Wednesday was one of those days that you don’t mind having winter. It was a little warmer, the sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. After the ice storm, the snow had settled, so I decided to take a walk up the hill.
As I started across the back yard I realized that I would still break through the crust on the snow, so I returned and got out my snowshoes. It was perfect. I was able to go along effortlessly and cover ground quite rapidly. I hadn’t been on snowshoes in quite some time and decided to make it an adventure.
I got up around the corner behind the barn and was able to see out into our far meadow. There were three deer pawing through the snow, trying to find some grass to supplement their diet. It was the old doe that had raised those twin fawns last summer. I watched them feed while I caught my breath, before continuing on.
They didn’t care that I was there. Finally, I moved on towards the area we call the head of the lane. It’s where the cow lane between the meadows entered the pasture many years ago. There’s a swamp there, and a giant old cherry tree. On one of the upper branches a hawk sat. I knew she’d be there. Northern harriers have wintered here as long as I can remember. That tree has always been a great lookout place for the hawks. They perch there and watch for a mouse or rabbit that might be out on such a sunny day. When I got closer, she flew off.
Then the work began. It was all uphill from there, but I took my time and made steady progress up the old road that switch backed the steeper section. I had to stop several times before getting to the woods, but I looked at two old rotten oak trunks. This hill was our playground when we were young. Those oaks were everything to kids with wild imaginations. They were our pirate ship, or a lookout for wild Indians. I smiled, reminisced and moved on.
On days like this, I have often scouted for next year’s hunting season. Animals are creatures of habit. They use the same trails during the entire year.
Once in the woods, everything changes. The ice still clung to tree branches while the beauty and wonders of winter wilds opened before me. I continued on, watching a few birds work the bark off the trees. Off in the distance behind me, I heard several crows. I figured they were harassing that hawk I’d seen earlier. They like to do that.
I soon entered our back pasture. It has all grown up to thick pines since I was a boy. I remember when I was young riding my horse up here both morning and night, to get the cows. They seemed to like this area. There’s a large spring that flows year-round, and the grasses were always green. Today, this is one of the better bedding areas for deer on our hill.
I soon hit one of the main deer runways in the woods. I followed it, passing several deer beds. There were loads of tracks, many made by other four legged creatures. Over the years, I’ve seen coyotes, foxes and even bobcats on my travels through this area. Before long, a big lone deer stood up, and quietly moved off to my right. I figured it was probably a buck. They like this spot.
Finally, I hit an old log road that circles our property. I followed it for a while, before picking up another deer trail. It took me right past one of my favorite tree stands. Hikes like this bring back memories. I shot a nice buck from that tree a few years ago.
As I continued through a clump of small pines, a partridge flushed. I wondered where it had been when I was small game hunting last fall.
Finally, it was time to head back home. I wondered as I descended the hill, why I don’t do this more often. I have a whole wonderful world to enjoy right in my back yard. I promised myself I’d do it again really soon. Hopefully, I find the time.
It reminds me a quote by John Muir, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more then he seeks.”