Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hunting with the birds

For the last two days we have been lashed with 50 to 60 mph winds and torrential rain. Many of our the roads in our little town are under water and school has been canceled. The front yard is littered with leaves and twigs and sticks as this nor' easter works it way up the coast line.

It has forced me to get some things done around the house that I have been putting off. Hunting is out of the question. But last weekend was different.

Before the storm, and before we got skunked on Tuesday, I spent a good afternoon hunting with the two hawks, my wife, and younger son. My wife piddles with photography and takes some pretty nice pictures, so she brought her camera along to see what she could see.

We checked out a new spot. It was land owned by an older farming couple who I came to find out owns unused acreage all around the area, and many new hunting opportunities have since opened themselves up.

Anyway, this spot was great. Tall mixed woods surrounded by corn fields. There was food o-plenty with the corn and the hickory, as well as the pine nuts, and plenty of cover.

The day started slow as we waded into the woods, but it was the perfect day, high fifties with a slight breeze and cotton ball clouds skipping across the sky. I couldn't ask for better.

Along the edges, Gonzo wanted to hunt those giant flying grasshoppers. It was fun to watch, but I didn't want him to fill up, so we moved deeper under the canopy.

We shook trees and pulled on vines and shook trees, hoping to get something moving. I was told by the farmer that we would see squirrel, possibly rabbit, and probably turkey. I wasn't after turkey, but it would be interesting to see if the birds would try for one.

The birds both, suddenly darted into the distance, Tess first, with Gonzo close behind. I lost them in the canopy, and by the time I found them, Tess was on the ground with the first squirrel. It was great that she had one, but there had been no chase. It was over before I got there. I finished the squirrel off and we moved on looking for number two.

We made a circuit of the woods, following the edge, until we finally got another squirrel moving, no wait, two squirrels. But I couldn't see either one of them well as they were high up in the tree, still covered in leaves. I had to trust the birds. I listened to the bells and judged what was happening by them. Soon, I saw one squirrel bail for the ground and dart across the forest floor. Tess dove at it, but the squirrel jinxed at the last second and Tess came up empty handed, the squirrel bolted behind a tree, and was gone. Either up or past, or in a hole. I don't know. My son was chasing squirrel Number two, but soon lost him in the forest as well. We bumped around a bit, but couldn't get the squirrels to move

Soon after, we lost two more in the same fashion. Up and down trees, scurrying across the canopy, leaping through the air and dashing through the leaf litter on the ground, only to be lost in a hole somewhere. It was exhilarating to watch. The birds would leapfrog over on another, covering ground, scanning the canopy. One would dive, and the other would corkscrew around the trunk of a tree, both intent on their quarry.

Finally, one squirrel made it into a hole and I had had enough. It was an old tree, but not overly large. I tore down a nearby sapling, leaving the leaves on, and fashioned a 10 foot poker out of it. I pushed the leafed end into the hole, scraping it back and forth. Out of a higher hole popped the squirrel, who attempted to leap to the ground. He hit, and the birds were on his tail, he ratcheted through the underbrush, two hawks high, and me running in pursuit. He scampered behind the trunk of a tree, only to be startled by me. He bolted for the next pine, and then Tess had him.

I traded the birds off, and we wandered a bit longer. But nothing else presented itself. I couldn't complain.

It was my first twofer of the season. And more importantly, it was a ton of fun for me and the family.

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