Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Orienteering 101 - continued

Today we found ourselves out at the farm. We took Dolan out to the outskirts of the property, back in the woods, intentionally trying to get ourselves turned around a bit, then he had to be able to find our way back to the farm.

There were a few specific things we were looking for. One was turkey sign. With the Spring season just around the corner, my brother Tim wanted to find where they were hiding out. The second thing he was looking for was coyote. There has been a sighting or two on his property, and he wanted to lay eyes on them himself.

It didn't take long before we found sign of the coyote. This was right in the middle of the trail where it cut from one rye field to the next.

We cut across the fields and entered the woods. It was warmer here and less windy. The early spring flowers were peeking through the leaf litter as we meandered towards the back of the property.

Luke, the younger brother, made it across the log just fine, but slipped as he was standing too close to the creek and it was muddier than he realized. Gracie made the crossing effortlessly, and I followed behind. We kept out eyes peeled for any sign of wildlife, but if you've never been in the woods with boys, they make a lot of noise.

The property was well marked along the edges so we made sure not to get beyond where we were supposed to be. Not as big a deal this time of year, but it is always a good idea to honor thy neighbor.

We did find some deer sign, lots of tracks and one nice shed antler.

A little further along we came on some prime bedding habitat for deer and kept out eyes out for a second antler, but never found one. We did find this cool honeycomb in a hole in a giant willow tree.

The kids broke off a piece to bring home. They want to melt down the wax to make candles. We'll see what momma says. We followed the stream for a while, always following Dolan's direction on which way was home. Invariably, he would check the compass and point us in the right direction. He really did a great job.

By this time, we had pretty much given up finding any turkey. With all the noise we were making there was no way. We found some spots where it looked like they had been feeding, but nothing positive. Along the way, Gracie had been checking out the local woodchuck holes. Some times she seemed interested, sometimes she would just pass them by. This one must have smelled really good as she tried to wriggle herself most of the way inside, but was blocked by some roots. So far she hasn't barked in any of the holes, but that may just be because she doesn't know for sure what is down there.

Just before coming out of the woods into another corn field, Dolan became fascinated by this old car and had to get himself a piece of it. He unscrewed the nameplate and it was a Fury III.

After several hours of hiking we came out into the corn field across from the farm (Dolan's compass skills had been right all along), and we found some definitive turkey sign in the mud. Tracks, tracks and more tracks. And if you look close, there is the track of a coyote right on top of them in the drying mud.

It was a good hike.

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