Monday, February 15, 2010

#28 (there's something in the water)

The squirrels are coming harder than ever. This weekend was a classic example. The wind was blowing again and the snow was spitting off and on out of the low gray clouds.

I hadn't hunted this area since earlier on in the season when I got my only rabbit of the season. I hoped the squirrels would be out in force, but they no - they weren't.

We wandered along, trying to keep the birds close to my side of the water. Nothing was moving. Usually the birds will ping on something fairly quickly, but nothing was coming. I have learned to really trust the birds, and we have gotten to a point where I think they can read me as well.

Suddenly, the birds were off, swinging low to the ground, then out over the flooded forest. I lost sight of them, but I knew they were onto something by their body language. I chased after.

The hawks were low in the trees, gazing at the water. There was something down there, they knew it. I started swishing my flushing stick around near the base of a tree, and Gonzo raced off to the other side of the water, landed low, and watched.

The water lapped against the forest floor. This is too weird. I called them off and moved away from the water.

Finally, we rustled up a squirrel, and he was an expert, maneuvering from tree to tree, always staying on the far side of the branch from the nearest hawk. At one point, he was on the underside of a thick branch, not six feet above my head, frozen, staring me straight in the face as Tess stood on top of the branch above him. hawks moved, squirrel moved, up another tree - across and then down into a nest.

The hawks didn't see him move. I followed to the tree and started banging. The birds looked at me like I was crazy. I banged and "hoed", but nothing was happening. At one point Gonzo flew off to investigate another tree, then came back, watched me for a bit, then started laddering up.

Yeah - He's got it. He crossed over to the tree, looked at me again, then crashed the nest and started tearing. Nest crashing - while a great skill, makes me nervous as the hawk can't always see what he's grabbing, and bites tend to happen.

It took Gonzo a bit of tearing at the nest, and there was a struggle, but the squirrel broke free, crossing back to another tree and over to where the whole chase started.

I increased the pressure, shaking vines, and the birds were swiping at him. The pressure was too much and he tried to cross at the wrong moment. Gonzo nailed him in the air, dropped him, and Tess got him on the ground.

Gonzo did end up with a bite through the webbing between his toes. It was a clean bite that bled a lot. It will heal cleanly.

So that is 28. The season is quickly coming to a close. I have limited time - and my schedule is filling up. Two more to reach my 30.


Isaac said...

Best of luck on reaching 30, no doubt you'll do it!

Doug said...

Thanks Isaac.

For all my complaining about the weather, it really has been a blast.

Anonymous said...

Were there young in the nest? You mentioned a nest. Wondering if the young are left orphaned. Death by starvation for the babes seems pretty darned cold. I know it happens with young coyotes where I used to live, but I never liked hunting during baby seasons.

Doug said...

No babies at the time of year this happened. That starts being a problem around sometime in March.

I agree with you about leaving the babies, it does seem cold, and I have a guilt problem when it comes to the defenseless.