Monday, February 6, 2012

A February Walk

     Mid 40's and it's almost balmy...Something just doesn't feel right. It's supposed to be February... Normally, we'd be locked in the coldest part of a Southern Indiana winter with snow, ice and wind chill...It should be a time for ice augers on the ponds, busting open the dog's water and 2 hour delays...

     It almost seems awkward in the woods. The field edges squish like a wet sponge with every step of my boot. The grass and clover on the south facing slopes are confused as new growth shoots out from under the leaf litter towards the sunlight. Even the saplings and small shrubs have their calendars wrong as buds have appeared on their limbs...It's unusually quiet...too quiet except for the crunching of leaves under foot. No song birds, no deer...The wood seems dead as I make my way through the thicket hoping to find a shed antler or two.

     There's plenty of evidence that the deer were here as their tracks cover the open trails in the mud. The forest floor in the hardwoods has been swept clean by flocks of marauding turkeys looking for a meal and the small leaf mounds give up the location where the squirrels and chipmunks have hidden their acorns and hickories. I find the remains of a coyote's dinner from last night and it looks like the song dog had a taste for rabbit...but still, the woods is lifeless today. Off in the distance, I hear a pileated woodpecker pounding out his beat against some tree deep in the holler. All is still, not a breath of wind...

     I crunch and slip my way along an old logging road and pass by an old stand and pause...I remember each hunt from that tree and the memories put a grin on my face as 20 years seems like yesterday. The sun pours in through the branches and something bright catches my eye. Something out of place...a shed antler from last year, bleached bone white by months of sun and elements, gnawed nearly in two by mice and squirrels. Not the trophy I had hoped for, but not going home empty handed. I collect my prize and make my way towards the field. A noise to my right and a squirrel appears on s stump, 10 yards away, fat and sassy from the mild winter. We have a stare down for several seconds and I count coup on the busytail as I draw my imaginary bow and send an arrow his way. I trek on and crest a rise in the field and a lone turkey races away from me and jumps to flight, seeking safety in the tree line. His beard hangs like a short rope and I smile again at the reminder that spring is just a few weeks away and if all goes well, tom and I will meet again in the green woods...