THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED ~
When you saw the title of this, you probably thought it was yet another metaphor for Barack Hussein Obama.
At least not today.
Not that I couldn’t have some very good fun equating Barack with a little squirrel—but then, the little squirrel is probably way too cute and innocent to be thrown in with such. Besides, I could find much better and fitting metaphors. The man has written a legacy over the last six years that my mother wouldn’t be proud of had it been me, and my father would be embarrassed about it if it’d been me…My friends would have all left…I’m very serious to wonder if he has any friends?
But no, that’s not what this is about.
This is a mighty fine blog. I–and you I’m quite sure, read with interest every day the very good writers that appear here. We read about the missteps of Obama, the global warming nuts, gun control, ISIS/ISIL….What the heck does “ISIS” and “ISIL” stand for anyway? I went for weeks wondering about that. No one reporting or ruminating about that would say. It was always just “ISIS” or “ISIL” or sometimes“ISIS/ISIL” I guess for those who couldn’t decide.
“Isis” is the ancient Egyptian Goddess……. I figured that wasn’t it.
I waited patiently for someone to spell it out in their reporting…..Network news? Nope. Cable? Nope. Blog? Nope. Newspaper? I finally had to look it up myself.
Here’s what “Wiki” had to say : “The Islamic State (IS;Arabic: الدولة الإسلاميةad-Dawlah l-ʾIslāmiyyah), which previously called itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ˈaɪsəl/) or the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)”
“Lavant” I found out, Is a region of the middle east comprising several countries.
And another source said : “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)” It seems no one else knows what it means either, since there’s no agreement on what the last “S” is for.
So,this blog is usually about that stuff—you know, politics or the state of the world.
That’s not what this article is about. I guess though you might say it sorta fits in there, since it’s addressed to the same types who’re against fracking—or drilling period, or are against cutting a tree, against pipelines, power lines, nuclear energy, and meat consumption. They’re against just about everything! But are for eating tofu and lettuce as a steady diet. They think they know just about everything there is to know. And are Obama voters…. I guess it’s a little unfair to throw all those together, they all can’t be against everything—but then, there’s usually a good reason for stereotypes. Sadly, some of my friends are like that. I even have a few relatives….Yeah, well; Let’s not talk about that…..
Anyway, the foliage is turning with startling speed and all the lovely reds and yellows and oranges and golds will be gone and the trees’ll be bare here in the north and we’ll be singing the winter blues, it’ll seem like in a minute or two. But before that happens, deer hunting season will come in another month.
I’m thankful I live here in Maine, where there is still a tradition of leaving your land open for others to use. Mostly, when you happen upon posted land here, you’ll find the landowner is from out of state, usually from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, or New Jersey who come here to experience “life the way it should be” but then they bring their corrupted ways with them. Corrupted in the sense that most Mainers have a different creed. Ask us, and we’d say “better” but I suppose others from “away” may think the same about themselves.
The sub-title of this article is “The Road Less Traveled”. I think I may begin to use that as a second by-line. I’ve always been known to wander off the trail when out hiking for example, or to take the side road to see where that goes, and that habit has caused me to see things a little differently than most. I guess I’m fortunate to live in this time in history, because while wandering off the trail is fun today, way back then, wandering off the trail would probably have gotten me eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger or some other fierce beast by now.
So, here I wander off the trail—No hard politics.
In my hunting experience, I’ve met those who are against hunting. Some simply because they feel sorry for the brown-eyed beauties. They are, absolutely beautiful! Others are against hunting from some warped sense that humans shouldn’t eat meat, and a whole range of other reasons.
So…..Let’s see what’s down that side trail……
HUNTING (and the little squirrel)
Although you specifically haven’t expressed opposition to hunting as some do, saying you realized hunting was probably necessary to ensure population control for both deer and human well-being, you nevertheless felt sorry for the deer.
I know how you might feel about hunting.
It’s quite a pleasure to see a beautiful, graceful deer grazing in some field, and when I’ve had occasion to have a successful hunt, I feel sadness at the life just ended —believe it or not.
But I would ask : Why is a deer (a creature we hold to be beautiful and graceful) any more worthy of our regret at its demise than a snake or spider–or even a fish, soft-shell clam—or the innocent and harmless bug we crush who just happens to be within our reach for that matter? All of those things have life, and a beauty or grace all their own—if we look hard enough… and if we release our own bias as to what WE consider ugly or beautiful.
Why should we feel sorry for the deer and not the bug? Why do we rush out to step on the spider or bash the snake? They are just as worthy of life as the deer. Why should they have any less regard than the deer? So often I hear how sorry one is for the deer, which lead some to be “anti-hunting“. I‘ve no problem with one’s own sensibility about hunting but don‘t wish to be the victim of those that wish to impose their own ethic or sensibility on others.
When we watch nature shows on TV and see a lion chasing a gazelle, we hope the gazelle gets away. But then, when the lion goes hungry and dies for lack of food– we feel sorry for the lion that starves.
We don’t begrudge the owl his mouse because after all, it’s only a mouse. The natural habitat of a house mouse–is a house. But we set traps to kill the mouse. Some of us may even feel sorry for the mouse–but kill it anyway. Very few of us feel sorry for the spider we put under foot.
We give the deer special status because it is elegant and graceful ( only to humans) with beautiful brown eyes (as far as I know, it’s only we humans that assign an aesthetic or sentimental value to things in nature) (what is disturbing are people who do not seem to apply those same aesthetics and sentiments to the human species, failing to recognize [they] fit into nature as just another species) –but in nature all things are equal–the deer and the spider (and humans). It’s only our own bias that gives special status to one and not the other.
For those that are rabid anti-hunters (and the rest of us that feel sorry for the deer) where is the outcry for the bug?
If we can look past the slime trail of a snail (escargot) (Mmmm, yummy!) (Ever tried it?) for example, we would see the beautiful, spiraling structure of its shell or the slow—but nevertheless graceful—movements of its pace, and understand that it too is only trying to make a living and cope with the lot to which it was cast when it found itself to be a snail when it came into this world. Ditto the spider : Beautiful, amazing and wonderful in it’s creation if we looked a little closer and thought about it.
To a spider, I imagine it thinks it is beautiful. The spider didn’t have the choice to be some other creature, and has to make it’s living the way God or nature decreed, dressed in the repulsive appearance given it (repulsive only to us, not to another spider–and surely not to the bird that might eat it) when it also found itself to be a spider when it woke up in this world. We made those judgments about the spider and the deer based on our own biases, which are not based on the worthiness of either.
We woke up in the world to be who we are also—human—with a set of canines to eat meat, and molars for grinding plants. That makes us omnivores. But God also gave us a brain to make decisions about what we do or do not kill or eat to the limit of our sensibilities—so we can choose to indulge ourselves or deny ourselves the flora and fauna made available to us.
My point is: I don’t deny one’s aversion to hunting—each person has his or her own sensibilities. Those of us that do hunt, have different sensibilities than those rabid anti-hunters. I can say with an almost certainty a hunter’s sensibility runs deeper and with much more respect and love for the game animal than those that don’t hunt.
When I sit down to eat that chicken leg—or those delicious pork spare-ribs, I consider—very often—the life of the creature given up so we may live. When I drive down the road, I mourn each and every little creature I see dead on the road struck by a car, and wish it wasn’t so—and think about the life it had. I’ve even braked for a caterpillar crossing the road.
Having killed the creature of the hunt, I and most hunters I believe, find some sadness in it’s death also–even with the feeling of success that comes with a successful hunt. But the end of the hunt, when there is then venison to put in the freezer, is only an anti-climax at best—and the least of the hunt. Though I know there are those that derive pleasure from killing (I won’t hunt with those) I’d like to share my pleasures in “hunting” of which the killing of a deer is really just an incidental part of an experience that far exceeds the anti-climax of a “kill”
Hunting is a tradition–a connection with the one who first brought you into the woods as a child, and a connection with those whom you choose to indulge in that activity later in life. It’s also a connection to our very basic nature, derived from millennia of having to hunt for a living.
Today, hunting connects one to nature much more than a mere walk in the woods where one may be caught up in relieving the stress of everyday life by enjoying the quiet and solitude of the woods listening to the birds sing or sometimes being surprised by the occasional rabbit, deer or bird being flushed from cover. A mere serene walk in the woods or a days hiking rarely elicits one to see the individual trees, begging one instead to see only the passing serene scene at large as you walk, or not even seeing that if the goal is to hike.
There’s truth in the old adage “You can’t see the trees for the forest” where one takes in the whole scene at once–the whole forest–while not really seeing the trees. That saying means more than just seeing the individual trees of course. It means seeing the incredible variety of color and texture of bark on the different trees, and the beautiful and varied patterns of the veins of leaves of all the different species of trees. It refers to seeing the tree frog or moth blending perfectly into the background of the bark of the particular tree each evolved to blend into, and which you otherwise would have missed if you were merely taking in the “forest” at large.
When you look at a grasshopper, you finally notice it’s beautiful, alien eyes and it’s antennae you were always vaguely aware of, but never really took note of because you were merely walking by.
When have you ever actually gone up to a tree while walking in the woods, and felt the texture of it’s bark, or even noticed that the trees you pass have different textures? That some trees have hugely rough textures while others have very smooth bark?
When have you ever crushed a teaberry leaf in your fingers and smelled the pleasant aroma of teaberry–or even know what teaberry is? Have you really ever taken note of the intricate and beautifully delicate structure of the ferns at your feet, or how they arrange themselves together better than any florist could accomplish?
When have you crushed the needles of different species of pine or cedar and smelled the different sweet scents? Have you ever broken a small branch on a sugar maple in the spring and tasted the sweet, clear sap that runs free of the break? Have you ever actually put your hand on the various mosses to see what they feel like or noticed the whisper of the wind in the treetops while walking your favorite path? Or noticed the incredible variety of colors and shapes of mushrooms spread throughout the forest?
Can you identify the chatter of a red squirrel, or ever noticed two of those beautiful little creatures chase each other ’round and ’round a tree trunk up and down, up and down in a dispute of territory or dance of courtship? Have you ever stood under the canopy of trees and looked up to enjoy the way the sun plays on the upper leaves and notice how they are back-lit as if nature was lovingly giving you a show as the sunlit leaves are spread out like a deck of cards above you?
There’s so much more to experience in the “forest” that goes unmentioned but even I, having just acknowledged the difference between the “trees” and the “forest“ have a hard time seeing more than just the forest when out on a leisurely walk.
Sit still in the forest. Try not to contemplate your life outside the forest, which might be what many must do when they seek such tranquility. Actually look and listen, and a deeper appreciation of the natural forces of nature will come–and although “hunting” may not necessarily be a requisite to gain such an appreciation, hunting facilitates your awareness of your surroundings by increasing the sharpness of your senses.
When you sit still to listen intently for that big buck or bear or whatever you may be hunting–or creep through the woods stalking, your senses are on high alert! You get much more than a walk in the forest, or a tranquil time sitting.
The intensity of the hunt facilitates your focus on every sight and every sound. You hear every sound and see every movement and can appreciate the click of a squirrel’s claws grasping the bark of the tree you may be under waiting for that big buck to appear. You can almost feel the sound of it’s claws transmitted down the tree trunk.
Your senses become so keen, you notice the sound of your hair brushing against your collar and notice the low moan of the wood in the trunks of trees as they’re swayed back and forth by the breeze that’s frolicking in the tree tops.
Walking into the woods in the pitch black of early morning for a days hunting in November, finding a good spot to sit and getting comfortable to just listen and watch can be quite an experience.
When you first sit, everything is dead quiet in the surrounding darkness. As you exhale, you see your breath condense in the cold air that’s putting a stinging and vise-like grip on your face.
That time of year, when the leaves have fallen, the bare bones of the trees are exposed, allowing a view of the painfully crisp bright morning stars in the cold, clear black sky through the web of barren branches overhead. The moon shines bright, casting shadows through the stark branches of the trees, so there are areas of total blackness on the forest floor, giving way to silvery pools of moonlight on the frosty autumn leaves that have fallen. The silver moonlight is striped with the shadows of tree trunks and the spidery patterns of branches cutting the silver light to pieces. The stark, silver moonlight makes you think how cold the trees must be in their nakedness.
As you settle in, the woods wake up. As the sky begins to lighten with the promise of the sunrise soon to come, you’ll hear a squirrel close by beginning to stir—maybe coming down the very tree you’re sitting against, to come within inches of your head. I’ve had squirrels actually get on me!
You may hear a far off stirring that could turn out to be the most beautiful deer you’ve ever seen—a beautiful, sleek doe with her two nearly grown fawns from the previous spring or a regal, thick-necked buck flashing his ivory-tipped antlers— or it might be a porcupine, raccoon, turkey, or coyote—but whatever it turns out to be, as you sit still, whatever it might be may well pass you by within a few feet.
The morning is crisp and cold, the air is dead still and sound travels forever so that when the odd leaf falls, it sounds as though the whole tree is falling and it’s crashing down on top of you. (So, O.K.—that might be a slight exaggeration—but only slight!)
When you look down through a grove of hardwoods, the bare tree trunks are wrapped in the gray pall of pre-dawn, their alien dark shapes reminding you every bit as though they are silent sentinels guarding the landscape.
It’s so quiet and you are listening so intently, you’re aware of the sound of your breathing, which sounds so loud you fear every creature in the forest hears your every breath. The total quiet magnifies every noise so that should you hear that faint rustle of leaves or breaking twig you’ve been so intently listening for through the veil of trees, you hear the roar of your blood in your ears as your heart drums double time at the sound.
The dimness slowly gives way, but holds on even as the treetops are lit with the first light of the day. Just when you begin to get a little cold, the sun’s rays fall on you, warming you like the friendliest fire in your fireplace, and your outlook on the world brightens and warms as well, as you feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Spears of light from the rising sun slant down through the trees as they illuminate the slight mist hanging in the air gathered over night in the cold—that are somehow encouraging and dispel the gloom of the early morning forest.
There will be absolutely no wind until an hour or so after sunrise, and you can actually hear the wind of the day be born!
It starts with an isolated faint and brief “whoosh” in the treetops from the first tiny gust of breeze you may hear in the distance before it gets closer and closer, louder and louder, passing over head then fading off in the distance like a wind sprite off on an errand, or perhaps you may hear it brushing the tree tops far off in the distance to your left or right and follow it’s whispering passage somewhere in front of you like some giant forest wraith lost and wandering about in the tree tops.
When it’s gone, the forest once again dies down to absolute stillness and you hold your breath at the quiet, and perhaps a minute or two later another brief “whoosh” then silence, then another whispering whoosh then another.
You’re reminded of the orchestra members sitting there before the concert, playing various notes to be sure their instruments are in tune.—or like long, slow breaths, with long pauses between each breath—until finally the breeze has gathered for the day— the orchestra begins to play. When the breeze blows just right, the barren branches rattle together, clamoring for their lost green dress.
It’s very rewarding to sit in the forest and experience sunrise—and just as rewarding to experience sunset, when it all happens in reverse and you can hear the dying breath of the wind in the treetops as it gives its last gasp before total quiet overtakes the trees around you. It’s like the orchestra leader that signals the end of the last note and now asks for total quiet at the end of the performance with a signal of his hands. It’s that silent moment between the last note and the applause of the audience. It’s that total quiet that gives you the expectation something is about to happen.
As the light dims, silence falls on you like a giant weight. You sit there expectantly waiting for the royal being who demanded such silence, to appear. It’s so quiet in the fading light of dusk it seems you can hear the trees breathe, and you can hear the creak of their wood as it begins to contract from the falling temperature.
I recall the sunny, cold November morning I’d sat for a few hours at my chosen spot to hunt. I was sitting on the ground, propped against one of those old rock walls you find so often when walking through the northern New England woods.—I say “walls” when in fact they’re usually nothing more than a jumble of rocks piled together in a row that may be many feet or many yards long, consisting of, on average, rocks 3 or 4 times as large as a basketball or bigger, their surface encrusted with moss and lichen.
Here in New England, the landscape is strewn with boulders, laid down in the last ice age as the northern ice sheet retreated north. Those rock “walls” are the result of the first settlers clearing the rocks from the fields in which they planned to plant their crops and probably marked one farmer’s field from another’s. Rarely do you find larger “boulders” and I suspect the farmers clearing their fields had to break up larger boulders to a manageable size.
Those fields have lain so unused from that time, the forest has reclaimed them, and those rows of jumbled rocks no longer mark one farmer’s field from another’s but still today very often are property boundaries which seem to straight-line through the trees here or there—with no apparent purpose. You might even find some trees have grown up amid the rocks. If you contemplate those lines of rocks long enough, you can see in your mind’s eye the ghosts of the hard working men and their draft animals who must have laid those rocks so diligently and purposefully……..
It was one of those sunny, cold and dry mornings in November in the Maine north woods, when the rustle of crisp, dry leaves could be heard for a very long distance. The morning had started off cold, but now–later in the morning–I was beginning to feel warmer, enjoying the sun slanting down through the trees and taking in it’s bright warmth.
As I sat there among the bare hardwoods, a scattering of pine and cedar here and there, waiting for that monster buck I was sure was going to appear at any moment, I heard the rustling of leaves somewhere down the slope from where I was sitting… I thought it just might be that “big buck” and I went on high alert!
The “monster” turned out to be just a gray squirrel rummaging through the leaf litter, looking for its breakfast, and I settled back to watch.
As I watched, the little thing eventually made its way to the line of rocks of one of those old rock “walls” I’d made as my home for the last two hours—but it was down the line to my right a few hundred feet. As I continued to watch, it flittered it’s way atop the rocks toward me, stopping here and there to investigate whatever it is little squirrels like to investigate.
I was sitting on the ground leaning comfortably on the rocks, positioned on my left hip with my legs curled behind. I had my left arm slung, crooked atop the rocks, my left rib cage against them and that position gave me a better view down the jumbled line of cold, gray, lichen encrusted granite boulders at the approaching little critter.
I was leaning my chin on my hands, fingers laced together as one would do when praying and was very relaxed in the warming sun and pleased to see this little creature making it’s way toward me—jumping from rock to rock stopping and sniffing, then going on it‘s way again, only to stop and investigate some other unknown thing.
It was 100 feet away—then 50—then closer and closer until it was only a few feet from me! I studied it closely to see what it would do, anxious to see how close it would come. If it continued on past me, it would have to cross over my left arm, which was still in its bent position atop the rocks.
As the little squirrel approached, I tensed and remained motionless—expecting it to jump over my arm, which would bring it within 6 inches of my face. Instead, it stopped arms length from my face and sniffed the barrel of the gun lying there in front of me. My riffle—an old bolt-action 30-30 I’ve had for many years, was propped in front of me, leaning at about a 45-degree angle between two of the rocks, so it wouldn’t fall over—its muzzle sticking above the rocks 6 or 8 inches. I don’t know if it was curious of the scent of gun oil, gun powder, or maybe the smell of the refined metal—maybe all of those—but it seemed intent on investigating whatever it thought was out of place…
As I watched, it looked the barrel all over, sniffing here and there—so close to my face I could see the texture of its fur and the curiosity and innocence in its beautiful black eyes, and so close I’m sure it must have been able to sense my warm breath—which by the way, I must have been holding!
It was eye level with me and continued to investigate the business end of the rifle barrel—finally sitting back on its hind legs, as squirrels will do, and grabbed the end of the barrel—much like a singer performing on stage might clutch a microphone with two hands. But instead of trying to sing into it, the little furry guy looked directly down the barrel curiously, pulling its head back slightly as if to get a better view, still holding the barrel with its two little paws.
Seeming not to be satisfied, it stuck one eye on the hole to see down inside……It was a magic moment! I was so tickled to see such a sweet creature as this innocently looking down the barrel of death, I couldn’t help but break into a huge smile— stifling the out loud laugh I could feel bubbling up inside that would surely scare it away…..but it was too late. The little thing saw my smile and took off in a flash and the moment was gone—but only in time—not in my memory!…I felt regret the moment had ended, but am grateful for this memory!!!
I believe I can recall every deer and every little animal and close encounter with every little bird or squirrel I’ve ever seen while sitting or walking the November forest—or any other time for that matter!
My son Jeff had a bird land on his hand when he was 12 while sitting with me one November morning, and the last season he hunted before going into the Air Force, he had three deer stop within 10 feet of him—never knowing he was there. (Which by the way, happens often, if you’re fortunate enough to see a deer)
One of the deer jumped over his legs as he sat on the ground with his back leaning against a tree, his legs stretched out. Two does had stopped to his left and one to his right. When they finally moved off, the one on his right had to jump over his outstretched legs to join the other two.
He’d had several season’s under his belt by then and he no longer had to sit with me as the law requires for anyone under 16, and so told me this story. Being a seasoned hunter by then and having had many close encounters with many of the creatures of the woods, he no longer told me of his close encounters with such wide-eyed excitement, but his grin as he told me of this gave away the pleasure he felt at the experience.
You may wonder how it’s possible a deer would get that close to a hunter dressed in florescent hunter orange.
Deer are colorblind, (and many other creatures as well ). Deer senses are developed well beyond our own, but not only are they colorblind, they don’t seem able to see you if you don’t move. Their sense of spotting movement is exceptional (an ability you’d expect in a prey animal on the lookout for the next wolf or mountain lion) but if you remain still they look right past you.
You might ask then, why those deer wouldn’t have smelled my son sitting there, as you’ve no doubt probably heard of their exceptional sense of smell from hunters or perhaps TV nature shows that say : “We must be down-wind to observe these creatures.” It’s been my experience, deer generally need to put two senses together to become alarmed enough to flee. That is, if they catch your scent but don’t see you or hear you, they are not alarmed.
When my daughter Renee’ was about 10, I brought her along on a nice sunny and not too cold November morning. She had no gun, and wasn’t hunting—she just wanted to come along with her Dad. We’d sat for a couple of hours when I decided she might be getting bored, so told her to remain there while I went down through the woods and circled around to see if I might scare up a deer her way. I was gone only a few minutes when a pretty doe came walking along to pass her by and stop just a few yards from her.
She said, after watching it for a minute or two, she stood up and called softly to it, putting her hand out as one might call a puppy and saying a friendly: “C’mere, deer…. C’mon, c’mon. Here deer…. Here deer.” ……. The little doe just turned it’s head back over it’s back to look at her unconcerned as it casually walked off!
Renee’ is now grown with children of her own and when we talked about this recently, she smiled at the memory, and laughed, saying: “It looked at me as if I was stupid for being out in the middle of the woods—then went back to eating the beechnuts on the ground, foraging as it walked off.”
As noted, hunting forges a connection with the one who first brought you into the woods as a child. The memories gathered while hunting are much more embedded than would be with just a simple walk in the woods, and are as vivid for the one with the child as they are for the child.
At another time, when Renee’ was a little older she came along on another nice November day that turned out sunny and warm (for November) She was afraid of the big 30-30 deer rifle so we brought a .22 rifle for her to try her luck at harvesting a few squirrels when the morning deer hunt was over.
We sat there for a few hours until the sun had reached almost mid morning without seeing a deer. We had been seeing some squirrel activity and I decided it would be much more interesting for her if we abandoned our hope of seeing a deer and concentrated on the squirrels.
Squirrel meat for those who might say : “Yuck, squirrel!” (and not release your learned bias on what is edible) makes a delicious stew and is indistinguishable from that old cliché– “chicken”. … “Tastes like chicken.”
When we had selected a likely target, I offered the .22 to Renee’. She seemed reluctant to take it and finally said : “No Dad–you do it.”
I understood but wasn’t sure if she was fearful of firing the rifle or reluctant to shoot the squirrel–maybe both of those, so took the rifle back and prepared to aim. At that moment out of the corner of my eye I spotted movement. At the same time Renee’ said : “Dad! There’s a deer!” as she had seen the movement also. What came into view was not a deer but a coyote!
I had always been told coyotes were vermin and very detrimental to the deer herd so hastily put the .22 down and took up the .30-.30 and fired at the coyote as it ran across in front of us from right to left about 50 yards away. The hasty snap shot merely grazed the animal but it was enough to cause it to change direction (it, I believe, never knew we were there) and ran toward us bringing it within 10 feet and as it ran across in front of us I fired again, bringing it down a mere 5 feet from us.
What sticks out in my mind about this, is Renee’s reaction during and after. As I fired and the thing fell I noticed out of the corner of my eye Renee’ grimacing with her mitten in her mouth. Although she took the death of the coyote in stride and with curiosity, I could tell she felt sorry for the creature.
Actually, I did too because I realized this little animal, although it might predate on deer at times, wasn’t the scourge it had been made out to be. I think Renee’ felt that as well. She had seen me bring home many deer in the past which didn’t seem to bother her but she asked I not shoot any more coyotes and I promised I wouldn’t. (I haven’t since)
My point in sharing this story is to show a mere walk in the park or day at the beach would not be as nearly embedded in memory nor have nearly the connection of father and daughter as this experience.
When you sit in the November woods through enough years, you begin to recognize the sounds you hear…..On those clear crisp cold mornings when the leaf litter is dry and crunchy, there is no way you can’t hear a deer coming, long before you see it……Even a squirrel—or a tiny mouse—can make quite a bit of noise in those conditions.
An inexperienced hunter, who has just a few seasons under his or her belt, will imagine a deer at every sound and there’s the tendency to look so intently, every stump will look like a deer, or whatever one is hunting. If one is hunting rabbits for example, there will be a rabbit imagined behind every bush! An experienced hunter, who has heard the sounds of many different creatures coming through the woods over the years, can generally tell if the sound coming from behind those trees might be a deer or a man—or something smaller…A man will generally make more noise than a deer—cracking branches under foot, where a deer will just crunch, crunch the leaf litter—but not always.
A buck, at the height of the rut will swagger through the woods, dragging his hooves making quite a bit of noise, even cracking branches under foot and even if he’s just walking, he has to maneuver those antlers through the tangle of undergrowth, making a lot of noise breaking branches as he goes, and will sound quite like a clumsy man with big feet. Bucks are generally noisier than does for those reasons, but even does will sometimes break branches or twigs under foot or in pushing through the undergrowth. A smaller animal usually has a quicker pace and tend not to break the larger branches. . So, usually an experienced hunter can decide—long before he actually sees the source of the sound, what may be making the sound—but not always!
One morning, behind me and to my right, I heard what I thought was a deer coming towards me and got excited at the prospect of the deer coming into view, when what came into view was a chubby looking little porcupine. He waddled on passed me, oh, maybe 100 ft. away, continuing on his mission until he was out of sight in the trees just ahead of me, but an hour or so later he fooled me again into thinking he might be a deer as he waddled back out of the line of trees he’d disappeared into that short time before.
This time he was on a line directly towards me, and as I sat still in my position on the ground, leaning my back against a tree, legs outstretched and ankles crossed, he walked right up to me, passing within 6 inches of my legs, and parked his nose right against the tree I was leaning against and was a mere 3 inches from my right elbow.
Many people seem to think porcupines can “throw” their quills—but that’s not so. When you get close enough to alarm them, they’ll turn their backside to you and “bristle” their quills—stand them up—and if you get too close, they’ll lash their tail to make contact and the barbed quills will be stuck in you to be pulled from the critter.
I wasn’t concerned I’d get “quilled”—I had thick clothing to protect against the cold, which would serve to protect me from the quills as well. What I was concerned with, is he might decide to climb this tree I’d chosen as a back rest and get close to my unprotected face. As it was though, he continued to park his nose against the tree.
It seemed as though he may have wanted to climb the tree but his dim, little brain was telling him there was something wrong with the picture but just couldn’t figure out exactly what!
I continued to look down at him next to my elbow for several minutes while he continued to park his nose against the tree, until I guess he finally decided he needed to find another tree to climb and moved off, waddling off to disappear the way he had first appeared.
The gathering forest trees usually muffle noise—and at other times, depending on atmospheric conditions and the direction of the wind, a noise can be heard for quite a distance—it’s very hard to tell sometimes how far away the noise one hears is coming from, and since sound is reflected off hard surfaces (such as tree trunks) it’s often hard to initialize the direction of a noise at first.
Sometimes, a noise behind you will bounce off the trees in front of you so you think the noise came from in front of you. Sometimes, a big noise far away sounds like a little noise close up; and sometimes a little noise close up is misinterpreted as a big noise far away.
One time—a very cold 5-degree morning—I decided to bring an old wool blanket along as extra warmth. I always sit on the ground and lean my back against a tree. Many hunters use a tree stand, but I find in the thick woods of Maine, sitting 20 ft. up a tree limits visibility. My experience of sitting on the ground has also led to some very close and rewarding encounters I wouldn’t have had, had I been sitting 20 feet up a tree.
As I sat on the ground with my legs covered with the blanket, I heard the rustle of leaves off through the woods. I could tell it wasn’t a deer but was curious as to what it was, so kept my eye on the spot 100 yards down through the trees so I could spot whatever it was when it finally showed itself. After several minutes, I became quite frustrated at not knowing what was rustling down there every now and then and began to listen even more intently—Darn! —the thing just wasn’t going to show itself!
I thought perhaps I was being fooled as to where the noise was actually coming from, so kept turning my head each time I heard the noise to better locate the direction of the sound, turning first one ear, then the other towards where I thought the critter making the noise was, looking far off down through the trees and listening intently. After much effort, I finally discovered where the rustle of leaves was coming from…..It was a tiny mouse under my blanket! It had been rummaging through the leaves under my blanket all that time, while I thought I was hearing a bigger noise far off!
There are so many more such memories I’ve gathered from the experience of sitting in the woods.
I think one who has never hunted must imagine “hunting” as pulling the trigger and killing a deer, and I hope I’ve made it plain that is the least of it, and I’ve shown there is more to hunting than the death of a deer.
We have the good fortune to live in an age when killing our own food is no longer necessary. Except for those unfortunate few who still find subsistence hunting a necessity in our society because they can’t afford much else, the rest of us have all the killing done for us—out of sight and mind—so that now, we can go to the supermarket and to most folks, buying meat is no different than buying bananas or soap powder and they never give a thought the meat they select actually came from a living being.
Canned corned beef, that delicious looking T-bone steak or a slab of bacon, is just another food from somewhere (The supermarket?), no different than canned carrots or laundry detergent…. That slab of bacon must have always been in that package…. They never give a thought to the animal that had to give its life so they could live—and enjoy that tasty pork chop.
Hunting keeps me aware of that reality.
Many cultures throughout time have given homage out of gratitude to the animals they kill to eat, and recognize the necessity of the life given up so they can live—that’s worthy.
Human kind–as much as the most lowly snail or the most regal tiger is a part of nature, and we were designed to eat meat as much as we were designed to eat oats–maybe designed to eat meat more so–if you consider: The canine teeth God endowed us with and the fact predators have eyes in the front of their head (as we do) for better depth perception (to better target their prey) as opposed to prey animals who have eyes on the sides of their heads to better see behind them.
Hunting is a part of our nature, which men (and women) fulfill when they pursue that activity, but because we are also creatures of art and beauty, we (I think—or hope at least—most us that take to the woods and water in pursuit of game) appreciate the aesthetic and ethical value of the activity much more than the final result which is the death of whatever we’ve chosen to hunt–which is living out our hunter-gatherer heritage.
We are just following our nature, and of course, being sentient beings—we can also choose to not follow our nature (which I guess you could say is also a part of our nature!)
I hope you enjoyed my story of the little squirrel, and I hope I’ve given a new perspective of “hunting” and have helped you realize that killing a deer—or any other animal in a hunt—ends the hunt and takes only a few seconds that one barely remembers—but the memory of the animal coming into view in all its beauty burns into your memory.—But then you’d ask: How can you kill such beauty?….
I would ask you to remember the lowly snail, that has a beauty and grace of it’s own, and has a value in nature as much as the deer, yet gets no regard at it’s demise!
Dead soldiers, meh. Dead babies, yawn. One dead squirrel…everybody loses their minds. A friend sent me this link a few weeks ago, of a few men “wrecking havoc” in a way that “sparked anger around the world” (direct quotes from the reporting). What could it be? A serial killer? Genocide? Something racist? Some U.S. patriotupdate.com
If I hit a dog with my car, I’d get out and try to identify the dog’s owner so that I may inform them that Duchess is now a pile of goo. If I hit a cat, I would think the owner would be in that vicinity so getting out of the car and looking around would be appropriate. If I hit a family of ducks, people would be aghast. porcinedrone.wordpress.com
This picture of a deer running away from a flying squirrel will make your day
I… am… the… night (Picture: Hailey Lehrer / Logan Lehrer / Twitter) It speaks volumes to the enduring popularity of Batman that even flying squirrels have taken to imitating the Dark Knight. This vignette, captured by a trail camera in the dead of night, shows the exact moment when this deer decided it didn’t want to tangle with a vengeful… metro.co.uk
Deer-hunting camp near Bayfield gives a nod to past
From the forests of the Bayfield Peninsula to the farms of Kenosha County and everywhere in between, Wisconsinites awakened Saturday to a new season: the 2012 gun deer hunt. Over 600,000 hunters took part in the opening day. Hunters revved up four-wheelers and drove to heated, enclosed treestands. Here in a primitive cabin outside of Bayfield, the… jsonline.com
ISIL ISIL ISIL ISIL NOT ISIS! – Got it?
Home ” Websites ” Contributors ” ISIL ISIL ISIL ISIL NOT ISIS! – Got it? ISIL ISIL ISIL ISIL NOT ISIS! – Got it? pumabydesign001.com You see, when you call “ISIL” “ISIS” you are just showing your ignorance. Our islamist-in-chief has not actually schooled us on why one vs the other but, by his own words we get the hint. grumpyelder.com