Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hunting the elusive Adirondack White-tail

The term Adirondack is alleged to be an Iroquois term meaning “bark eater” and was meant to disparage the Algonquin who lived to the north of the Mohawk River in the great wooded expanse that now encompasses the Adirondack Park of New York. The term referred to both the scarcity of game and the Algonquin’s hunting skills.

Now, I can’t speak about he Algonquin’s hunting skills, but in the small area around my cabin my buddy Mark an I have been able to get four or five white-tail bucks and as many does on our trail cameras—not to mention four or five different black bear. Heck, Eric even managed to kill one of the bucks with his bow a few weekends ago. Things change, however, as soon as we start carrying our muzzleloaders or rifles. Suddenly, the local deer become very elusive.

It doesn’t matter if I’m still hunting (really slow walking) or sitting in a likely area, I have seen a grand total of three deer and only one buck in the last two years. I saw all three last year and never got a chance at a shot. This year, I’ve seen nada, zip, zero, nil….

Mark, on the other hand, is always reporting having seen something. Usually it’s a couple of does walking past him as he sits in a hemlock up on the beech ridge behind my place. Or perhaps a quick glimpse of a tail as he still hunts along the ridge.

The cameras still record deer right behind the cabin but they are usually photographed between 6:30 PM (after shooting hours) and 6:30 AM (before shooting hours). I just can’t find them during the day.

Oh, I find signs of deer. Thursday was overcast and cold (just above freezing) and a little snow flurry fell all morning. I still hunted the beech woods behind the cabin and found three fresh scrapes where a buck deer had pawed away the leaves and marked his territory. I located and followed tracks in the wet leaves. I even found a tree rub that was probably two weeks old. But in walking four hours in the morning and four more in the afternoon, I saw no deer.

Friday was clear and crisp. Walking in the morning was like walking on corn flakes. So we decided to sit. I picked a spot near the state line that forms the northern border of my property where I could look over several trails while Mark and Eric opted to go up on the beech ridge on state land. I saw no deer. I the afternoon we did it again. Still I saw no deer.

That being said, I did see plenty of interesting critters.

First and foremost were the red squirrels. From where I sat, I could see—and hear—at least half a dozen red squirrels. Sometimes they were chattering at me, sometimes they chased one another and sometimes they took issue with a chipmunk.

The chipmunks seemed to be picking up leaves to insulate their winter quarters for, unlike the squirrels, they will be going into hibernation as soon as the weather gets colder.

In the leaf litter at my feet were a couple ever-active least shrews. Or at least I think there were several. I only saw one as it quickly crossed over a hemlock root to dive into the leaves again.

Several bird species, both common and unusual, also visited.

Among the common birds that I often see were the chickadees in the hemlock boughs directly over my head. They were accompanied by a tufted titmouse. As a group they searched the branches and bark looking for insects and spiders.

I saw—and heard—blue jays as they scolded some unfortunate in the hemlocks fifty yards away. They moved in total silence, however, when they wanted to come down to the spring to drink.

Then, suddenly, I had a regal visitor in the form of a northern goshawk. It swooped in and missed a red squirrel just twenty yards behind me and then sat on a branch 10 yards from where I sat. It swooped off its perch and settled into the ferns when a raven passed overhead. The raven’s “caw” is more nasal than the crow’s and it has this water-like chortle that sounds like a stream flowing over a steep, stony riffle.

After the afternoon hunt, I was walking up the trail at twilight when I stopped to look into the woods where there was some open space between the firs and hemlocks. In total silence and coming right at my face was a saw-whet owl. This small night hunter swooped at me, swerved at the last wing-beat and then perched a mere three feet in front of me as it tried to puzzle out just what kind of creature I was. I think it may have seen my eyes and took them to be a much smaller critter climbing a tree. (I was dressed totally in hunter’s camo in a leaf and bark pattern.) It sat for several minutes cocking its head to one side and then another. Then it swooped at me again to land just a few feet away along the trail’s edge. It then took off again and I lost sight of it in the trees. Its wing beats were totally silent. A hundred yards later and right behind the barn, it swooped over my shoulder from behind to land in the tree right in front of me.

The rain moved in late Friday night and has continued all day to this point (it’s 2 PM on Saturday) with no sign of letting up. In fact, it may get worse. Yesterday’s forecast was for some lake effect snow in this area starting tonight and going into tomorrow. They said 3 to 6 inches are possible. Just what we need—tracking snow.

UPDATE: Thanks A.G.T. for pointing out that all my carefully selected links to came up with the Jefferson Salamander. Sheesh! I'll get them fixed soon as I can get a better source. By the way A.G.T., the Adirondacks are in New York State, and all those links were for critters I saw there, not in PA.

UPDATE 2: Things should work better now. I had to find some new sources for the pictures and data on the species to which I linked.

UPDATE 3: The weather hasn't improved. It's still raining at 8:30 PM and we are inbetween the 6 and 10 inch area for lake effect snows tonight and tomorrow. Might be more than we are willing to go out in.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jeez, all the wildlife in PA seem to resemble the Jefferson Salamander. Or at least that's the link that this Firefox browser goes to.

But regardless, I'm not happy with the chickadees that frequent our feeders here. They're the ones that throw out all the "cheap" seed in the feeders until they find a black oil sunflower seed and grab it and fly off to a bush to eat it. I guess they're the gourmets of the bird world.