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Posts Tagged ‘woodlands’


There was a light snow fall in effect for my late afternoon walk back from work today. The scenery was stunning and the sun was only minutes from setting for the night, when all of a sudden I was pleasantly surprised by a cottontail rabbit on my pathway. He stood there for a few seconds and then hopped away back into the spruce bushes nearby leaving behind him the classic two dot tracks at the back combined with the two longer hind legs prints at the front in the direction that he was heading.

As a small game hunter I take great pleasure in seeing wildlife in their natural habitat and can spend hours observing them. What I find even more interesting is that this was only my second cottontail sighting in several months.

During last year`s small game season I did not harvest any snowshoe hares or cottontail which is quite unusual as I generally harvest one or two in a season. This is not exceptional numbers I agree but one thing to keep in mind is that I hunt quite often alone and with no dogs.  This season I was convinced that I was experiencing a decrease in numbers due to their natural life cycle for the area where I hunt.

Most books I have read mention this infamous ten-year cycle for rabbit and hare populations but based on my time spent in the field it seems more like a five-year cycle. This year while out on my waterfowl hunts at my favorite woodlands spot, I saw two red foxes and it had been well over five years, since I had seen any in the area, to me this is indicative that there must be food in the area. Could the lagomorphs’ population be on the rise again?

I will be hitting the woods in the next few weeks for pigeon, mourning dove and snowshoe hare; if a harvest is not a confirmation of my findings then I will need to continue my natural research, which I will gladly do since it is our passion. I have a good feeling; now let me reach for my rabbit foot.

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I was sitting dead still in the wilderness, which enveloped me with its bright autumn colors like flames from a fire. The snowflakes were falling onto my jacket sleeve making a faint “tock” “tock” sound then it would disappear, and then run off into its water form down the crease. It was cold, windy and the snowfall was becoming heavier. The forest was so alive and for my ten hours that I spent in this environment, I was in my element and part of something so familiar. 
 
The leaves and small branches to my left were being rustled by a red squirrel, as it skipped in and out of the foliage, then along a fallen tree. He was so nervy, he would stop and then jump up on its hind legs look around and then let out a short cheep and then sprint on.
 
He would disappear into the autumn leaves and then reappear a few feet away, let out the sound of a short thump and cheep and then again he would sprint. My leg was cramping up and I had to move in order to get into a more comfortable position and this set “Red” off, he raised his tail and let out a long cheep and thump every time he would raise his tail, followed by another long high-pitched cheep. It made me feel like a kid who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar and so I promptly whispered “Go away you bugger you will let the other animals know that I am here!” 

If you are able to still hunt without setting off “Red” in the bush then you are truly a master and I applaud you. It does not mean that he or she is necessary pointing you out, it could be another squirrel or small rodent trespassing or a larger animal like a mink. My eyes were wide open and I was scanning in all directions and adjusting my head to see, I was also investigating every sound, broken branch or leaves blowing in the wind.

This is when I spotted him, he came from behind me and cut across the trail and then he too disappeared under the leaves and then sprinted across the forest floor onto a fallen log. I was sitting right on the edge of the swamp on a slope shaped like the letter “u” with the northern and southern sides being the high ground. The mink was scouting for food and he was moving right for the water, he was lightning fast and made it to the swamp and began to swim very quickly in search of food.

I took out my mini binoculars and followed him around for a while; it was such a neat sight until he got too close to “Red”. The American mink is much larger than its European cousin and the red squirrel had no chance, he made a lot of chuckle and cheeping sounds then performed quite a dance around a smaller tree scratching the bark but the mink just faced him and then moved to the south of “Red’s” position, and disappeared into the woods.

It seems as though nature took its course and “Red” was not going to be his next meal or fight but the hierarchical order had been re-enforced. The mink was the dominant one and although he does feed on small mammals and rodents “Red” was not meant to be dead.

As for me my hunt continued until dusk.

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The ruffed grouse is without a doubt one of the best small game hunts that you can experience. They quite often make my heart skip a beat with the thumping of their wings when I set foot into the woodlands and I hope they will continue to do so for many years to come.

If you are unable to spot the ghostly bird found in the thickets of pine and aspen, he will surely make you jump with the beating of his wings as he flies away in a hurry into the depths of the forest. This is not to say that he will go far, since they tend to live within a very small range not exceeding a few acres. When this occurs if you are as quick as he, try to watch where he lands. Just like hares and other animals in the woods of eastern Canada, grouse have set pathways and these can be found by looking for droppings and feathers.

My experience tells me if you set out to find them and your eyes are unskilled, you will often walk right past their resting spot. The best way to find them is to “Still hunt” walk, stop, look and listen, then walk again. One trick that is used quite often to locate them is with the use of your fist and punches to the forest floor to make a drumming sound. If you are successful the male grouse will flap his wings and produce their distinct thumping sound allowing you to spot them.

Almost every time I have seen a male grouse on trails or the forest edges, either perched on an old stump or standing on fallen trees, there he was standing proud. They were not necessarily intimidated by my presence and as a result did not fly away immediately as long as they were not surprised.

Nature has adorned them with a great gift: The color of the feathers and this provides them with the ability to blend into their surroundings and quite easily in a sense become the foliage around them, a good example of this is the photograph I took in the forest.*

Grouse happens to be a bird that does not migrate and remains in eastern Canada during the winter months. To the Algonquin natives it is the bird that dives into the snow, a practice which protects them from the wind. Their feet are adapted so they can walk in deep snow like snowshoe hares.

Andi e izhaian pine? (Algonquin)

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