For another installment of hunting stories, I thought I’d take a number of small happenings of interest and combine them into a single post. Sometimes the little things make all the difference on an otherwise slow morning of hunting.
Hualing ass (in shrew terms)
One of the big things with hunting is keeping your senses peeled to pick up even the slightest sound, movement and even smells. Back around the same time period of the Owl Staredown, I was hunting the same chunk of swamp surrounded by slight oak ridges. This time I was out in mid afternoon sitting up further on the hills looking for some of the squirrels I’d seen scurrying about.
I found a nice big tree to squat under, and waited to see if anything started moving. It wasn’t long at all and I heard a sound. But it was very faint. I listened closer and realized it was very close. My first thought, based on the dainty nature of the sound was some kind of insect. I watched the thick bed of oak leaves where I heard the sound and waited.
Eventually, up pops a weee little northern shrew, not much longer than 1/2 inch long. He was hauling balls too – moving as fast as his little legs carried him! Up above one leaf, down under another, over a stick, under a chunk of rotting bark. He was hunting harder than I was by far. I watched him on and off over the next 30 minutes or so until he eventually ended up too far away to follow. In that entire half hour, he kept moving at a hyper pace… all of about 5 yards total!
Dinosaurs of the forest
Another hunting trip in that same stretch of swamp, I was doing some stalking. I get board of sitting in one spot, but when archery hunting you still have to keep very still as most archery shots are within 30 feet of the animal. Stealth hunting involves a moving hunt, but you’d have a hard time knowing it. On an average stalk, I will move about 25 yards every hour. That little shrew could probably keep pace with me.
One morning while stalking, I heard a sound. I often hear sounds of squirrels and it sounded kind of like a squirrel but squirrels seldom move in groups and when they do it is obvious because generally they chase each other around. I started hearing lots of sounds like a herd. Squirrels don’t herd!
The sounds were obviously coming from behind some thicker pines and were moving to my right so I decided to use the opportunity to lay flat on the ground. By then I’d already determined they weren’t deer because the sounds just weren’t right – heavier than squirrel or rabbit hops but not quite as heavy as a deer’s.
It wasn’t long until I saw some of the feet under the pines so I started clucking. It was a large group of wild turkey hens and young jakes. At that time, my father was getting into calling techniques and I kept insisting I could do a sufficient enough call to pull in a group of hens. (I didn’t think it would be enough to fool a wise old tom)
After a little clucking they turned and as many as a dozen turkeys ended up completely surrounding me until one of the older hens got wise to something strange being about. I, myself was getting nervous as they have some sharp talon hooks and strong muscles! But prior to that, they lingered about me long enough for me to see them up close and personal. That was right after Jurassic park came out in theaters and I couldn’t help but think how these were the dinosaurs of the north woods!
Chipmunk Chirps and Chickadee toes
By far, when it comes to little things, nothing beats one of the first time I hunted at Bishop lake recreation area just outside of Brighton, MI. I had scouted the area during small game season and found there to be a few partridge, woodcock, squirrels and plenty of deer sign.
I found a couple of low, wet, swampy areas and chose one in particular due to a large number of deer runs converging at one end. I put my tree stand midway between the start of the cattails and where the hill started to climb up between the converging runs. There was an area just behind the tree stand that served well as a way to walk in through a grassy field that also served well for stalking at the ‘grayline’ of dusk. (the time when the suns light is just passing from night is known as a ‘grayline’ in amateur radio. It serves well for stalking as it allows you just a bit more freedom of movement when moving through gray surroundings)
This particular morning the wind was wrong so I decided to just pick a spot somewhere to squat on the ground on the other side of the cattail swamp. No sooner do I sit down and some chipmunk found me. Now, if you’ve never been still hunting around chipmunks, this is the most annoying thing that can happen to you.
Chipmunks are so annoying that even the deer ignore them so it’s not a worry about you being seen because of them, but they will sit in place and chirp non-stop until you find some way to discourage them.
Fortunately enough, one had tried this mind-torture on me a few days earlier so I was prepared. In with my regular arrows I threw in my small ‘ninja’ style blowgun and a few darts. I didn’t expect to hit him but I didn’t have to. A shot a few inches below him was enough to shut him THE HELL UP!
It wasn’t too long after that and things started to settle back to normal. After a few more minutes of silent, I started hearing incoming chickadees. I like chickadees!
A whole bunch of them were flying around me. I was having fun watching them as not much else was going on, when all of a sudden I noticed something on the brim of my hat. Two sets of three little grey toes. I tried to sit still as I could and two times he peeked down to say hello. It looked sorta like this:
Yeah, sometimes it’s the little things that make your day while hunting!