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

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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.

Just When You Think You’ve Figured It Out

At my age, it is easy to think that you’ve seen it all. I know better, especially when it comes to the natural world, but I do think that, most of the time, I can figure it out.

Wrong!

Example number 1: This year’s Moosehead fishing trips. It is true that no two years are ever alike up there in May, but I can usually deal with that and have a measure of success.

This year was like no other. It was warmer, windier, and calmer (all in a week’s time) than I had ever seen before.

It Was Warmer and Calmer Than Ever Before

It Was Warmer and Calmer Than Ever Before

The surface water temperatures changed not daily but hourly as much as five degrees an hour. Never have I seen that before.

I won’t bore you with the details. It was not our worst year ever, but it was close.

We worked harder and put in more hours to catch a few fish. The good news is that they were all good fish–from Debbie’s 15”native brookie to Tony’s 23.5” laker. They were worth the effort, but it was a lot of effort.

Tony's 23.5-Inch Lake Trout

Tony’s 23.5-Inch Lake Trout

Example number 2: Today at J.E. I tried to take advantage of a break in the heat and the rain to check cameras.

On my previous trip to Camera #1, I got a video of a sow with two new cubs. They were about the size of six-week old lab pups, and they were scrambling like crazy to keep up with Mom. I also got video of a very pregnant doe, and I was hoping to get some of the fawn this trip.

Today, I saw fresh moose track near Stand #1, and did get a video of a big cow. I also got video there of a sizeable bear and a coyote.

I rarely actually walk up to the stand, but for some reason I did today. I was in for a surprise, as the lower four-foot section of the ladder was on the ground while the rest was still hanging in the tree. My first thought was (as one might expect) was “someone was messing with it,” but I know better.

You might remember a few years ago when a similar experience proved me wrong when two young bears messed with a camera and a stand, eventually climbing the stand. Those videos are on YouTube.

Two Young Bears Messing With Our Stand

Two Young Bears Messing With Our Stand

So I wasn’t so quick to come to a conclusion. First, this stand is very well hidden. Second, I tried to put the section back in place, but it was fruitless unless I loosened all of the straps, which in the rain and with tons of mosquitos buzzing around me, I decided against. It was obvious the perpetrator was very strong. He had to lift and pull this stand, which was extremely secure, having been in place for years!

The first camera is only 25 to 30 yards away, but with all the new greenery it might as well be a mile away. However the bear that I would see on the video when I got home was more than big enough to do the job.

Next surprise? Not a surprise at all. Camera #2 was all discombobulated when I arrived. One of the two latches was open, and the camera was on the wrong side of the tree. This didn’t take a genius to figure out. Sure enough, the video was all telling that it was a large bear.

Next surprise? Three times in three minutes the bear stood on his hind legs and vigorously rubbbed his back on the tree right in front of the camera! Bad news: This is my oldest camera, so there’s no sound.

The bear is very much enjoying his back rub!

Pole Dancing Bear

Pole Dancing Bear

Just when you thought you’ve seen it all!

WLAGS

J.E. in Late July

I have not been into J.E. for weeks largely due to the fact that Tony’s dog Angie went missing on Father’s Day. An all-out effort has been put forth by an army of friends and family. One of my contributions to the effort was three of my cameras that I pulled from J.E.. So between my granddog missing and the lack of cameras, I had little inspiration. She is still missing, and Tony thinks that she might have been taken by someone who has decided to keep her. You can help by “liking” and sharing the Help Bring Angie Home Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/HelpBringAngieHome).

It was as good a morning as you can get in late July, weather-wise, for a hike–seventies and low humidity. The first thing I noticed was the water levels. Due in part to last night’s rain, there was water everywhere. It was within 2″ of the bridge leading to the apple tree. The apple tree looked good, but no apples for the second year in a row. I think that is due to a lack of a nearby pollinator. I hope to change that next year or even this fall.

The rain has been awesome for the fingerling brook trout. I saw some in every pool. It has also made for an unusually strong mushroom crop for this early in the season. However, the dominant varieties were the “Rosy” Russula (Russula rosea) and the Russula paludosa. They are the large, red-capped ones. They are edible, but many people cannot eat them, so I am not recommending that you do, also because they look a lot like the Russula emetica, which is poisonous. There were many other varieties popping up everywhere.

Rosy Russula

Rosy Russula

 

Russula Paludosa

Russula Paludosa

 

Russula Emetica

Russula Emetica

 

 

 

 

The low bush blueberry crop is a bust in the woods. There are some in the fields. I twice came upon a man picking some, and he was so intent on the task at hand that he was totally unaware of me. I didn’t make my presence known for fear of startling him as I passed within a few feet of him.

I still had one camera out at Buck Knob, and I got some great daylight and up-close photos of a bull moose with his antlers just starting to grow.

Moose Growing Back His Antlers

Moose Growing Back His Antlers

I also saw moose track, presumably his, at Stand #1.

WLAGS

First Spring Update

Well it sure doesn’t look or feel much like spring.

I went out this morning and was discouraged by the snow depths. They ranged from a very low 2” to a very deep 28” after this week’s snow. I’m unfortunately, going to average it out to 18”, right at the WSI minimum. That is the 40th consecutive day and the 54th this season. The average for Washington over the last 50 years is 33. The last year over 40 was 2007 at 69. The last over that was 2002 at 95. Then you have to go back all the way to 1993 to find one over 40, and that was 55.

We need a break, and there is none in the forecast for the next six days. The only upside to this is that all this cold and snow will hopefully help alleviate the moose tick infestation. Something Tony and I have seen firsthand.

On a happier note, I told you I was mounting my two newest cameras one above the other to compare their performance. I set the Bushnell on photo and the Moultrie on video.

The results were mixed. The Bushnell was more sensitive up close and took higher resolution photos. The Moultrie’s only real plus came when it picked up the bobcat again and the Bushnell did not. It was in daylight, 5:45 p.m., and must have been still within the range of about 100’, and obviously not in the range of the Bushnell.

Again the quality of the video is not good, but better than the last one. This time the cat was coming from J.E. If you remember, last time he was headed in in the morning.

Bobcat in the Snow

Bobcat in the Snow

I’m definitely going to move a camera closer to that trail. I changed the Bushnell to video today. The other surprise was that I suddenly was inundated with snowshoe hares.

My friend Roy called this week and invited me to join him hare hunting up this way today. When I told him he would need snowshoes to hunt snowshoes, he changed his mind. He has much less snow at his house about 40 miles southeast of here. He told me he has been seeing deer almost daily. Usually small groups of 3 to 5.

This is the big sugaring weekend up here, with the sugar houses all open to the public. Here, and I’m sure north of here, there won’t be a lot of sap being boiled, unfortunately.

Here I am bemoaning that lack of spring when just a few minutes ago while standing on 30+ inches of snow in my garden, I look up and there flying directly over my head was a loon! And I thought I was crazy! He’s not landing anywhere around here with that landing gear.

Loon Flying

Loon Flying

He’s at least as anxious as me, I guess.

THINK SPRING!

WLAGS

Bobcat

A little exciting news today. Checking the camera out back this afternoon produced a little surprise–a bobcat. It walked in front of the camera at about 25 yards at 8:15 a.m. on Friday. It, unfortunately is a dark silhouette walking along the edge of the tree line. No real color, but you can clearly see the lack of a tail, its effortless stride, and its stocky body. From what I saw I would say it was larger than average.

Bobcat

Bobcat

Speaking of stride, I was able to walk on top of the snow pack. That truly is what it is: snow packed almost as hard as ice, varying from 4” to 24” with an average of about 16”.
I have to keep reminding myself that the deer are smarter than me and will be on the steep, south-facing slopes now, where there is considerably less snow. I need to get over to the west side of the mountain off Mt. Rd. to see what’s going on over there, as soon as the weather permits. I’d love to get over to the area we hunted near the big marsh. Maybe I’ll do that later this week if I decide to forego the last ice fishing trip of the year.

There also were fox and coyote on the camera again. I set my new camera right above the Moultrie so as to compare performance. I have the Bushnell set for “photo” (instead of “video”) in hopes of getting a good one of the fisher and now maybe the bobcat.

Think Spring (it was 19 degrees out there at 1 p.m.).

WLAGS

Good Morning

How can a man spend his morning getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, getting wet to his waist, and falling off a rock have a good morning?

Here’s how: I carried in two pieces of the tree stand that is going on Buck Knob.

In the process, the mosquitoes took advantage of the fact that I didn’t have a free hand, and I was rushing to beat the oncoming rain.

When I got there, I couldn’t make out the exact tree that I want to use, so I looked for a place to hide the ladder parts.

I saw this large log that would do the job. I walked over to it, started to put the parts down, and there looking at me was a moose shed!

A Shed Moose Antler

A Shed Moose Antler

It was heavy, but the tip and brow tine were chewed off.

I set the camera up in a slightly different spot in hopes of not spooking the buck.

I then headed for Tony’s lot to check the camera I put out there on the 9th.

There was a ton of fresh track, and the eight apples I put out were all gone.

Two big surprises.

First, I got several videos of an opossum.

Opossum

Opossum

I have never seen a possum in Washington.

The closest was a road kill in Antrim.

Second, and far more important, was a huge 8-pointer that was the reincarnation of my Kingsbury buck.

His antlers were still in velvet, but were perfectly shaped and balanced.

Because of the apples, I got a tremendous look at him. He was there three times in four days, BUT always at night between 10 and 1.

This is another wall-hanger.

8-Pointer on Tony's Lot

8-Pointer on Tony’s Lot

I can’t wait to start scouting him further and look for a stand site there.

WLAGS