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Author Topic: She Just Wouldn’t Understand - Bill “Mac” McCawley  (Read 581 times)

Offline Terry_Green

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She Just Wouldn’t Understand - Bill “Mac” McCawley
« on: March 26, 2004, 05:50:00 AM »
She Just Wouldn’t Understand

by Bill “Mac” McCawley

A small flock of chickadees are feeding nearby and one flew over and landed on my bow. They are such gentle and trusting creatures. I cannot imagine the woodlands without them.

 

As I cross the open field this early fall morning the tiny crystals of frost dance in the beam of my flashlight. The chill of the air is easily warded off ascending the grade as I approach the forested mountain before me. Down in the creek bottom a barred owl booms his farewell to the night. The eastern sky is already starting to brighten as the sun approaches the horizon. Deer already have known of my presence and are blowing and snorting their alarm to others in the area. It is very hard to cross this area, as all the deer are in the fields feeding as the cover of darkness still exists. Now I wind my way up an old logging road that leads to the ridge top above. I know the deer will be heading to higher ground as the morning sun creates thermals that lift along the hillside carrying any odors that might indicate the presence of unwanted visitors below. I stop to catch my breath and hear the drumming of a cock grouse on the same hillside. I remember the first time I heard that sound. It reminded me of the old John Deere tractor on our farm starting on a cold winter morn. The shadows within the woods are starting to appear as the sky becomes lighter and I hasten to the top of the ridge and climb my tree stand on the backside of the ridge. I have two stands here but the weatherman said the wind would be coming from the west today so the deer will follow the backside of the ridge and here is where I will spend the day.

Sounds start to come from every direction as the forest comes alive to greet the day. A flock of crows have found something to their distaste as the air sounds with their alarming caws. Maybe their enemy the great horned owl has left himself exposed and they would like to amend the loss of some of their kin last night. I am ready as I settle back into my stand as all the preliminaries of readiness are done. Already I hear the rustling of leaves to my left and I strain to see the source. Movement catches my eye and soon I can clearly see a mother raccoon and her three little followers as the wander the forest floor looking for food. They must have been here before for they immediately climb the wild grape vines hanging from the trees to gorge themselves on the purple clustered grapes. After feeding awhile they climbed high into a nearby oak tree and each found a crotch to curl up in and sleep the day away.

Two grouse land in a large pine nearby. I can see them standing on the limb for what seems like a rather long period of time and then as quickly as they came they flew downhill into the forest, probably going to feed in the thorn apples and then dust and pick gravel from the dirt road below. Many mornings they can be seen along the edges of the road and I have found them in groups in the thorn apples filling their crops at this time of the year.

Gray squirrels are so abundant and the mast crop has them scurrying to fill their larders as the winter approaches. They seem to be so busy but are forever on the alert for danger and jump at each passing shadow. Some chase up and down tree trunks in the area and I usually take time to fling a few cedars their way when in season.

Off to my right I see movement as a small group of deer approaches my stand. I have all my tags but I am interested in getting a shot at a decent buck moving through the area. As I glass this group I see it is made of a couple of does with their yearling fawns and they slowly approach, pass under and move away from my tree stand. I have already drawn on them several times and “counted coup” as we say. I know there will be other opportunities but the weather plans to be warm today and I really don’t want to mess with meat unless I can get a crack at a buck. As they pass out of sight I settle back again, highly relaxed and almost wanting to doze off in the warming air.

Leaves start to flutter to the forest floor as the frost starts to melt. Drops of water are already raining to the forest floor from the melt and as I sit back, I really start to focus on the colors before me. The red and silver maples are colored in hues of red and yellow and the aspen and beech are all yellow in color. The sugar maples are my favorite with their red orange hues. I identify trees by their colors that I have witnessed over so many years in the field. I know it won’t be lasting long for in short time they will all fall to earth signaling the approach of winter. The oaks will color yellow with some red blushes but then they will brown and will cling to the trees until winters strong winds will nock them to the ground. I can look upon a hillside and find oak patches quickly by finding the tree with the remaining leaves as the season progresses. I have used that trick many times before when hunting areas uncharted by me.
 
I watch a small red squirrel scurrying about and it sits now upon a log, nibbling a morsel of seeds it has found somewhere. Suddenly a streaking shadow passes my tree and soon the squirrel is in the clutches of a sharp shinned hawk. How quickly he appeared and with a few quick snaps of his bill the cries of the squirrel fall silent. Mother Nature as she really works, here on center stage, and here I sit with a front row seat. As I sit meditating about what I just saw I drift off into sleep as I have many times before. I am safe as my tree stand has a rail and I am tethered to a tree by my seat o the pants safety harness.

I awaken to the cries of the Canada geese. They are winging down the Atlantic flyway in great numbers and their large, v shaped flocks fleck the sky from horizon to horizon now. They will pass over all day long and being on top of the mountain many of the flocks pass at fairly close distances. In the valley below a witness to this will see them as very high in the sky but I have been gifted with a much closer view. This is one annual sight I would truly miss if ever it ended somehow.

I nibble on some lunch now and after a drink and some fruit decide to climb down for a bit and see how the squirrel population is fairing over the knoll. As I move across the forest floor I notice the many different kinds of mushrooms and toadstools present at this time of year. It amazes me how quickly they can grow for I have seen colonies of them appear overnight. I see several chipmunks running about but soon the shortening days will drive them into hibernation. As I stalk the laurel and oaks I see several squirrels and again I count coup, as the season on them won’t open for another week. I see a newly opened scrape and realize the rut is soon going to start. I head back over to my stand for the afternoon.

Sitting in my stand I am quickly detected by a pair of blue jays that are telling the entire forest they have found me. Finally they fly off to bother some other creature as again movement catches my eye. A gray fox is hunting through the area and he certainly is leaving little unturned in his path. A small flock of chickadees are feeding nearby and one flew over and landed on my bow. They are such gentle and trusting creatures. I cannot imagine the woodlands without them.

Time passes and a lone deer makes it’s way toward me. I can see it is a buck and his rack is rather high and wide. I prepare for the shot but have to look him over carefully as we are under a three point to one side restriction. As he unknowingly approaches my tree I start to follow him with my bow and have grasped the arrows under the nock in my three under fashion. Suddenly I notice he lacks brow tines and is not legal under the new standard so I count coup again and let him walk by.

Suddenly a squirrel is chased by another squirrel into the same tree my stand is in. He has gotten above me and realizes I am an intruder into his domain. He chatters to scold me in a very loud manner but eventually moves on through the canopy of the forest.

The woods just start to settle as a noisy flock of turkeys works its way under my tree. I wait for them to pass by and then prepare to count coup again as the season is not yet open. As always one of them detects my movement and the alarm putts sound as the turkeys put space between us. Funny how effective their eyesight is.

Then a rather large bird moves through the area. It is as noisy as it is big as it lands on a nearby aspen that is showing signs of its end and hammers away. Chip and chunks seem to fly as this pileated woodpecker enlarges a hole it already had started. Then as quickly and noisily as it appeared it flew off.

It is starting to get late in the day as the sun passes far to the west and the shadows lengthen. I am about ready to leave as I hear footsteps coming up the ridge toward me. Soon I can see a large black object and immediately identify it as a bear. As it comes closer I see it has three cubs and recognize her as one of the bear I have been seeing frequently this past summer.
Her coat just glistens in what little light remains. She seems to be set on getting to some special destination as little time is spent stopping to search for food. The group passes under me within ten yards and move on.

After a little more time I climb down and head to the fields below and home. The deer will be back in the fields now and feeding. As I walk down the road I flush a timber doodle or American woodcock on its migration south. My brittany spaniel and I love to chase those little birds but habitat loss has caused their numbers to dwindle severely in our area and many others.

I cautiously approach the field, as I know the deer will be already feeding and I like to watch them from the woods. They always move away from the cover after they enter the field making an arrow shot more of a clout shoot, which isn't even a passing thought by this hunter. I glass unnoticed and spot two fine bucks on the other end of the field and numerous does and their fawns. Suddenly deer start coming to alert but their attention is focused somewhere else in the field. I am hunting private land and know of no other hunter but there are times that folks just trespass. The deer finally start to bolt to the woods and the domino effect is seen as all the deer waste little time vacating the fields and heading for the safety of the forest. Suddenly the source of their worries is found as a pair of coyotes slip up along the outside edge of the field below. I watch as they hunt the field and enter the pasturelands to the north and then I too head for home.

I rehash many of the exciting things I have seen or heard today as I walk to the truck. What a great experience it has been. Soon I am pulling in the drive and entering the house.

As I arrive a neighbor’s wife is visiting and chatting with my wife. “Get anything?” she asks. “Nope” was my answer. “You and my old man are kind of alike, sitting in the woods all day and wasting good time and getting nothing to bring home. Can’t understand what makes you guys want to do that day in and day out.” I slowly just walk away, for telling her my side would do no good. She has never witnessed what I have or walked a mile in my moccasins. She just wouldn’t understand.

Author’s note: I would not want anyone to believe that all these things happened to me in one particular day. These and many more are true experiences that I have witnessed at various times throughout my hunting career. They are etched in my mind forever. I have always felt closer to my God in the woods than anywhere else on earth. He did a wonderful job creating it for us.

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