Late Winter Report

Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing

It was 5 below this morning and has already warmed (if you can call it that) to 5 above.

We went 15 straight days earlier this month without seeing 32 and it appears we are in the middle of another stretch of 11 days before we see it again.

Tony and I were supposed to be trout (open water) fishing next weekend on the Cape, but the forecast calls for only slightly warmer temps there for the next 10 days.

The snow is deep but not abnormally so. Debbie and I went out to check the camera in back of the house last weekend, on our snowshoes. I took several measurements, and the shallowest spots were 15”, the deepest 25”, with most places coming in at 18” to 19”. Not good for the deer, but not terrible. The key will be how long it persists.

The camera had, most notably, a pair of coyotes on it a few times. They were easily walking on top of the snow. Ravens and red squirrels made up the balance of the videos.

Coyote Walking On Top of the Snow

Coyote Walking On Top of the Snow

My neighbor Dennis saw a deer walking down the middle of Washington Dr. yesterday morning–about 8:00 a.m. He described her(?) as not big or small. He said to his surprise she went to the lake side of the road and was able to walk on top of the snow. That area gets a fair amount of sun, and with the melting and refreezing makes the surface ice-like.

We are at 97” of snow here as of this morning, for the season. Last year at this time we were at 89”. Last March we had 23”. The biggest snowfall came on the 19th. I would love to see a little less than that and earlier than that too.

Signs of spring include Debbie seeing 2 chipmunks this week. There are many songbirds just south of here in Keene and Hillsboro. On the calmer sunny days the chickadees will break into their spring time songs.

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Think Spring,

WLAGS

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Tracks

Despite the high temperature of 17 today, the late winter sun has been melting yesterday’s light snow.

I went down to the mailbox and was surprised to see snowshoe hare tracks going down the middle of the driveway.

Snowshoe Hare Tracks in the Snow

Snowshoe Hare Tracks in the Snow

I was surprised because I have seen so few of their tracks and none of them on the camera, which is very unusual in recent years.

So much so that I have assumed they were in the decline of their cycle.

They might well be, but I almost never see their tracks anywhere around the house except behind the garage or at the compost pile.

There was also fresh gray fox track coming up the driveway.

Gray Fox

Gray Fox

Deaf as I am, I could hear the chickadees and nuthatches singing their spring songs.

White-Breasted Nuthatch

White-Breasted Nuthatch

WLAGS

A Deer Story

8-Pointer

8-Pointer

Although I got that buck in 1967, the story started a year earlier.

In October 1966 in Athens, Vermont, I was starting my second year of bow hunting in that state and my initiation to a thrilling and humbling experience that would last a lifetime.

My hunting equipment consisted of a Wing 42# 62” wood and fiberglass laminate bow, a dozen arrows made of Port Orford cedar with turkey quills for fletchings and a Kwikee quiver, which clamped to the limbs of the bow and left the Bear Razorheads exposed.

A simple military camo, today it would be close to Woodland camo, cotton poncho.

That was it. No tree stands; they were a decade away, and fiberglass arrows were a couple of years away, and aluminum a few years after that.

I had been hunting a few days, and had managed a shot at a doe when I awoke from a nap at the base of a hemlock tree the previous day.

I was working my way down a tote road with all the stealth I could muster when a snowshoe hare hopped across the trail in front of me. I remember thinking what a good cacciatore he would make. So I drew and fired and watched the arrow sail just over his back.

Snowshoe Hare

Snowshoe Hare

As I searched for the arrow, I came across another arrow. It was white with a Pearson Magnum broadhead. That head weighed much more than my Bears, but I decided to keep it on the rest in case I saw the hare again. No sense in using one of my own arrows on such an animal and chance losing or breaking it.

Back down the tote road another few yards and suddenly this beautiful six pointer jumps the road in front of me, from left to right. It was at that time the biggest deer I had ever seen in the woods.

I knew instantly where he was headed. I ran down the tote road past where he had crossed. I knew the road would cut hard right shortly after that. I made the corner and took another hard right into the field where I knew he would cross.

He did. I was 2 seconds away from getting into my comfort zone of 30 yards for a shot. He stepped into the field, head up and alert, at about 40 yards. I could make that shot. I practiced at that range often enough to feel that way.

He turned his head to the left, and I drew. My heart sank! There was the stupid Pearson broadhead!
I knew I was in trouble. I knew it weighed much more than my broadheads, so I adjusted my shot to hopefully compensate and let fly. I watched for what seemed forever as the arrow passed behind the left front leg and under the chest. What a helpless feeling as he turned back towards the tote road.

I cursed the fate of finding that stupid arrow. I looked forever for it and blood, but in the tall grass it was gone….I thought.

Two weeks later I took a neighbor, Everett Durand, there for opening day of gun season. I put him on a stump overlooking the tote road and threatened him with life and limb if he moved. Ten minutes later, I was sitting under a white pine overlooking the field when there he was, the buck, standing a few feet from where I had missed him two weeks earlier. The first shot of opening day was yet to be heard anywhere.

I brought my 7.7 Japanese rifle with the peep sight to my shoulder. Again I was snake bit. As plainly as I could see the deer with my naked eye, there wasn’t enough daylight yet to see him through the sight.

I waited patiently for the sky to brighten, but before it did he started back into the woods. I decided to take a
Kentucky windage
shot, thinking that the worst that would happen is if I missed, he would run right into Everett.

I did, and he did. I missed, and I tracked him to the stump where Everett was supposed to be. He jumped right over it! Needless to say, Everett never was invited to hunt with me again.

The next March my best friend, Paul was home on leave from Vietnam. I took him to the spot to reenact everything that transpired that fall. I stood where I had taken the shot with the bow and guided him to the spot where the buck had stood. When I positioned him I said, “The arrow should be under your feet.” He looked down, parted the now matted grass, and sure enough, there it was!

The next year, I had to work on opening day of archery season, so my season started on that Sunday. I went to one of the many apple trees that were tucked along this small, wet area along a brook. I saw what I knew were that buck’s track in the mud.

I stopped almost immediately and went back to my car to plan my strategy for the evening. I started by leaving my Marlboros in the car, along with my camo poncho—too noisy. My clothing consisted of a Woolrich Buffalo red and black check shirt, a cotton camo Jones style hat, and a pair of jeans. I went back up the hill at about 2:00 PM and climbed a small apple tree. I was only off the ground about 5’. I had one leg on one limb and the other on another limb—almost wish-boned. It was uncomfortable, but it was my only option.

A couple of hours later, I got glimpses of does meandering through the swamp. A couple of hours after that, a snowshoe hare came out under the tree and starting feeding on the fallen apples.

I amused myself watching him to pass the time.

Suddenly I had more company as a Ruffed Grouse landed in the tree with me on my left side. I dared not move my head as she picked leaves off the tree.

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed Grouse

Just as suddenly, I heard something across the brook. I looked up only to see bright white antlers headed right for me.

My heart started beating so fast I could hear it and the leaves in the tree, as my left leg started to shake. I was sure that the grouse would feel it and fly off and spook the deer.

As the buck got closer, I decided I had to do something about my leg. When he put his head down to take an apple, I grabbed the right limb of the tree and lifted my leg to take the pressure off; all the while keeping an eye on the hare and the grouse.

It worked. The shaking stopped, and I very, very slowly picked up my bow.

The deer was 20’ away as I put an arrow on the string. I could count his whiskers, hear him breath, and even hear him swallow. As his body turned towards me, he turned to his right and looked away.

I drew, keeping each of my three eyes on the hare, the grouse, and him.

I released and immediately noticed that he took a step forward at that instant. It took no time for the arrow to fly the 15’ to his chest. He whirled and was gone in four bounds in about 1 second.

I never did see or hear what happened to the hare or the grouse when I shot. I was too focused on the buck.

The blood trail was awful to say the least. The arrow didn’t pass through. Most of the drops were no bigger than a freckle.

We (me, Leslie Boardman, Jeff, and Weasel) tracked him until midnight, and all of our flashlights died.

He was headed straight downhill to a brook. I stripped off pieces of clothing to mark blood spots. When we got back to the tent I was shirtless.

Next morning at daybreak, we were back on the trail. We had good blood on a rocky spot on the edge of the brook. I sent the other guys across to look for blood on that side. When they got there they yelled, “There he is!”
“Where?”

“Right in front of you!”

The glare on the water was such from my side that I couldn’t see him. There he was, submerged with his antlers tangled in some overhanging brush.

When I dressed him out, I found the broadhead in his stomach and actually cut myself on it. The arrowhead deflected off a rib, through the liver, and never punctured the other side rib cage.

A decision we had to make was where to drag him out. The easiest way would be across the only posted land in the area. I decided to take the chance and drag him across the man’s field.

When we reached the barn, I went inside and spoke to the farmer and apologized for trespassing.

He said, “You shot that buck with that thing?” pointing at my bow as he looked at the deer.
“Yes sir,” I replied. “You can hunt on my land anytime you want, son.”

The deer was 155# dressed, 8 points, and probably 3-1/2 years old. It was the only bow-killed deer in Athens that year and the biggest bow-killed buck in that district that year.

The buck’s stomach was full of apples, and the meat was very tender and tasty. The best eating buck of that size I ever had.

It was the greatest hunting experience of my life, and that is saying a bunch!

WLAGS

Videos

In the last 7 days the camera behind the house took over 60 videos.
Almost half were of 3 grey fox. 2 traveling together and coming by almost every evening shortly after sunset.
It is their mating season after all.
A single shows up often, mostly 4 to 6 hours after the pair.
Of great and pleasant surprise was several videos of a large and I mean very large fisher cat.
I’ll bet he is at least as heavy as a fox. They have been known to weigh up to 18# and a big grey fox would be 12#.
He often showed up just before the single fox.
In one he sits on his haunches like a bear and scratches himself for the whole video.
He must live near by as he seems to come by every other day.
And then there is the coyote. He or she shows up at first light and if it gets within 40’ of the camera it looks at it and takes off like it was shot at!
This camera is a black light camera and has spooked only bears that have gotten close enough to smell it.
It has no infra red light to spook them. It is why I chose this model.
It is leaving me scratching my head as to what is spooking the coyote.
Any ideas?
By the way remember all the track I saw yesterday? Today after the 10” of snow, only red squirrel track.
Nothing moved overnight. It will be interesting to see how soon everything resumes normal movements.
 
WLAGS

Mid-Winter Update

In an effort to better serve our “sports” (the Maine name for “clients”), Tony and I (mostly Tony) dragged the 8’ Jon boat into a remote trout pond on Sunday.
It was a half mile mostly uphill drag over several inches of snow. Almost perfect conditions to do so.
We have fished it a few times with float tubes, mostly in the fall. It’s a very pretty and productive pond of about 16 acres.
This was something we had long talked about doing and now with the boat there and chained to a tree, we will fish it more often.
Our Jon boat at the remote pond

Our Jon boat at the remote pond

On Saturday at 10:45 am Tony and I saw a deer, too far to know the sex, in a snow-free western facing field.
We said almost simultaneously, that it looked not only healthy but even fat.
Today at 10:45 am I had 2 deer jump out in the road in front of me in Hillsboro. This time I got a great look at them as they crossed into a field,
in the bright sun and turned and looked at me. I could see plainly that both their rumps and shoulders were rounded,
indicating they had plenty of fat under their hides. Not a hair was out of place on this mother and daughter.
It would have made a great picture of them with the snow cover and stone walls in front and in back of them.
A couple of bounds with flags up and then a trot to and over the stonewall and they were gone.
I can honestly say I have never seen deer look that healthy in February before.
The deer are obviously moving freely right now. I think they are moving midday because they are using less energy then than they would be
during the coldest night time hours, when they can curl up and conserve heat and energy.
We are supposed to get a significant snowfall tonight and Sunday. Things could easily change for the worse but I’m optimistic that with a little luck,
the heard will come out of this winter in good shape.
Last year we had a WSI (Winter severity index ) of 32 for the season, far below the average. 17 of those days came in March.
Right now we are at 14 this season. If we don’t have another severe March or worse yet April, we, they should be in great shape.
WLAGS
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