J.E. Christmas Eve

J.E. Christmas Eve

My first day in the woods in a couple of weeks was, as always full of surprises. As soon as I opened the truck door my first surprise was the sound of gushing water. It had rained overnight and more than once this week, but still the volume surprised me.

The second surprise was to see the beaver pond full with water skirting the edges and through the middle of the dam. My first thought was that the beavers had returned, but I saw no sign of recent activity.

The J.E. Beaver Pond Last Fall

The J.E. Beaver Pond Last Fall

As I walked upstream, I was very pleased to see the trout taking full advantage of this fresh flow of water. There were several brookies, including two big (six inches or better) trout sitting at the tail end of the pool formed by the new culvert. Six inches may not seem big to some people, but those fish were probably five to six years old. They grow very slowly in this environment, in which they have little food of value. Also they have to expend great energy to survive in the brook’s current and the cold months that are about to descend upon them.

There actually was a small caddisfly hatch going on, and the trout were doing their best to take advantage of this little bonus because of the mild weather.

Caddisfly

Caddisfly

I could see the trout better than I had in months because the rush of water had scoured the bottom of the brook almost perfectly clear of leaf litter and debris. That is why the pond was as full as it was. All that debris being forced down stream to the dam helped to seal the leaks.

Wood Ducks in the Beaver Pond

An Old Photo of the Beaver Pond Dam

The rest of the morning, no matter where I was in the woods, I could hear rushing water. All the tributary streams were scrubbed clean, and it seemed that there were trout everywhere.

Everything I saw in the woods for sign was kind of expected. The deer, moose, and coyotes along with grouse, squirrels, and even the mice were taking full advantage of this unusually warm weather. Nothing I saw looked like the wildlife had gone into winter survival mode…yet.

Most of the rest of my surprises would come when I would check the SD cards from the four cameras at home. The first three cameras were full—to the tune of more than 100 videos—of squirrels (red, gray, and flying) along with tons of mice and a few coyotes trying to take advantage of them.

The last camera, the one on Buck Knob, was full of surprises, and truthfully I didn’t expect to see much on it at all. In chronological order, there was a cow moose at 9 am on the 7th. At 11:00 that night, there was a deer running so fast that it is little more than a blur. One minute later, there is a coyote in hot pursuit. An hour later, there is a big old doe acting like she doesn’t have care in the world. She was on camera each of the next three days. At 3 pm on the 13th there is a small bear cub that normally would be denned up now, running past the camera.

At 1 pm on the 18th there’s a big surprise—two large dogs running down the game trail. Not a good thing for any of the wildlife down there. I THINK I know who owns them, and if I’m right I will speak to them.

One minute after the dogs go past, there is an animal running so fast in the opposite direction that I honestly can’t make out what it is. It is either a fox, a small coyote, or even a bobcat. The trigger speed on these cameras are pretty fast, so whatever it was, it was all but flying. We have seen evidence of coyotes running very fast before.

Last there was a great opportunity to get a great photo or video of a moose, but it passed so close to the camera that most of the shots were useless.

The Too Close Moose

The Too Close Moose

This particular camera was set in hybrid mode, in which it takes three still photos followed by a video. In hindsight, I think it would have been better off in video mode all the time.

Live and learn!

WLAGS

Advertisements

Supreme Effort

I had the best night sleep that I have had in weeks last night. With that, I knew that today would be a good day to take on a major scouting trip.

I went to Smith Pond to scout the area between Kingsbury, Jones Hill, and the Jones property. I know that that area has had ongoing logging operations for the last five years or so.

When I arrived, my friend Robbie was running a logging operation of his own there. I asked whether he had seen any deer recently. He said he had seen his first two sets of tracks that morning. He said that he thought that the best places to hunt would be the oaks, like the backside of Kingsbury or Lovewell. He asked me to check in with him on my way out, as he was taking his boy out this weekend for Youth Weekend.

He told me to avoid the cutovers on the right because they were a mess with debris. He was right, but I went through them anyway, not wanting to leave any stone unturned. I forgot how steep and boulder-strewn those hills were. You realize these things more at my age. It was uphill all the way for a mile and a half. I was glad it was 36 degrees, or I would have sweated to death.

My mission, besides finding deer sign, was to reach the dozen or more apple trees that were scattered about the top. Robbie had told me that the small orchard nearer E. Washington Rd. was void of sign yesterday. To top things off I forgot my compass, and now with the terrain all askew, I would need my sense of direction to be on its game, and it was. I found the first tree with some difficulty because a bear had snapped the top off. No apples.

I call the next spot 7AT (seven apple trees) in my GPS, but with the leaves down, I actually found a dozen trees there. There were a handful of apples in total and no sign.

If I were 20 years younger, this place would be on my radar every year for bow hunting. It is obviously very secluded. There are trees of varying age and variety. Most however, ripen fairly early in the season, and bears are frequent visitors. There are many places to put up a permanent stand or a climber (a climbing tree stand). I love this spot.

Brad Using His Climber

Brad Using His Climber

There was no fresh sign though, so I headed north to check out a couple more spots—first a single tree, and then a grove of five more. That grove had apples in two trees that amounted to a couple of dozen. No sign.

So now I headed for a spot that bordered the Jones property that used to have a ladder stand that overlooked a nice tree. The stand was gone, thankfully, and the tree looked great, with 50 apples in the tree and 50 more on the ground. I ate one, and I understood why they were uneaten. They were very tart. The deer won’t eat them until they have been frozen and are then sweetened.

Frozen Apples

Frozen Apples

Behind the tree is about a full acre of red raspberry bushes, which deer love, and was littered with many historical deer trails. Nothing fresh.

I tried to take a photo of this spot, but my camera batteries were dead. I wasn’t very well prepared today, I thought to myself.

At this point you might think I was discouraged. Instead I was quite pleased with myself to be able to pull this off at all, and I was very encouraged that these trees were doing well. If I were only 10 years younger, I would take full advantage of them.

I decided not to torture myself on the way out and try to avoid the cutovers, which were a half mile below me. So I went further north before cutting west. It worked beautifully. The last time I was in here (a couple of years ago), I took a serious header, and I don’t need to be doing that again. As I was heading downhill, which my orthopedic doctor told me just Wednesday to avoid, I heard a thunderous crash as a tree toppled over 20 yards to my right. It scared the hell out of me. I also came across a fresh set of moose tracks. The only fresh tracks I saw all morning.

Moose Track

Moose Track

As I reached the logging road, it became obvious that the other side of the road, that had been logged a few years ago, was now at prime deer/moose growth stage. There were openings through the select cut where you could see for more than a hundred yards, and the understory was covered with raspberry and blackberry bushes. I could see myself tracking a buck through there, snow or no snow.

I would like to be telling you that I found the mother lode of deer sign, but for today I was pleased enough to just do the job and know that I have the good fortune to live in a place where there are so few boundaries that I can walk for hours and not concern myself with other people or posted signs.

WLAGS

Most Discouraged

Wow! I was so disappointed after checking the cameras this morning. We have had a major leaf fall, but I did not see ANY deer sign this morning. The leaves can cover droppings and track, but not rubs. I saw nothing.

The cameras confirmed what my eyes saw. There was one doe on camera #1, 11 minutes after I checked it last, and that was it!

I did get a great video of Mamma bear and her now considerably larger twin cubs at the Fork. Right at the end of the video, she stands up on her hind legs.

Black Bear Sow and Cubs

Black Bear Sow and Cubs

I also got a great video of a fisher cat at Stand #2, which is not surprising, as I deleted over 60 videos of mice, flying squirrels, gray squirrels, and porcupines at Stand #2.

Fisher Cat at Stand #2

Fisher Cat at Stand #2

A coyote and a red fox, the first I’ve ever seen there, also showed up to try and take advantage of the rodent explosion.

Red Fox at Stand #2

Red Fox at Stand #2

Those rodents have completely wiped out the acorns there.

By the way, I got a great video of a big bull moose at the Fork a while back that I forgot to mention.

Big Bull Moose at the Fork

Big Bull Moose at the Fork

I’m stymied, but I don’t have the physical strength right now to scout the areas where I think the deer have moved off to.

My best guess is the bigger oak groves on either side of Mountain Road and up to Stand #5.

The other possibility is the new cutovers above Eckart’s.

I have never seen so little sign in J.E.

The brookies are getting ready to spawn. I saw several this morning, including at the spot where Debbie and I watched them spawn last year.

WLAGS

WLAGS Guides Tony to His First Buck, Part 4

WLAGS Guides Tony to His First Buck, Part 4

As the days start to shorten, and our thoughts turn to the upcoming fall hunting season, our minds turn to successful seasons past. Below is part 4 of my son Tony’s write-up of shooting his first buck on November 13, 2011.

WLAGS

——————

When my alarm went off at 4:30 Sunday morning, I turned it off and laid in bed, deciding. “Do I roll over and sleep in,” I asked myself, “Or do I get up and give it one last go?” “Chi dorme non piglia pesci,” [KEE DORM-ay KNOWN PEEL-ya PAY-shee] I thought. It’s an old Italian expression that literally means, “He who sleeps, catches no fish.” It’s the Italian way of saying “The early bird catches the worm.” I’d like to say that I sprung out of bed, but after four straight days of hoofing it up and down hills and valleys, it was more of a crawl.

I ambled downstairs, wiping the sleep out of my eyes. Dad greeted me in the kitchen. “So what do you think?”

“I think I need to take the bear stand,” I said.

“Sounds good,” Dad said. “You walk in the usual way. I’ll walk in from the end of the road. I’ll give you a 15-minute head start. That way you’ll be settled in the stand before I push through those beeches.”

We followed the plan to the letter, not that it was that difficult. Even in the low light, I was able to follow my dad’s ubiquitous pink tape without much trouble. As designed by Dad, I came up behind the stand from the north side, the opposite way that we would expect a deer to come to the area, especially if my dad pushed it through the beech grove to the south of the stand. Of course, deer never come into your stand the way that you expect them to, but I was wearing rubber boots, which ostensibly don’t carry scent.

I climbed up in the stand, just as those two young bears had done. I brought up the rope that they had pulled down, and I tied it back into place. There hadn’t been a trail camera here since Dad brought his home a few days ago, so we weren’t sure whether those bears had been back. That made me a little nervous.

I was rushing to get to and into the stand to make sure that I was ready to go if Dad pushed a buck by me. In all my haste, I worked up a decent sweat. Once in the stand, I stripped down my upper body, and I hung all my damp clothes on the branches around me to air out.

It was still well before sunup, and I cooled down quickly. I redressed, and prepared to stand vigil for the next few hours.

My View of Sunup That Morning

My View of Sunup That Morning

Normally, in a situation like this, something happens right away or not at all. A couple hours after sunrise, my expectations lowered by the second. I expected to see my dad walking in to my stand within the next half hour, asking me the usual one-word query, “Anything?”

My mind started to wander. My nephew Ian had moved in with us two years prior, and although we had a great start, things weren’t going well at this point. Hunting was supposed to be my way of getting my mind off of all of the issues that my wife and I were having with Ian, but now it was all I could think about. I was running through all of our past confrontations and imaging future ones. As this played out in my head, I grew more and more angry. I was standing in the tree stand now, pretending to be focused on a deer or my dad heading towards me from the south, but I might as well have had my eyes closed. All I could see were the infuriating images playing over and over in my mind.

All of this was interrupted by a cacophony of hooves hitting the ground. For a moment, it sounded like a stampede of caribou. I quickly realized that it was just one animal. My first thought was that it must be a moose to make such a racket. As it came closer, I wasn’t so sure.

The first thing I saw were antlers. “Fork horn,” I thought as I saw four distinct points on its head. Its head was down, when it wasn’t looking back, and its tail was straight out, a sure sign that it was startled but it felt secure that its pursuer didn’t see it.

The scenario was playing out exactly as we had drawn it up in the playbook. I couldn’t believe it. That never happens.

I took off my safety, watched the deer run towards me, and I thought, “I don’t deserve this.” I was feeling guilty for all the angry thoughts I was having about my nephew.

I quickly changed my mind, raised my rifle, and thought, “Yes, I do.” There was just one problem, the deer was moving at more than a trot, and it was quartering towards me to boot. I’m unlikely to take a shot with one of those factors; with the two combined, it’s strictly a “hold your fire” situation for me. I kept my sights on the animal, hoping that it would stop. It didn’t. It ran right past my stand and stopped just a few yards behind the right side of it, from right where I had approached the stand.

It stopped still, completely obscured by all the conifer branches between us. Although I couldn’t see it, I was sure that it was looking back towards Dad to see whether he was on its tail. Instinctively, I grunted twice with my mouth, not having a store-bought grunt call with me. I can thank my friend Matt for teaching me that trick, which he used to shoot a spike horn. Dragging that deer out turned into quite the adventure. But that’s another story.

The buck immediately started to backtrack itself, but it had its head down in my tracks. I guess my rubber boots weren’t so scent-proof after all. It was 40 yards away; well within range of the 50 yards for which I had sighted in my .44 magnum Ruger. The only problem was that it was walking at a quick pace, and it was walking through lots of thin maple saplings.

I glanced ahead of it for an opening, leaned the stock of the .44 against the tree trunk to steady it, and promised myself that I’d squeeze off a round as soon as the deer stepped into that opening. I can’t remember all of the times that this technique didn’t work out. The deer usually stops before the opening and wanders off through the cover of thick brush, never presenting a shot.

Luckily, this time was different. The buck stepped into the opening and stopped, still with its nose in my tracks. As it was moving from my right to my left, I decided to wait until it moved its front left leg forward, fulling exposing its vitals before squeezing the trigger. It did, and I did.

Normally, even with a direct hit to the heart, a deer will run a few yards or make a couple of bounds. Again, this time was different. The deer fell over as though it were frozen solid and someone had pushed it.

I kept the safety off, and I kept aiming for its vitals. I thought, “If it moves a muscle or gets up, I’m going to shoot until it stops moving.” The last thing any hunter wants is an animal to suffer. “Quick and painless” is the mantra. To my surprise, it never flinched a muscle. It lay stone dead after just the one shot.

“Quick and Painless” Is the Mantra

“Quick and Painless” Is the Mantra

I radioed Dad. “You got a drag rope with you?” I actually had a drag rope with me. That’s an inside joke. My friend Matt has, on more than one occasion, including when he grunted in that spike horn, shot a deer and not had a drag rope or many other necessities with him (such as his license, a knife, and so on).

Dad radioed back, “I’m already running to you.” He had started running as soon as he had heard the shot.

“Take your time,” I said. “He’s dead in front of me. I can see him. It’s a fork horn.”

Dad came running up two minutes later. “Where is he?”

I pointed Dad to the deer while I remained in the stand. “I hate to tell you this, buddy,” he said. “It’s a six.”

Dad With My 6-Pointer

Dad With My 6-Pointer

From the tree stand, I had one bar on my cell phone. I called our wives to let them know that we’d be occupied for a while.

A View from the Top

A View from the Top

“I shot a buck,” I said to Debbie.

“Holy mackerel,” she replied. “I’ll bring some snacks by.”

After taking a few pictures from the stand, I climbed down. Dad shook my hand and gave me hug.

“Nice job,” he said.

“You did all the work,” I said. “All I did was grunt and pull the trigger.”

“All I Did Was Grunt and Pull the Trigger.”

“All I Did Was Grunt and Pull the Trigger.”

As I field dressed the deer, Dad asked me to recount the whole story. After that, he told me his side of the story. During that time, Debbie had dropped off a cooler with snacks and drinks at Dad’s truck.

After completing the field dressing, I made the half-mile hike back to Dad’s truck alone to drop off a bunch of our stuff and get some of Debbie’s snacks and drinks.

“I’ll wait here with the deer, and I’ll keep my rifle in case those two little bastards show up,” Dad said, referring to the young black bears that had attacked the camera and climbed the stand.

When I got back to the truck, I dropped the tailgate to make our lives easier getting the deer in the bed of the truck.

The drag out wasn’t bad. It was mostly downhill, and there weren’t many blowdowns. Dad kept trying to help me drag the deer, but I kept telling him to just carry our gear because he was dealing with a hernia. I didn’t want it to get worse. Besides, I was so excited about getting my first buck that dragging it didn’t feel like work.

When we got close to the truck, we waited until no cars were driving by to put the deer in the back. We didn’t want everyone to know about our great new hunting spot.

We went home to eat something and take the deer to a checking station. As I went outside to cut out the tenderloins, Dad’s neighbor Jean came up the driveway with a hearty “Congratulations!”

“What brings you by?” I asked.

“I saw you parked down the road earlier,” she said. “I figured that you had your tailgate down because you got a deer.”

Right then, I made a mental note to never leave the tailgate down on a pickup truck at any of our hunting spots.

Never Leave the Tailgate Down

Never Leave the Tailgate Down

She took a couple pictures of Dad and me with the deer.

“Look at that smile,” she said. “You can’t wipe that grin off your face.”

“What can I say,” I said. “It’s my first buck.”

That First-Buck Smile

That First-Buck Smile

To my surprise, she offered to hold the legs open so I could access the tenderloins. By this time, her husband Mike had come over to check out the deer as well. He wasn’t surprised that Jean was willing to hold the leg. “Jean is fascinated with dead wildlife,” he said. “Haven’t you seen the beaver pelt in our house?”

We didn’t have much time to chat. Being Sunday, the local sporting goods shop closed early, and we had to rush to get there in time to check in the deer.

He weighed in at 106 pounds; not bad for a 1.5-year old buck. We’ve always butchered our own deer, something I took great pride in, but it was getting to be late in the afternoon. I had an early meeting the next morning, and I was still two hours away from home. Luckily, we bumped into one of our favorite game wardens at the checking station, and he gave us the name of his favorite butcher.

He Weighed in at 106 Pounds

He Weighed in at 106 Pounds

When we arrived at the butcher’s, he asked, “Is he a beauty?” I was thinking, “He’s the most beautiful deer I’ve ever seen,” but before I could respond, he answered his own question, “They all are, aren’t they?” I agreed, but I was stunned that a guy who spends day after day butchering dozens of deer would still think that deer are beautiful. It was refreshing to talk to someone who respects the animals as much, if not more than we do.

The Most Beautiful Deer I’ve Ever Seen

The Most Beautiful Deer I’ve Ever Seen

Having finally tagged my first buck, I felt a huge weight lift off of my shoulders. I felt like a real hunter, not just some city slicker that runs around the woods on weekends. Of course, I had very little to do with my success. All the credit goes to the guide.

WLAGS Guides Tony to His First Buck, Part 3

WLAGS Guides Tony to His First Buck, Part 3

As the days start to shorten, and our thoughts turn to the upcoming fall hunting season, our minds turn to successful seasons past. Below is part 3 of my son Tony’s write-up of shooting his first buck on November 13, 2011.

WLAGS

——————

Opening day in New Hampshire is always on a Wednesday. Dad’s brother-in-law, Dana always comes up from New York for that week. For reasons I can’t remember now, we decided to hunt other places, like J.E. and our other usual haunts. We hunted hard Wednesday through Friday, and none of us so much as saw a deer. We were frustrated. At one point, Dana and I were admiring one of Dad’s neighbor’s shed antler collection.

Dad’s Neighbor’s Shed Antler Collection

Dad’s Neighbor’s Shed Antler Collection

As I started a three-point turn to leave, we noticed a nice buck hanging in a tree at the end of his driveway. “So that’s what they look like,” Dana said wryly. “Some hunters we are,” he added. “We didn’t even notice one 10 feet from us hanging in a tree!” Defeated, Dana and I headed home for lunch. Dad was still out scouting, earning the G in WLAGS.

The Elusive Plain-Sight Buck

The Elusive Plain-Sight Buck

Just as Dana and I finished our lunches, Dad came home furious. “Someone screwed with our new ladder stand,” he yelled. “And the camera! The camera was on the ground, facing the tree stand, and the rope we tied to the stand was on the ground. The strap for the camera was on the ground, but it was still locked to the tree. But they screwed up! They left the SD card in the camera! I’ve got them now! Let’s go see if we can recognize them.”

Dana, my dad, and I headed to my dad’s computer in the basement. As my dad popped the SD card into his computer, we anxiously awaited what the videos would reveal. Dad hadn’t checked the camera in a long time. Thus, there were many videos on the card, including videos of the following:

Dana (6'3") Showing How Tall That Bull Moose in the Video Is

Dana (6’3″) Showing How Tall That Bull Moose in the Video Is

We were still anticipating seeing the would-be thieves. “OK, we should be getting to the most recent videos now,” Dad said.

The next video was of a young black bear walking from right to left in front of the camera. Just as it’s about to walk by, it stops and walks towards and eventually behind the camera.

In the second video, the bear is sniffing and pawing at the camera. With each successive 30-second clip, the bear became more aggressive with the camera, biting at it continually. At one point, you can hear the strap coming out of the camera as the bear pulls it with his teeth. The camera ends up on the ground, facing the stand, which serendipitously allows you to see the bear and its sibling climb the tree stand. The very next video is of Dad showing up on the scene four days later. He is visibly confused and upset. That’s the final video on the card.

Two Young Bears Messing With Our Stand

Two Young Bears Messing With Our Stand

We nearly fell off of our chairs laughing. Dad’s would-be thieves were two yearling black bears, who had it in for Dad’s camera and tree stand. We watched the videos over and over, and they never ceased to send us into knee-slapping, howling laughter. “Are…you…kidding…me?” was all Dad could manage between guffaws.

Despite all the laughs, we learned something important. This tree stand had a lot of activity—a lot more activity than all of our other stands—and that couldn’t have been a coincidence. Clearly something was drawing all these animals to this area. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that it was the beechnuts.

On Saturday, Dana left very early to get home for opening day of gun season in New York. My dad and I continued to hunt, and we weren’t having any more luck. I was pessimistic.

WLAGS Guides Tony to His First Buck, Part 1

WLAGS Guides Tony to His First Buck, Part 1

As the days start to shorten, and our thoughts turn to the upcoming fall hunting season, our minds turn to successful seasons past. Below is part 1 of my son Tony’s write-up of shooting his first buck on November 13, 2011.

WLAGS

——————

As is well documented in “The Best Season, Part 1” and in “The Best Season, Part 1: Tony’s Take,” I shot my first deer at the tender age of 15 by way of bow and arrow. That entire experience went so perfectly and easily, that I thought that harvesting a deer would quickly become a yearly event.

I felt much the way that Bronson Arroyo must have felt in November of 2004 after winning the World Series with Red Sox. He probably thought, “Now that we’ve broken this 86-year drought, we’ll probably start a dynasty that will win several more World Series titles.” Little did Arroyo know that 2005, a year in which the Red Sox would be swept out of the first round of the playoffs, would be his last in Beantown, and he’d spend the next eight years with the underachieving Cincinnati Reds, while the Red Sox would go on to win two more World Series.

Bronson Arroyo on the Underachieving Reds

Bronson Arroyo on the Underachieving Reds

When you get cocky, as I had after shooting my first deer, life has a way of humbling you awfully quickly. I spent the next 10 years underachieving as a hunter. I had several opportunities over those years, but all were undermined by bad luck, bad decisions, or bad performance on my part. I had lost my mojo as a hunter.

I finally redeemed myself 11 years after shooting my first doe by shooting a very large doe with the rifle, but that is a story for another day. To the point of this story, I would then endure a post-1986 Red Sox-like, 13-year dry spell without harvesting another deer. I continued to archery hunt for the first few years of that dry spell—Dad even gave me a recurve, which I hunted with for a couple of years.

My Cousin Shooting My Recurve

My Cousin Shooting My Recurve

But I eventually had to give up bow hunting, as my busy, city-living lifestyle wouldn’t permit me the time or access to practice. I instead alternately picked up the black powder rifle and my trusty Ruger .44 magnum carbine.

My Trusty Ruger .44 Magnum and a Buck Rub

My Trusty Ruger .44 Magnum and a Buck Rub

Again, with both of those weapons, I had opportunities, but was never able to put venison on the table. Over those years, my frustration ascended as my confidence descended, particularly as my friends and relatives continued to have success. I then entered the final stage of grief; acceptance.

I looked at my successful fellow hunters, and I realized the difference between what they were doing and what I was doing—scouting. I came to realize that my lack of success was almost entirely due to lack of scouting. It was in those years that I truly learned just how invaluable scouting is to successful hunting. My corporate ladder-climbing lifestyle just wasn’t allowing me the time to do the necessary scouting to have a successful hunting season, and I accepted that. I stopped looking at hunting as means to putting meat on the table, and I started looking at it as what it truly was for me—a hobby to get me out of the city and into the woods with my closest friends and relatives. My frustration tapered off the more that I decided that I wouldn’t care about “success” in the woods; I simply cared that I was *in* the woods and not sitting behind a desk. I began to enjoy myself more. I looked forward to simply *seeing* all the moose, bear, coyotes, and occasional deer, as well as the non-game animals. I also looked forward to being unplugged from the rat race of my daily life and just being.

Just Being

Just Being

I’ve found again and again in life that when you change your attitude in this way, success has a way of finding you, but not without a little help. Enter WLAGS.

Winter Severity Index Report for 2015

Each year the NH Fish and Game Department tracks the severity of our winters to evaluate its effect on wildlife. Of most importance to the sportsmen of the state is the effect on white tailed deer. The average adult doe goes into the winter with about a three-month supply of fat reserves. Theoretically every WSI day takes an additional day off those reserves.

A Doe Starts the Winter with 3 Months of Fat Reserves

A Doe Starts the Winter with 3 Months of Fat Reserves

A Winter Severity Index (WSI) day is any day that the snow is more than 18” deep or the temperature is below zero. If both of those criteria are met in the same day, it is then a 2 WSI day.

You can use WSI to classify a winter season this way:
30 to 50 WSI: moderate
50 to 80 WSI: moderately severe
80 to 100 WSI: severe
100+: extremely severe

I have the state WSI records from 1964 through 2009 and my own after that. The worst winter on record was 1969 to 1970 with 112 WSI state-wide average.
The best winters were 2005 and 2009 with just 13 WSI.
The statewide average is 47 due to the White Mountains and the area north of the Notches.
The mean average for our Wildlife Management Unit (WMU), I2, is 33 WSI.
For the WMU immediately south of us, H2, the average is 26 WSI.

I have tracked, by my measurements the number of WSI *so far* this winter. We have had 39 consecutive days of 18”+ of snow on the ground plus 14 days of subzero temperatures. So my WSI is at 53 right now; not good, not terrible.

I was out today taking a multitude of measurements, and it is tough to average, but I believe we have broken the prolonged negative streak. The snow depth ranged from 10” on steep south-facing slopes, to 22” in spots shaded or facing northeast. Most places it was between 14” and 18”, so I’m averaging it to be 16”.

Deer are built to deal with severe weather. Their metabolism will slow dramatically during severe weather, but for only so long. March is the killer month, and believe it or not April is too. The deer are at the end of their reserves, so late snows and prolonged cold snaps in those months are the worst. When the fat reserves are gone, their bodies then go after the marrow in their bones. Once that happens there is no going back. They may live on for days, even weeks, but in the end they are gone. It is a terrible thing to see.

Deer Are Built for Severe Weather

Deer Are Built for Severe Weather

The winter of 1969 in Vermont, which at the time had the densest deer population in the country, was a disaster. Vermont went into that winter with about 350,000 deer. That spring it was estimated that less than 150,000 survived. I saw 14 dead deer in an area smaller than my living room. That was a day that I will never forget.

The only good thing that came out of that was that the legislature returned control of the deer herd to the biologists of Fish and Game after Fish and Game officials took truckloads of dead deer to the state house in Montpelier. The state would never again see the deer population that they had in the 60’s, but they would never again see such carnage either.

POLITICS HAS NO PLACE IN WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT!

I’m off my soap box now. Every March I think of that day, and I worry about those animals like I do the family dog.

WLAGS