Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hunting Report from the Bolt Hole: Rifle

I woke up to the coldest morning of the fall to date. At 5:30 AM it was a mere 20 degrees but, as is usual, the temperature continued to fall right through sunrise. It was down to around 17 or 18 degrees. If freshly fallen leaves sound like walking on cornflakes, what does walking on frozen leaves sound like?

I made my way to a ridge to the south making enough noise to wake the dead despite my best efforts. I did this in the dark under the bright waning gibbous moon. I also managed to avoid most of the puddles in the skid way that were filed by the rains earlier in the week. Most, but not all. Some of the damn things lurked in the shadows and were carpeted with floating leaves so my feet got a little wet. Setting up in the dark (or near dark) was easy enough and then I just waited. Mark was going to a spot about 300 yards west of where I was and there were other hunters at the camps whom we hoped would be out and about.

There wasn't a breath of a breeze in the early morning and as the sun came out, the leaves that still clung to the trees gave up and began to fall. Like big, brown snowflakes they fell, only not as quietly as snowflakes. They rattled against their fellow leaves as the fell and made audible crunches when they landed. Some started little leaf avalanches on their way down. One would collide with another and then the two would collide with more until 20 or 30 leaves would be rattling to the ground in one fell swoop.

As this was happening you could also see the sunlight glinting off the frost that was scraped from the leaves. At first I thought it was just dust but then realized that my boots had a thin layer of frost on them as did the leaves on the saplings about me.

The whole forest was shedding leaves for two hours without a breeze to assist it. Then a light breeze stirred even more leaves into falling and the noise became almost deafening. Certainly the noise took away one of the senses a deer hunter depends upon. A herd of deer could have been traipsing through the forest but if you didn't actually happen to be looking at them you would not have known they were there.

After sitting until 11:30 AM without a sight of another hunter or a deer, I packed it in only to discover Mark had done so an hour earlier. He had the log splitter out of the garage and was working his way through our final stack of round logs. I stripped off my hunting clothes and joined him. As he split, I built another pallet in the barn on which to stack the split firewood. Then I used the wheel barrow to haul the split wood into the barn and started building the stack. We now have (or will have once the last bit is in the barn) a stack of wood 6' tall and 22' long--twice over.

A face cord is 8' long by 4' tall. We've approximately 10 face cords in the barn, two in my woodshed and four more in his. Plus there's a face cord of split birch that is earmarked for the Aerie. And, aside of cutting up storm damage, we didn't put in any time felling any trees this summer. We may not have to drop any trees to the ground next summer either. Mother Nature played quite the lumberjack in September 2007 and again this past summer. She thoughtfully brought down many large maples, birches and cherries and left the root ball intact enough that many of these trees not only held their leaves, some even leafed out again this spring. The only difficulty will be in cutting them to length and hauling them out of the woods. The latter will be a chore because even the old skidways are full of large rocks and holes that a log skidder, working in winter when the snow may be three or four feet deep, and with a very high clearance just does not find an obstacle but which will mean cutting trails around them for my little ATV.

At 3 PM we stopped work on the wood pile, donned our hunting clothes and headed north off my property into the state lands. I was to sit and Mark was going to make a circuit passing to the west of me, around to the north and then back to a point a few hundred yards to my east. (He calls these his "Rambo Mode Walks".) Two hours later, he was at the end point having seen nothing. I was still sitting and had seen nothing. The wind was kicking leaves off the limbs and the sun was heading home. There was still a half hour of hunting time when I radioed him I was heading in. He stayed and finally followed. My leaving hadn't stirred any deer up.

I was eating dinner when he arrived. (A Beef Stew MRE left over from when I worked at a Boy Scout Camp four years ago. Hey! It was hot. It was easy. It was filling. AND it was free!) WE talked of what we were going to do tomorrow. It's supposed to be even colder in the morning. We agreed we'd both sleep in and decide whether we wanted to go out late in the day or just take the day off. I think I'll vote for the "day off" option. I mean Jets and Giants both are playing, right?

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