Posts Tagged ‘hunting’

Welcome Back

We just got back to Maine, after being away for 5 weeks.  We spent the Jewish holidays of Purim and Passover in our home town with some of our children and grandchildren.  While there, two of my granddaughters were being treated for minor orthopedic issues and I spent time babysitting and shlepping to Physical Therapy appointments.

At one PT visit, the younger granddaughter happened to be the only pediatric patient; the rest were all patients in their 50s and 60s undergoing post-op rehab for knee replacement surgery.  Now that I am in my fifties my own knees are not what they used to be; but after seeing how hard these patients worked to regain post-op mobility, I see that knee replacement surgery is not something one wants to do except as a last resort.   (I found out that post-op rehab, rural New England style, is conducted somewhat differently . . . but more about that later.)

The older granddaughter got a cast on each leg as part of a 6-week treatment protocol.  As a precaution she stayed home from school the first day following the procedure, but really it turned out to be unnecessary — she was managing fine and certainly could have gone back to school.  But for selfish reasons, because I was doing the babysitting that day, I kept her home, so we could have some one-on-one quality time.  And what a day it was!

I spent about an hour decorating her cast and the little “walking shoes” that could be strapped on.

My granddaughter chose navy blue casts to match her school uniform.

My granddaughter chose navy blue casts to match her school uniform. (click to enlarge for more detail)

Then we baked homemade pretzels from a little kit I had picked up at a discount store in New Hampshire.

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AFter the yeast dough rises, my granddaughter rolls it out and shapes the pretzels

After the yeast dough rises, my granddaughter rolls it out and shapes the pretzels

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Proud of her accomplishment and distracted from any discomfort!

 

After that we watched Mary Poppins.  This was extremely sentimental for me.  When I was seven years old, the Mary Poppins movie came out and I loved it so much I saw it seven times in one year.  Now, here I was, a HALF CENTURY later (!) watching it with my seven-year-old granddaughter!  Am I really that old?

I love Mary Poppins still.  I realized how few movies are made today in which people segue from normal conversation into elaborate song and dance.  There was no cursing and no nudity.  Also, kids back in my day were not overstimulated and distracted by so many external forces, including media;  life moved at a slower pace, so it was not the challenge it is today for a seven-year-old to sit and watch a full-length movie for 2+ hours without getting antsy.  While my granddaughter enjoyed the movie, there were parts that she found boring and requested that I “fast forward,” not having the patience to sit through the parts that didn’t hold her attention.

Afterwards my husband played Monopoly with her.   We hadn’t played Monopoly in at least 30 years.  Alas, art imitates life:  my husband got creamed by a seven-year-old because he was over-mortgaged, in debt, and broke.

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Assured of her recovery, we left the next day for Maine.  Even though it took an extra 50 miles and 45 minutes of driving time, we went via the Poconos to avoid NJ and NY tolls, which are outrageous.  We arrived at 3:30 a.m. and dragged our tired bodies straight to bed.

Although I love my kids and grandkids and truly enjoy spending time with them, I really don’t like my hometown city’s culture, crime or weather.  But the 11-hour commute and paying two mortgages really is starting to wear thin.  I know that when my husband retires, we won’t have the income to keep both places, and a decision will need to be made.  A house in a city I don’t like, but with family nearby?  Or the remote rural lifestyle I prefer, devoid of loving family?  Slowly I’ve been trying to convince myself that living in Maine is not a long-term option.  But then I return to Maine, and experience not only the physical beauty of my surroundings, the purity of air and water, the sighting of wildlife, and the slower pace of life, but also the helpful, friendly nature of storekeepers and townspeople, and I don’t know how I can possibly leave.  (The only other place I’d consider living away from family would be Israel.)

Despite so few hours of sleep, I knew I had to get to the post office before the 9:30 a.m.closing time.  Due to Federal budgetary cutbacks, the post office is only open from 7:30 – 9:30 a.m. and then again from 2 – 4 p.m.  Our mail had been held for 5 weeks and I was anxious to conquer what would be a huge pile of letters, bills and magazines.

When I came to collect the mail, Deb the postmistress said, “Oh!  Welcome back!  I’m so glad to see you.  And it’s lucky you came just now, because Betty is here!”  Betty is the mail lady who actually does the deliveries.  Deb and Betty exchanged side glances and then looked at me, uncomfortably, like they were holding something back.

“Anything wrong?” I asked.

“Well . . . ” Betty began.  “I was just wondering . . . is everything okay at your house?”

“Yep,” I replied, “at least, as far as I can tell.  Why do you ask?”

“Last week I was out delivering mail, ” she said, “and I noticed a green truck parked on your driveway.  And then again, the next day.  I was concerned so I took down the license plate, in case anything was wrong.  You know, sometimes people who have summer homes around here get vandalized while they’re gone, and I didn’t want that to happen to you.”

I was so touched that Betty was looking out for us!  I couldn’t imagine that would ever happen with the postal workers in my home town.

Effusively thanking Betty and Deb for their concern, I explained that the green truck belonged to Pete,  our heating guy who had made some repairs while we were away.  When we built our house he had suggested that we buy a “freeze alarm.”  This is a little plastic box with a thermostatic sensor.  We set the parameters, and if the thermostat in the house falls below a certain temperature, it automatically dials our cellphone. That’s how we knew we had a potentially major problem: our furnace had stopped working and the interior of the house was only 40 degrees.   The danger is that if temps continued to fall, our pipes would freeze and burst and cause lots of very expensive damage.   Fortunately our freeze alarm saved us from this scenario.  Pete knows the code to get into our house and was thus able to complete the repairs.

From the post office I went to the Town Office where I caught up on the latest local news and bought this year’s fishing license; I went to the small general store to buy worms (bait).  Then I made my way into North Conway NH where I went to the supermarket, so I could buy stuff to cook for Shabbat dinner later that night.  I also stopped into Wal-Mart to buy some fish hooks.

While in the fishing pole aisle an elderly gentleman struck up a conversation with me.  He is a retired army veteran, having served our country for 30 years, where he worked as a sapper (explosives).  “I was born and raised on a New Hampshuh fahm (farm), and that’s what I came back to.  I guess I’ll die on a New Hampshire fahm some day.”  Like so many rural New England men, he was single and very lonely.  Once he started talking, he just kept spilling the beans.  I heard about his truck, his tractor, fishing, hunting, his border collie which he rescued from an abusive situation, his time in the military, the weather, and every ache and pain, all in a span of 20 minutes in the fishing pole aisle in Wal-Mart.  Even though New Englanders are said to be dour and  extremely taciturn with outsiders, for some reason many of them seem to open up to my listening ear. (This was a trait of my mother, as well.  She seemed to know everyone’s life story – – young or old, male or female – –  within minutes of meeting them.  After her death, I found postcards from people around the world who had met her only briefly in casual conversation while she traveled, yet they felt such a connection with her that they wrote to her from afar.)

I asked him how long he was in rehab following his knee replacement surgery.

“Oh, I didn’t do re-hab!” he said.  “I’m a fahmuh (farmer) and that’s all I know.  Got no time for re-hab!  Just got on my horse, and kept that foot out of the stirrup so it could dangle.   When the horse moved fah-wahd (forward), my knee and leg went back-and-fawth, back-and-fawth – – which is all they do in re-hab anyhow!  After a month I’m good as new!”

(Incidentally, I think the only place outside of rural New England that has a greater single male-to-female ratio  is Alaska.  I guess many women don’t care for the hard living and isolation that comes with rural living; it’s hard for mountain men to find a mate.  And despite their tremendous physical strength, many of these men look far older than their years, worn out and bent by time and troubles.  They rarely have someone to talk to and even their recreational pursuits – – hunting and fishing – – are done solo.)

 

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Moose Zone

I am living on the edge – – literally.  My side of the street is Moose Zone 12 –  – but if I step across the street I’m in Zone 15.

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This sign was posted on my street at the start of moose hunting season

The way it works is this:  every year a certain number of permits are issued to hunt Maine’s 70,000+ moose.  Because the demand is high and the number of issued permits low, there is a moose lottery conducted in the summer for the following Fall’s hunting season.  Maine residents have a better chance than people from out-of-state:  no more than 10% of the permits in each District will be issued to non-residents.  The lotto costs $15 for one ticket, but if you actually win, you will pay $52 for the permit if you are a Maine resident, and a whopping $585 if you are from out-of-state.  Ten additional permits are granted to the highest bidders at an auction.  This year the highest bidder “won” a permit for $11,734.56!  The amount of permits issued differs based on the zone.  Northern Maine, which has a prolific moose population, issues as many as 800 permits in a single zone and there is more than an 80% success rate in getting a moose;  but southern Maine, which has far fewer moose, may issue only 15 permits, and the chance of actually getting a moose  is only about 15%.  This year a total of 4,110 permits were issued in Maine.  On my side of the street, Zone 12, 55 permits were issued and moose could be hunted only October 14 – 19.  Across the street, in Zone 15, only 25 permits were issued, and hunting is allowed November 4 – 30.  For first-time applicants who are Maine residents, the chance of winning a permit is only 1.9 percent, and for a non-resident, there is only a 0.2 percent chance of winning a permit.  There are a lot of applicants!

No one can deny that the annual moose hunt is a huge moneymaker for Maine:  the lottery and permits alone generate more than  $1.5+ million for Maine.  Hunting in general is a huge source of income for Maine:  it generated $1.4 billion in Maine in 2012.  It’s not only about the licensing fees.  Hunters are usually accompanied by friends and relatives.  Hunting parties buy food, gas, and lodging.  After a successful hunt, they will turn to taxidermists and meat processing plants.

Over 300,000 fishing licenses were sold last year, as were 210,000 hunting licenses.  Even if only a fraction of that number of hunters were successful, that’s a lot of dead animals.  But old-timers say that coyotes have overtaken Maine, and greatly and adversely affected the balance of wildlife here.  “Hunting is not what it used to be,” they insist.

There are people in my town for whom killing a deer means they will have meat this winter, so I do not judge.  But I do not hunt, nor do I have a desire to do so, and it’s not only because I am not permitted to hunt for religious reasons (according to Jewish Law, animals may be killed only within the guidelines of kashrut).   In fact, I somewhat dread hunting season.  I make sure to wear a  fluorescent orange vest whenever I leave my house for a walk, and my dog wears a fluorescent orange bandana, lest we be mistaken for dinner.  I have run into many a rifle-toting, camouflaged hunter in my backwoods walks, and they have always been polite and not at all scary.

But I  mourn the loss of any moose, whose grace despite its ungainly proportions never fail to awe and inspire me.

The only animals I shoot are with my camera.

Impromptu Tour Guide

Due to cutbacks by the United States Postal Service, our local post office has dramatically reduced its hours.  Now it’s open for transactions only M-F from 7:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m, and 2:15 pm  – 4:15 p.m. in the afternoons.  The post office delivery truck drops off the mail around 8:30 a.m., and it’s placed in PO boxes around 9 a.m., so the window to get one’s daily mail in the morning is very narrow indeed.  The lobby without counter service is open during the middle part of the day if you have a post office box, but if you get a notice in your box that a package has arrived and you aren’t there during counter service times – – too bad.  You must return during one of the two-hour windows to claim your package.  It gets worse:  the routes of both FedEx and UPS work out so that they arrive at the post office between 12:30 – 1:30 pm, when the post office is closed, so packages headed to the post office cannot be delivered or redeemed if they are being delivered to your post office box as an address.  A solution to this problem would be for UPS and FedEx to place a delivery box outside, so the postmaster could access it during open hours, but UPS and FedEx have so far been uninterested in doing so.  It is very likely that in the next 2 years, our local post office branch will cease operating altogether.

I try to coordinate a visit to the post office with our transfer station – – also known as the garbage dump — which is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 – 4.  We have no trash pickup here – all self-generated refuse must be taken to the dump in our car. The post office is 6 miles away and the dump is another 2.5 miles further up the road, and what with the cost of gas nowadays, I try to limit my visits.  Also on Tuesdays, our tiny library is open from 5 pm – 7 pm (the other day is Shabbat, so I can’t visit then).  It’s a 3-mile trip one way from home to the library but it’s on the way to the post office and dump, so I try to stop by the library on the way home.  Still, I do have time to kill from the post office closure at 4:15 to the library’s opening time of 5 p.m.

So yesterday I stopped by the lake.  I couldn’t go swimming or kayaking due to it being the Nine Days (leading up to Tisha B’Av), but I was content to sit there and watch a 5-year-old boy fishing with his father.  The look of joy on the little boy’s face when he caught a fish (as well as the proud dad’s) was priceless, and I never tire of the serene view of the lake, clouds, and surrounding mountains, and the quiet.

Suddenly a minivan with Illinois license plates turned into the parking area, and a married couple with 2 preteen daughters stepped out and started taking pictures of the beautiful view.  I couldn’t resist asking if they were from Chicago – – one of my daughters lives there and I will be going there to visit next week.

“No, we rented this car from New York,” the man replied.  “We are from Denmark.  We are doing a driving tour of the eastern United States.”  He explained that one of his daughters had hurt her ankle, and as a result they had to cancel many of their planned activities for the day.   They were limiting themselves to sightseeing from the car on this day, and had driven about 90 miles from western New Hampshire, extemporaneously wandering the scenic mountain roads.  He had many questions about what there was to see in this part of Maine, as well as questions about Maine culture, the people, the lifestyle, etc.

Well, I had nothing better to do until the library opened . . .

“We didn’t care for New York too much, to tell you the truth,” he confessed.  “Such a big city is not really our thing; we really prefer being in nature.”  He proceeded to tell me how surprised he was “that many of the natives we encountered there spoke English with very strong accents that we couldn’t understand.”  I had visions of him encountering chassidim who not only dress differently than the mainstream, but speak “Yinglish.”  But he said, “I’m talking about Hispanics and Chinese people.  I couldn’t believe it, but we met people who are Americans who could not even speak English!  That was very surprising to us – – I don’t understand how citizens can live in a country and not speak its language!  How is this possible?”

As we chatted,  I made several suggestions of places they could visit nearby that were off the beaten track and were known only to locals.  “You won’t find these suggestions in any tour book,” I said, “but if you love nature, you won’t want to miss them.”  Still, I realized that many of the places lacked signage and were accessed by hidden dirt or gravel roads, and he was unlikely to find them based on my directions alone.

“I’ll tell you what,” I said, “I will take you to some of these places if you’d like.  You can just follow me in your car.”

I guess I looked trustworthy, because they were game.

I had a great time taking them all over the place – – I probably used up $20 out-of-pocket in gas.  I would stop my car every so often and they’d pull up behind me.  “Look – here are some moose hoof-prints!” I’d point out.  Or, “Check carefully along the road – last year at this time I saw a bear cub foraging here for blueberries.”  And:  “This little library was a one-room schoolhouse from the 1800s until 1963.  Now it’s used as a library, and the author Stephen King, who lives nearby, helps to fund it.”  And:  “This area used to be a heavily forested valley, until 1983, when a severe storm with 100-mph winds created a blow-down. The entire forest was destroyed.  Then the beavers took over, and gradually the dammed area became the desolate bog you are looking at now.  Isn’t the power of nature amazing?”  I also took them to a hidden glen with a beautiful stream and small waterfalls.  “Salmon spawn here in November!” I gushed.  They were impressed!

Again and again, they thanked me profusely at each new stop for being able to see things and learn things that would otherwise not have been possible.  Together we ended up spending about 90 minutes touring the area.  We developed quite a rapport.  I discussed everything from logging and woodsmen, to moose and bear hunting, hiking, fishing, locals’ acceptance of strangers, politics, racism (the lack thereof), local education and jobs, cuisine, odd Maine laws – – you name it.   I said that the motto of Maine should be “live and let live,” since people are quite accepting of letting people do their own thing, as long as they don’t try to stuff their personal agenda down another’s throat.

“Oh, you mean everyone in Maine is very liberal!” the man exclaimed with glee.

“Well, I guess that depends on how you’d define ‘liberal,'” I replied.  “I mean, just about everyone here owns a gun,” I said.  The poor man’s eyes grew wide as saucers.  Then I realized:  who knows what they were thinking as I led them with my car through narrow mountain passes, through pocked and pitted gravel roads, through forest lanes so laden with foliage that you needed headlights to turn the shadows back into daylight, in places where no other people or buildings were in sight?  And now that I had said that everyone in rural Maine owns a gun, they probably felt like they were in a replay of “Deliverance,” only I was the one who could have been the bad guy!

Alas, it was now 6 p.m. and I still hadn’t made it to the library.  I recommended yet another isolated mountain road that would ultimately lead them back to their point of origin in New Hampshire, and after ensuring that their GPS recognized my suggested route, we wished one another well and said our goodbyes.

I don’t know what made me offer this impromptu goodwill tour to a family of complete strangers from a distant land.  I know they loved it – – they told me so, repeatedly, and remarked many times how fortunate I was to live in such a place.  But I confess, I do not know who enjoyed it more:  I had a wonderful time sharing the beauty and lore of my surroundings, and making my experiences a part of their experience, however vicariously or fleetingly.

Amazingly, after we parted, I realized that neither of us had told one another our names!

Only a week before I had read a wonderful book called “All Natural:  A Skeptic’s Quest to Discover If the Natural Approach to Diet, Childbirth, Healing, and the Environment Really Keeps Us Healthier and Happier” by Nathanael Johnson.  The concluding paragraph reads,

It wasn’t the Yosemite sunsets that had filled me with such hale energy as a child, it was watching those sunsets with my family, the four of us huddled together, windbreaker against windbreaker.  It wasn’t the close clarity of the stars, but Mom pointing out the Milky Way, that gave me the vertiginous feeling of falling into the vast heart of our galaxy. It was not only the place that mattered, but the fact that in that place the family was together and uninterrupted. I’d gone looking for Eden in the places where human fingerprints disappeared, but paradise was empty without the human touch.

Jon Krakauer, in his book “Into the Wild,” writes about Christopher McCandless,  the young American adventurer who (naively and tragically) planned to live alone with a minimum of supplies in the Alaskan wilderness.  His body was found dead of starvation only 4 months later, along with a meticulously kept journal.  In one of his last entries, trapped there as he lay dying in isolation, he scribbled:    “HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED.”

Bears

Last week I drove about an hour away to a community center in Jackson, New Hampshire to attend a lecture given by a bear specialist for the State of New Hampshire and the White Mountains from the US Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services.

Despite a week of warm temperatures, the bears in our woods are still hibernating, according to USDA’s Nancy Conneau, although bears have already been sighted about 2 hours south of us.  Weather-wise, we have only another week or two before we have to bring in our bird feeders.  You see, bears have one thing – – and only one thing – – on their mind:  FOOD.  They are in an endless struggle to fill their stomachs in the Spring to recover the 30% body fat loss from the winter; and in the late summer and fall, they must increase their body fat by 40% to account for growth, development, and to tide them over during the coming winter’s hibernation (and if they are female, the biennial birthing/nursing process).

A very easy meal for bears is to visit the bird feeder, which contains all sorts of yummy seeds full of protein and fat.  Which is a problem, because bears have a phenomenal memory.  And once they find a bird feeder (or dumpster, or greasy bbq grill, or dog food) in a specific location, they will visit that location daily, hopeful that the homeowner will think that the bear was scared when he ran away from the loud noise caused by the homeowner banging on pots to keep the bear away.  Hah!  The bear was running from the noise, but he is simply waiting until the noise goes away and then, ever persistent, he will visit again and again because he cares more about food than noise.  Their sense of smell is amazing – Ms. Conneau claimed that a black bear can smell a sunflower seed from half a mile away!

Bird feeders are such a problem – – Ms. Conneau referred to them as “bear feeders” – – that several local towns have had to adopt ordinances outlawing homeowners’ use of bird feeders from April 1 – Dec. 1.  People have respected the ordinances . . . and the bears have moved on . . . to chickens!  With the increase in interest in raising chickens (in my area, several houses have hand-inked cardboard “Fresh Eggs $2.00/dozen” signs),  bears in their never-ending quest for food have been hitting chicken coops.  They go after the chicken feed – – and the chickens.  Last summer, it seemed wherever I went (post office, library, Town office), the dead chicken count was the hot topic on everyone’s lips, and the culprit was  not the usual fox or coyote – – it was bears.

Ms. Conneau’s recommendation:  store birdseed in galvanized cans, preferably in a locked garage or storage shed, and surround the coop with an electrified fence.  While I don’t raise chickens, I do have several beehives on my property, and we do have a solar-powered electrified fence that has kept the bears at bay . . . so far.

“I had to shoot three bears at three different locations last year,” says my Bee Man, who owns and tends to the hives on my property.  “Once they get into the honey, not even an electric fence will stop them.  They are very determined, and the quest for filling their stomachs overrides any discomfort, whether from the sting of a bee or an electric fence.”

One problem is that bears are, well, so darn cute.  It’s fun to watch bears, especially when they appear so reliably at places like a dumpster.  What people don’t realize is that by feeding a bear, they are essentially condemning it to death.  As bears become habituated to a dumpster, or a neighborhood, they gradually lose their fear of people.  And in their never-ending search for food, they become increasingly daring.

The lady in the seat next to me raised her hand.  “Last year, I had a bear encounter,” she began.

It was a hot summer day so all the windows in the house were open.  She was in the backyard, mowing the lawn.  She decided to take a break, and went into the front door for a cold drink.  She saw mud on the stairs and thought, “Oh, Kyle (her teenage son) must’ve come home early.  He never wipes his feet!”  She followed the muddy trail up the carpeted stairs, all the while yelling, “Kyle!  Darn you, I told you to wipe your feet!” and when she got to the top, she came literally nose to nose with – – a bear!  Slowly and quietly she backed down the stairs, went outside, and called 911 from her cellphone.

“They sent Fish & Game, and they spent 45 minutes getting him out of the house (through the window).”  But all was not well.  Within 15 minutes the bear came back out of the woods, and tried to re-enter the house.  “Fish & Game had to shoot it right in my yard,” she said.  “I’m just glad they didn’t have to kill it inside my house.”

In some cases, nuisance bears are trapped, sent by truck and released by the Canadian border.  But it’s not really a great solution, because many of the bears return within days, covering great distances.  Females’ territory usually covers 5 – 10 miles (1 – 2 miles when cubs are young); males’ territory covers 10 miles but can cover up to 20 miles.  Although we think of them as lumbering creatures, they can run up to 35 mph.

Ms. Conneau suggested that if you really want to keep your windows open during hot summer months, to lay ammonia-soaked rags on the window sills.  Ensure you don’t have trash lying around, even if it means more trips to the dump (no, there is no trash pickup in rural communities), and meanwhile dousing the cans with ammonia as well.   (I should add that when we built our house, I was mindful of bears, and I did not put any large windows on the ground floor by design.  I am also extremely strict with my grandchildren about not leaving any food outside when they come to visit.)

The good news is that, while black bears in New Hampshire and the White Mountains are certainly dangerous animals that are capable of killing humans, the last time someone was killed by a black bear in New Hampshire was in 1784.  (Grizzly and polar bears are much more threatening and dangerous to people, but they do not exist in the Eastern U.S.)  There are approximately 5,000 bears in New Hampshire, with most in the White Mountains.  And Maine has the largest black bear population in the continental United States:   25,000 to  30,000!  (About 3,000 – 4,000 bears are killed every year in Maine during bear hunting season.  I know of five bears killed in my woods during hunting season in 2012).

Bear cubs are born in January or February in dens during hibernation.  Usually one or two cubs are born to a bear (the female is known as a “sow”), but last year there were four sows in New Hampshire that had five cubs each!  The cubs stay very close to the mother (usually in a tree while the mother forages) for the first 3 – 4 months; they move a little farther from the mother as they mature.  Cubs remain with their mother for 18 months, reentering the den with her their second winter, but the coming Spring they are on their own and must find their own territory.  They will find a mate in their second Fall and so the cycle continues.

One doesn’t want to get between a bear and her cubs.  Ms. Conneau recommended that hikers (and their pet dogs) should wear a noisemaker such as a bell to alert bears to their presence.  Black bears usually retreat before people are aware of them.

So other than the cuteness factor, what good are bears?   Bears affect the ecosystem in a number of positive ways.  But put simply, according to the Fish & Game website, “the most important function is the knowledge that if you live in an area that can support a healthy bear population, that area is also healthy enough to support you.”

*see my archived post about a bear encounter at https://midlifeinmaine.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/bde-mr-bear/

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.