begin to estimate the size of the deer that’s rubbing. As the rut approaches, you can look at the diameter of the trees that the bucks are rubbing. The bigger or wider the tree, and the larger the antler marks, the bigger the buck. A little forkhorn will not rub against a huge pine tree. Deer will stick to a tree that befits their size. A big 10 or 12 pointer however with a heavy rack will hit on a big tree. That’s what he’s looking for. The real key is if you see a tree which has been rubbed – and it’s big- – and the tree or trees directly behind the primary rubbed tree also have ancillary rubs from the same deer, then you pretty well know that you’re on to something big. The buck was so large that as he wrapped himself around the big, primary tree he was rubbing, he not only hit that tree, but the ones behind it.

What a lot of hunters do is set up trail cameras along scrape and rub lines, which will photograph or take video of the bucks who are rubbing and scraping. The hunter will then be able to closely determine the actual size of the buck who is in the area.

While I don’t hunt, learning about how to track animals truly enriches one’s enjoyment of walks in the woods.  About a month ago my husband and I were walking around the edges of our property, when we came across these antler rubbings.  Had I not known what they were, I might have passed this tree without noticing anything special.

This young tree shows signs of antler rubbing.  My husband holds his pen nearby to get an idea of size.

This young tree shows signs of antler rubbing. My husband holds his pen nearby to get an idea of size.

This young tree shows signs of antler rubbings.  My husband holds a pen next to the tree so you can get an ideal of perspective.

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While most people have romantic notions of wildlife, animals such as beavers, deer and woodpeckers can cause tremendous damage and destruction to  trees.  While on the same walk, we found a tree with some freshly drilled woodpecker holes.

While these huge holes will undoubtedly kill the tree, other animals, including owls and other birds, will use the hole to make a nest.

While these huge holes will undoubtedly kill this tree, other animals, including owls and other birds, will use the hole to make a nest.

Sawdust from the freshly-drilled holes on the trunk lays at the base of the tree.

Sawdust from the freshly drilled holes in the trunk lays at the base of the tree.

Quiet

Many people have asked how I enjoy the quiet here in the Maine woods.

Our house sits on the middle of a hill, surrounded by mountains and a boggy pond.  Sound echoes and carries far; every sound is magnified. When I heard what I thought was a deer running in our woods, it turned out to be only a small red squirrel!

There is no “white noise” so each sound is distinct.  I can hear a car coming from a mile away, and conversations from hundreds of feet away.  I can hear a single dried leaf falling from the top of a tree, gently hitting the brittle leaves that still remain on the same tree as the leaf floats its way down to the ground.

Although I haven’t made an effort to make my own recordings, you can share in the sounds I hear by listening to these sound bytes I found on the Internet.  Although there are many variations, I’ve chosen the ones that sound just like the noises in my own backyard.  Please note, unless otherwise indicated, the majority of these pictures were taken by others, were found on the Internet, and are used for visual reference only.

I can hear (and see) wild turkeys almost daily: http://www.nwtf.org/audio/Gobbling.mp3

Late at night I may be awakened by far-off coyotes (click on “Coyote 1”):

http://www.soundboard.com/sb/Wild_Coyote_sounds.aspx

The haunting call of a loon, from several ponds away: http://www.nhest.org/cloon.wav

We have both grey and red foxes in this part of Maine.  Foxes calling to one another sound very  eerie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxLHUxzEoRU

Barred Owls are busy too: http://pelotes.jea.com/AnimalFact/Birds/owlbard.wav

A few times I’ve seen moose at the pond across from our house (sometimes with a calf).  I took these photos in May.

(click to enlarge)

 

(click to enlarge)

 

Each time it took a step, the moose “krechtzed” and I nearly laughed out loud.  The bull moose in this video taken in Glacier National Park is making a quieter version of the same sound, albeit a bit less dramatically: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xZdWhVQ4RU

Here is a photo I took of  some moose hoof-prints on the sandy edge of the road just across from our driveway, at the rim of the pond:

(click to enlarge)

I took this photo of a bull moose about an hour’s drive from our house in early June.  Bull moose lose their antlers in the beginning of winter and they regrow in the spring.

 

Bull Moose in "velvet" (click on photo to enlarge)

The new antler growth is initially covered in a velvety coating which the moose removes by rubbing on the nearest tree trunk, at which point they begin to look the way you’d expect moose antlers to look!

During the summer there was deafening high decibel chirping by what sounded like thousands of birds at the pond, from dusk to dawn.  A naturalist  I queried via email suggested they might be frogs!  So I did a search for “frogs of Maine” and listened to the various frog calls.  (Ok, I know, you’re thinking “Get a life!”)  Bingo!  The nocturnal sounds that drive us nuts are indeed “Spring Peepers” – a kind of frog.  Here is an audio file, but really you can’t begin to imagine the intensity unless you could turn the volume up ten times louder than you will hear now:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4a/Springpeepers.ogg

One frog “concert” that I actually enjoy is the sound of Green Frogs in the spring.  Their call sounds like a loose banjo string being plucked (click on the word “listen”)

http://imagess3.enature.com/listen.swf?rndm=1580&audio=AR0027

My grandchildren were very excited about sleeping outside in our pop-up camper when they came to visit this summer.  But all these noises were too discomforting, and they were back inside the house with eyes as wide as saucers within the first 30 minutes of their evening camp-out.

So much for “quiet” . . .