As the new hunting season has emerged, I am thrilled for many reasons. Exploring the nook and crannies of the woods never gets old. Autumn brought many new adventures. See what I mean as I travel back to memories in northern lower Michigan: (NOTE: This time frame reflects fall of 2015...when I was still hunting (and trapping). I'm now a "watcher" instead of a "warrior".)
...As I opened the door of the cramped cabin to leave, I looked around. I was leaving it in good stead. Venison chili simmered hot on the working wood stove, our aging cattle dog, Zip, sighed and gave a look of resignation as I hoisted the crossbow, closed the door and headed out onto the carpet of leaves that would be my path. Autumn had arrived. And with it began my quest for our winter meat.
I curved around the back of the cabin, skirting the silhouetting trees that lined the dog yard. No sled dogs murmured or whined, as they have become accustomed to my daily solo trek.
I stopped at the same spot where the previous week I had surprised a coyote. The other morning, as I headed out to do the morning check of our trap line, I walked through a dense area and came out into a clearing overlooking a vista. I always stop in this particular spot to peruse the land, looking for anything out of place, or perhaps to catch a glimpse of a critter traveling through. As I was looking, a massive coyote climbed up out of a hollow in front of me. He also stood, looking about, scanning the perimeter. As his head was on swivel to the left, he spotted me out of the corner of his eye and jolted with the knowledge. Upon confirming me standing there, he shot off and sped across the land, making a wide arch, actually returning to our property, in particular the area of our sled dog kennel. I only had my side arm on me that day. But this opportunity also gave me time to admire his thick coat, and compare it to several of our thick coated Siberians, which reside in the dog yard. Coy-dog perhaps? He was no typical coyote. Today, however, no coyote in sight.
Although the Barnett crossbow was a heavy tote, I opted to take the long route back to my “blind”. Rain was spitting, but the threat didn’t appear to be long-suffering. I had my “hot seat” looped on my belt, so I knew I’d have a dry seat upon arrival. No worries.
Hearing geese overhead brought a smile. I stopped to watch. Today it was two gaggles, flying side by side. Soon, a couple geese broke off from their original flight and joined a gaggle that split off and headed southwest. Who knows why. Perhaps they knew of a good landing zone the others who continued south didn’t appreciate.
The woods always change…from morning to night, and every hour in between. The lighting makes the woods a new adventure each time I enter. Using the sled dog trails from years past, I have a well-traveled path. Deer and coyote tracks dominate. As I carefully monitor each step, I feel so blessed. I am thankful for Russ, who appreciates my love of being in the woods. Night after night of me coming home in the dark makes for an abnormal dinner hour, but we both embrace this time of year and the opportunities it offers.
As I walk on, a ruffed grouse whistles, alerting me to the fact that wings will soon explode in flight, creating a startled noise in the quiet of the woods. Many times, my heart would beat madly when these birds caught me unaware.
I think back to earlier this August, when checking the trap line was always met with a spider web forming upon my face when going through brush. So many spider webs I’ve sported this year. I would always smile when I saw “widow leaves” – those leaves that appear to be dancing on air – spooky – until you realize they are being held by a spider web.
I finally arrive at my “chair”. It’s a chair in the woods. A wooden, hand carved swivel chair, made by Russ. I had him pull it out of one of our cabins, making a perfect site for me, sitting under a huge beech tree, at the massive base. We built up the perimeter a bit, and the deer have no problem appearing in the clearing as I sit in the chair.
As I snuggled in for the long haul, I took inventory of my surroundings. Many pro hunters don’t factor in wind. I do.
Many do factor in scent. As for me, I have a theory about scent control. I control it by putting my scent out year ‘round. Every kernel of the non-GMO corn I feed has run through my hands, putting my scent on feed. They know me. They associate me with feed. I recall hearing about Iditarod Champion, Susan Butcher, feeding her Alaskan pups this way, smooshing her hands into the meaty mixture to get her scent mixed in. Whatever you do with regard to scent – be consistent.
I also hunt without any fuss. I know folks who bring coffee and eats to a blind. Coffee leads to elimination. Another issue. All bring unwanted scent.
As for cell phones and such. No. Never. If I were to bring anything, it would be a book. But I can’t even imagine doing that. I go to the woods to hear and see the sounds that are ever changing. I delight in the change of noise…the woods are never silent. Especially if you sit under a beech tree in the fall. The woods has so much to teach us.
One last thing. Look up. Cougars are here. You just never know when one might be in your neck of the woods.
This year, there were less skeeters.
This fall, in September during the “early Anterless hunt”, I was unsuccessful. However, I did enjoy an encounter with a young porky as I was heading in for the night. He was in the lane, nibbling on a dried out clover, unaffected by my moving toward him. Only when I spoke to him and neared did he turn his back to me and puff up. He seemed to resent the intrusion and finally toddled off into the woods. Although I had two firearms at my ready, I let him go, hoping I wouldn’t regret the decision come dog training on the trails.
Enjoy the woods, and the one who made it.
Mother Nature? No, Father God. Another good reason to look up…for Jesus
“Surely I am coming quickly”.
Side bar: Yes, many changes in the last 3 years. Life never stays dormant. One big one is submitting to the teachings of Jesus. More to come on what that looks like. For both myself and Russ.
Until tomorrow, Lord willing. Hope to see you here.
Until tomorrow, Lord willing. Hope to see you here.