Thankfully, there have been a few memorable and rewarding scouting expeditions in my life, and these few hours this morning will be added to that list.
I decided to go to a place I haven’t been to in years because, while looking through my notes for beechnut groves, I came across Gigi’s.
It’s named after the owner of the property that graciously gave us permission to hunt there many, probably 15 or more, years ago.
I remembered that there was a large beechnut grove almost surrounding her property. So I was optimistic that what I have seen near here might translate into a good crop there. I was not expecting to find what I did. As the photo inadequately shows, there are trees loaded with beechnuts. The likes of which I have NEVER seen in 55 years of hunting in the North Country.
As you look at the picture of the field, both tree lines, but especially the left side, are mostly beeches.
They are literally hanging branches full of nuts right over the field.
What a once-in-a-lifetime chance to bowhunt beeches. Most of the time, when trying to hunt a mast crop, especially beeches, the food is spread out over a large, fairly open area, and the deer will move from one spot to another as they consume all of the nuts under certain trees. Thus, where they are today, is not necessarily where they will be tomorrow, at least as far as bow range is concerned.
The ground under those low-hanging branches was covered in turkey sign, including several dusting bowls. It’s interesting that unlike here, the trees are not yet dropping their nuts. I can only speculate in that this might be elevation related. I checked the pods and every one was full with a large healthy nut.
The field has ample grasses and even red clover. To top things off there is the apple tree at the far end that I have never seen that many apples in.
As I headed to the truck, I was very pleased with what I saw and with myself for making those notes way back when.
At the truck, after having a snack, I thought that I should drive very slowly going out because of another big find.
As I drove in on the tote road this morning, I was surprised to see almost the whole mile of road on the left side had been logged, right up to Gigi’s property line. This of course makes her property even more important, as it now offers cover along with food. The only thing that I did wrong at this point was not to have my camera ready.
I had not gone very far, still this side of the big brook, when I saw the rump of a deer up in the cutover, 25 yards off the road. I knew that it was a buck just by its size, and I was even more convinced of that when I noticed another slightly smaller rump to its right.
My first thought was that it was a buck and a doe. Wrong! As they lifted their heads to look at me, it was two bucks.
The first was at least a long-tined six-pointer and maybe an eight, but I could not see well enough to make out brow points. The other buck was at least a four—a six if he had brow points. They were both completely in velvet still. Then a doe appeared, and the three of them bounded up the cutover. They stopped and turned broadside to me as I scrambled for the camera, which was in my backpack in the back seat…of course!
All in all, a very rewarding few hours that might result in some success later in the year.
From March 14 through my visit on the March 30, there were varying intensities and frequencies of visits. The most notable was from a vulture because they are not frequent visitors in the winter. My guess is that it was migrating because it only stopped by for a meal on the go.
Another surprise was the fisher, not because it came at all, but rather that it only came once.
There were countless visits by coyotes, even after all of the deer was consumed, except hair, including the morning that I checked the camera. You can see in this photo from that morning how little was left at that point.
The bobcat visits were much less frequent, but did provide some great photos.
The ravens were a constant, and they were by far the most photographed critters over the last two weeks.
A mouse even got involved. I had to look closely, but one night as a coyote approached you can see a mouse scooting away. The coyote barley gave it a look, unlike almost any other time when he would have turned himself inside out to catch it.
There were more great photographs than we could reasonably include in a few blog posts. Instead, we’ll just include a slideshow here.
All in all, this young buck provided much needed sustenance to many forms of life during the very trying days—the most trying days—of winter, as fat reserves are all but gone this late in the winter for most of these animals.
Having said that, I still am sorry that this little spike horn buck did not live to see his second spring.
Midnight on day 3 (March 12) found the coyotes on sight. They fed very aggressively for about 30 minutes. Again, the pair fed in shifts. At 6:30 AM, Blondie made her first appearance of the day.
She gave us some great photos in that time.
The bobcat stopped by at about 11:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 2:00 PM, and 3:00 PM. Each time, he grabbed a few mouthfuls and then headed into the swamp, seemingly to rest and digest between visits.
The coyotes returned at dusk. Blondie and her mate returned repeatedly during the night.
Anytime that there wasn’t a predator on the carcass, the ravens would be. You can just picture them sitting safely in the treetops, waiting for any opportunity to swoop in for their share.
Again midnight on day 4 (March 13), found a pair of coyotes already feasting.
This was the busiest of days, with more than 700 pictures taken.
There was a coyote at the carcass ever hour of the day and night.
They seemed to be trying to deprive the ever-present ravens of even a single bite.
Blondie showed up in the late afternoon and got her fair share.
You can clearly see in one photo one coyote waiting in the background while another ate.
This behavior goes against all of the images that I have had in my mind of what takes place at a carcass. I suspect it may be very different if it was a fresh kill, especially if the group took part in the chase and kill.
The consuming took place all night.
The camera took 598 photos the next day; March 11.The consumption started at about 3:00 AM, and it went through the night and into the morning, until the bobcat showed up. It is unclear exactly how many coyotes took part, but I can clearly identify only two.
They fed in shifts. Never during this whole time was there even a moment when two coyotes fed at the same time. While one coyote fed, the other would be 10 yards or more away, standing guard. They would then change positions. Each would feed for 15 to 30 minutes then rest and digest.
The coyotes made a hasty retreat at about 8:45 AM, and the bobcat appeared at 9:05. The cat remained for more than an hour.
All was quiet until a very big surprise came at 3:00 in the afternoon. Blondie made her grand entrance. She is the lightest colored coyote I have ever seen, including photos in journals and such.
She fed briefly then ran off with a large mouthful of meat. An hour or so later, she returned and fed again, and then her larger and darker mate showed up to get his share. They fed until midnight.
You might remember the photo I got three years ago of a very dark coyote not 100 yards from where Blondie was on this day.
Dark coyotes are rare too. My contact at the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF) recently asked for permission for Dave Anderson to use that photo for an article to appear in the New Hampshire Union Leader. I of course said yes. Wait until he sees Blondie!
Back on January 11, 2017, I discovered a dead spike horn buck. He had been dead for about a week or ten days, I would guess.
Two sets of human tracks passed within a few feet of him, but they showed no sign of the person having noticed him. I felt sad about this one because I had photographed and videoed this buck many times since he started his antler growth in March of 2016. I even got a couple of videos of him rubbing his antlers on a tree.
I always feel sad about the death of an animal, even ones that I have killed. When I take their life, I know that they will be fully utilized, and I thought this deer’s life would be utilized even more.
I knew it would take some time for animals and birds to take advantage of this, but even I was surprised by how long it would take. I knew that coyotes, for whatever reason, will let a carcass sit and age for weeks, but with this deer, they exceeded even that timeframe.
I am certainly not a medical examiner, but it is my determination that another buck killed this buck. Here’s why. There was only one small cut on his right side by his rib cage. The hole was too elongated to be from a bullet. There was no bloating that would have indicated the kind of damage a bullet would do, and there was no exit wound. The cut was far too small to be from an arrow. If a predator had killed him, it would have consumed him at once, at least partially. He was perfectly intact.
The timing (early January) was such that this would have taken place during the second rut of the season. That is when any un-bred mature does and the does born that year and come into estrus. The bucks are very aggressive at this time because their instincts tell them this is their last chance to pass on their genes.
To top it off, there was an unusually high number of bucks in the area this season. That group included two mature seven-pointers that I assumed were the dominate deer, until later when a big mature eight-pointer showed up, undoubtedly from another area where he had fulfilled his breeding duties and was anxious for more.
I think he was the culprit. The little spike buck lived in close proximity to all the other bucks, including the two seven-pointers his whole life, and he gave them a wide berth during the rut.
Every day that you live increases your chances of living the next day, but sometimes your luck just runs out.
The little spike met his demise in early January, and there he lay until March 10, when, at the stroke of midnight, a coyote started to feed on the carcass. It took the prime pieces (the steaks), and moved off.
My first surprise was how quickly a bobcat got involved. First thing that morning, there it was.
Over the years, my cameras have debunked two myths about bobcats. The first myth is that they don’t eat carrion. A dead porcupine behind my garage disproved that theory.
The second myth is that they are nocturnal. They certainly do hunt at night, but they hunt far more in the daylight, especially in the cold of winter, despite the longer nights. My cameras show far more activity during daylight and often well after sunup. I believe they hunt more with their eyes and ears and far less with their nose than do the canines, hence the value of hunting in daylight. I have also noticed many times that they are very active on the brightest of days.
In fact, of the 3,424 photos I got of animals over this carcass, I don’t have a single photo of a bobcat at night. True to form, this bobcat came back for a quick bite at 4:50 in the afternoon on that first day, and 30 minutes later, the coyote grabbed a mouthful and dashed a few feet away to engulf it. He continued this periodically for a couple of hours. There was no activity again until a coyote passed by about midnight, seemingly just to check on the carcass, but there was much more activity in the coming days.
We finally got around to moving Stand #3 on Saturday. Below is my son Tony’s take on our day.
We had a very productive day. Right after breakfast, Dad glued the latch lock loop back on to my camera. I wrote about it breaking off in my Suburban Hunters blog called “Storms-a-Comin’ “.
Then we set about moving Stand #3. We left just after 9:00 AM.
What we brought:
- All the padlock keys that we could find
- Bolt cutters in case we didn’t have the right key
- Hand saw
- Pole saw
- Reflective tacks
- Trail camera
- Walkie talkies
We needed every one of those things, but we were still underprepared.
What we should have brought:
- Another padlock
- A strap for the top of the stand
- Tools for support bar
- Spray paint
- Bow hangers
I’ll get to all that later. First, I’ll share the scouting report from our walk in to the stand.
The snow conditions varied widely thanks to the record-breaking warm temperatures. There was bare ground in spots and knee-deep snow in other places.
The knee-deep snow meant that we’d need snowshoes, but the snow was so soft that even our snowshoes sunk all the way through the snow. It was a hard slog, and we walked a lot.
One upside to all the melting snow is that the brook and beaver pond are way up.
Our first stop was Stand #1. The dead spike horn is still untouched, but now that it’s uncovered and the temps are warming, hopefully something will take advantage of all that protein.
There were turkey tracks and droppings in several places, and there were lots of droppings near Stand #3.
As Dad mentioned almost exactly a year ago (Feb. 21, 2016), The Moose Are Very Active in J.E.
There was a lot of moose activity from the brother/sister pair.
Finally, we made it to Stand #3. I tried to match up one of the keys we had to the padlock, but no such luck. Luckily, the bolt cutters cut through the padlock like butter. It was a bit unsettling at how easy it was.
I then set about undoing the straps that had been in place for years. The top one had a bad case of dry rot. It broke while Dad tried to tie a not in it. The bottom strap had grown into the tree. I had to use the handle of the pole saw to get it out of the bark.
Then we dragged the stand over to the new spot, about 50 yards to the NNW. Dragging it was much easier than we had anticipated.
We picked a tree right at the intersection of two major trails. We leaned the stand up against the tree, and as (bad) luck would have it:
- The support bar was rusted and stuck at its current length. We sprayed WD-40 on it, but we really needed a wrench or some pliers. We never got it to budge.
- There was an awkwardly shaped, big branch right in our way. Cutting it took me about an hour.
While I cut the branch, Dad set up the camera to point directly at the stand, and Bear took a nap.
Did I mention that we had record-breaking heat? I worked up quite a sweat doing all that sawing. I stripped down to a T-shirt. Here it was February 25, and we were working in short sleeves.
As you can see, the stand is much harder to see now. I put a couple of reflective tacks near it to help us find it in the dark. Despite being, it’s a much better bow stand, with two excellent windows along both trails, thanks to our pole saw work.
We’re really happy with where it is now, but we still have some work to do, hence the “What we should have brought” list above.
On the way out, we split up. Dad went straight back to the truck, while Bear and I checked the Buck Knob camera. The batteries were dead because it’s very windy on Buck Knob this time of year. There were hundreds of wind videos. We’ll need to change the sensitivity to Low the next time we’re there. We did get some great videos of the twin moose though, including two of them touching noses.
I pruned my way back down 1A. By then, the sun was high in the sky, and snow was like slush. It was rough going. Notably, there was moose sign everywhere.
After 2:00 PM (five hours later), we were finally done and exhausted.