Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Growing up in Aroostook County, hunting was a family occasion. Like the hunting land we strike across today, the skills of game scouting have been passed down from my Grandfather. A few short months ago, we kept the tradition alive. Heading out with my cousin, Shawn, in search of hopeful signs that Whitetail Deer are present this season.
Our old map leads us, on foot, down a narrow woods path. The destination lies a couple hundred yards east of a power line and just West of several ridges. Three miles in and mid-way up a small hollow we sit down to take a breather. Shawn slips off the 30-30 that has been handed down through the family, and rests the rifle at his side. Morning temperatures hover above freezing and cause heavy steam to rise from our Thermos. Coffee always tastes better in the field. Our talking immediately hushes as we hear heavy steps coming from the exposed field to our right. A cow and her calf appear from beyond the back side of a knoll and within a few short moments the two are in clear view; their silhouettes boldly standing out against the blue skyline.
The bustling of opening my daypack and grabbing my camera quickly draw their stare. Side by side they peer down at me across the opening. I rush to adjust the camera settings in hopes of a perfect exposure and begin snapping away. I grew up in this area and have seen many a moose, but this was special. As a young man, it wasn’t uncommon to see 30 moose in a single field, grazing on the frozen stems of a harvested broccoli field.
It is apparent with each step the cow takes that her front right leg had been injured. Perhaps the injury occurred while defending herself, or her calf, against a small pack of coyotes. No matter how it happened, the limping makes you feel for the wild beast as she tenders it with every step forward. The two soon ignore our presence and continue onward toward their rightful destination. I feel lucky to have been in the right place at the right time.
We gather our gear and press ahead ourselves. Scavenging the area, we find multiple early scrapes. It’s not far and we find a daytime resting area where these deer are bedding down. Judging by the size of the droppings nearby, we have a large deer on our hands, possibly a mature buck. We’ll be looking forward to opening day. You simply never realize the joys you’ll encounter in the out-of-doors until you put yourself there.
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Rhon Bell, an outdoor enthusiast, spends his time exploring the Maine Woods and documenting his journeys.
Growing up in Aroostook County, he embraced the outdoor lifestyle at a young age. Living today near Portland, he spends weekends and week-long adventures hiking New England summits, canoeing the historic Maine waterways, and ice fishing for lake trout.
Follow the journey as Window to the Woods discovers new destinations, and check out his other blog, Backwoods Plaid.