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Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Amazing Sense of Smell of a Whitetail Deer (Blog 165)

Saturday afternoon, fellow school teacher Doak Harbison and I went deer hunting in Botetourt County.  We were afield in a blind that features an expansive field to the south and another field to the north of the blind.  To the west lies a bedding area and to the east a hedgerow.

The wind was coming out of the east and about 5:00 P.M., we saw a mature doe leaving the bedding area and heading toward us.  But at a distance of about 125 yards, the doe began acting extremely nervously and then began staring at our blind.

The doe's agitation continued for well over a minute when she seemed to settle down and resumed her course toward us.  She did so, we believed, because the wind temporarily died down at that moment.

But soon the wind increased to what it had been - about 15 mph -, the doe immediately stopped, resumed staring at the blind, then suddenly turned and fled.

I have observed the keen sense of smell of a whitetail many times before - and will no likely witness it again.  We hunters can cover ourselves with various scent prevention concoctions, but when the wind is not in our favor, I would speculate that most of the time our chances for success are doomed.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Opening Day of Virginia's Firearms Deer Season (Blog 164)

Saturday was opening day of Virginia's firearms deer season, so I took my son Mark deer hunting on one of our properties in Craig County.  While discussing where to place my son so he would be safe and have a good chance to kill a deer, I positioned him high on a ridge. 

But walking away from him, I suddenly decided to move him further down the ridge, which I did.  Then I went to my ladder stand where I had planned to hunt from.  But I decided to hunt from the ground about 15 yards in front of the stand.

Both decisions turned out to cost us both deer.  For at 8:15, two deer walked under the stand and would have presented an extremely easy shot.  Instead, the whitetails spotted me, snorted, and fled.

Meanwhile around 9:30.  a deer walked in front of Mark, but he was too low on the ridge to see the deer clearly, which was also behind brush.  Before we went hunting, I told Mark that we had a 60% chance of killing one deer between us and a 25% of us both tagging one.

Instead because of my indecisiveness, we both went home empty handed.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Lone Hermit Thrush and Deer Hunting in Virginia's Mountains (Blog 163)

The other day while I was high in a tree stand and bow hunting for deer in Virginia's mountains, a hermit thrush flew by, perched near me, and broke into song.  Hermit thrushes, close relatives to robins and bluebirds which live in Southwest Virginia year round, are fall and winter visitors to this part of the state.

I have uncommonly heard them sing in November and this lone bird's (is this why they have the appellation hermit in their name) willingness to warble his whistling, flute-like melody was most welcome on a day when I did not espy any whitetails.

For this blog, I have written a number of times about how much I enjoy combining bird watching with fishing and hunting.  Not long after the hermit thrush sang his melody, a lone white-throated sparrow likewise felt the need to do so.  For a moment, it was not mid November but a pleasant spring day. 

Most of the time in the fall and winter, I only hear two birds commonly sing: cardinals and Carolina wrens, the latter which, I am convinced, would belt out his "tea kettle" song during a blizzard if he so felt the need.  This is just one of many reasons why this wren is my favorite songbird and my second favorite bird overall behind only the wild turkey.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Boss and Johnny: Cockerels in Conflict? (Blog 162)

Elaine's and my decision to keep both of our seven-month-old cockerels in our chicken run is proving fascinating to watch.  When Boss crowed for the first time on September 11, we were very curious when Johnny would start.  Johnny first crowed on October 2 and when he did so, Boss immediately chased after him and pecked him hard on the back of the neck.

Johnny did not crow again for several days and this time when he did so, Boss once more chased after him.  Johnny quickly ran away to avoid a pecking, but he has not crowed since nor has he shown any interest in doing so.

Boss is a solid three inches taller than Johnny and is also much more "filled out" in appearance.  Boss crows every morning, but he has yet to master the full "cock-a-doodle-do." The crow is more of a "cock-a-doo" then there is sort of an "after shock" and almost a grumbling sound is emitted.

Boss also has to flap a great deal to send forth his gobbles.  In short, he has not mastered the art of crowing yet.  But two things are definitely certain:  Boss does not take kindly to Johnny asserting his masculinity, and the former definitely rules the chicken run.