Saturday, December 24, 2011

From a Hunter's eyes

     Some of the most memorable experiences that I’ve ever had have been while in the woods. The kind of memories that are etched into your brain. The type that you hope you’ll never forget. When I sit back and think of all the things I’ve witnessed while spending countless hours among the trees, I smile a smile of gratitude. Then I think how sad it is that most people will never get to see or hear what I’ve seen or heard. It’s hard to even describe all the things I’ve witnessed…

     Early one morning, as I sat in my treestand, a blue jay squawked and made all sorts of racket just a few feet from me. He was doing his best to harass all the songbirds and doing a pretty fair job of pestering me as well. Just as I was thinking how nice it would be to have a slingshot and a marble with the blue jay’s name on it, he exploded into a cloud of blue feathers as a coopers hawk swooped out of nowhere, snatched him from his perch and took him to another limb and preceded to make breakfast out of Mr. Blue Jay. You could almost hear the glee in the voices of the sparrows and nuthatches as they sang their songs! Never seen anything like it before or since…I’ve seen a chipmunk’s cheeks stretched beyond reason as it continued to stuff its face full of seeds and nuts. I’ve watched a squirrel in a panic, scurrying about, filling his winter cache with acorns thinking he was safe for the cold months ahead, only to have another thieving squirrel sneak in and rob from his larder and dart off with the efforts of his hard work. I’ve seen a coyote trotting through a snow covered field stop on a dime, cock his head to listen, and then pounce on a mouse or vole buried  8” under the crusty snow. I’ve listened to barred owls calling that distinctive, eerie “who cooks for you, who cooks for you” call back and forth across the holler as evening settles into the woods. I’ve seen two grey foxes climb a tree higher than any canine species should ever climb. I’ve shared my treestands with several ‘coons and opossums over the years, never at my request! I’ve heard the clicking of a squirrel’s toenails against the side of hickory bark as it climbed mere inches from my face. I’ve seen the business end of an owl as she flew in mistaking my darting eyes or the movement of my camouflaged face or hands as an easy meal, only to flare at the last second leaving both of us frazzled. I’ve seen does standing on their hind legs, sparring with one another like two boxing kangaroos! I’ve witnessed a buck dogging a doe all over a hillside until she finally relents to his pressure and they did what animals do to ensure the next generation. I’ve watched two bucks fight and push and destroy a small section of woods, snapping saplings and dead snags, plowing up the ground with their feet, leaving blood and hair behind as a testament to the seriousness of their battle. I’ve heard the piercing, shrill scream of a red fox as I snuck out of the dark woods, realizing I had left my flashlight in the truck. Hair raised on the back of my neck and my pace quickened.

     I’ve had the pleasure to hear the baying of coon dogs a couple of ridges over on a clear, cold winter night. I’ve listened to the cry of a fat, old beagle as she ran a rabbit in a circle through a tangle of briars on a hillside. I’ve heard the honking of geese forever away, only to see them come across the horizon and finally dump into a spread of decoys in a cut cornfield. This past archery season as I watched a beautiful, mature ten pointer working over a scrape just yards away from my stand, I caught some movement to my left and saw my first Hoosier bobcat as he slinked down an old logging path, silently hop on a log, cross a ravine and then vanish into a stand of pawpaws…never, ever expected to see a wild bobcat in Indiana and don’t expect to see one again.

     Yep, there’s some amazing stuff going on out there. You just have to know where to look and I can promise you it’s not in the living room near your recliner.