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Snowy Food Plots and White-tailed Deer

Snowy Food Plots and White-tailed Deer

Snowy Food Plots

We’ve been waiting for snowy food plots to learn how to the wildlife will react to the food we’ve provided. There are turnip and radish tops above snow but as you can see, the deer are pawing through the snow to get to grass. Unfortunately we don’t know what kind of grass seed was in the seed mix.

snowy food plot, white-tailed deer, Maine, food plots in winter
snowy food plots, deer, deer in winter food plots

snowy food plots, snowshoe hare tracks in snowThe deer have flattened one food plot, their favorite, and moved into the larger plot behind the house. The smaller plot was full of kale and oats, apparently the does and fawns’ favorites. They ate the seed heads from the oats and the leaves from the kale, leaving the kale ribs standing. Most of the ribs and oat plants are gone now. Now that we have snowy food plots the deer paw through the snow to get to food. They seem to favor grass over turnip and forage radish tops. When the grass is gone we expect them to pull up the turnip and radish roots. The roots they miss will die and improve the soil.

The short-antlered buck was here. It’s always good to see the bucks. Splay, the big old doe that’s fat and round looks like she’s packed on enough calories to last two winters. Good for her!

Snowshoe Hares

There are a lot of snowshoe hares this year. Remember the kits? I find their tracks near the wood yard. It’s easy to tell them from the others because they’re much smaller. The tracks above are from an adult hare. Hares are in the snowy food plots eating tops off turnip and a little grass. None of the animals want anything to do with pumpkins yet. That’s unusual. Maybe they’ll be the last thing eaten before the deer move on to their winter feeding grounds.

I hope to harvest one or two hares before the season closes at the end of March. They’re hard on the fruit trees in winter and the garden in summer. While I won’t be growing an outdoor garden, they can ruin the food plot as the tender shoots pop up. I’ll be looking for hares in the food plot only, not going into the woods to find them. I doubt I could find them without a hound and Zoey’s ears turn off when she’s behind a hare. She doesn’t hear a word we say yell.

Elsewhere on the homestead

I’ve made one wreath so far. I’ll make more today, finish decorating the tree that I haven’t told you about yet, and make a soup for supper. I haven’t been to the freezer yet. I’m going with whatever suitable soup meat I see first being the kind of soup I make. It could be caribou thanks to most generous Cristina, turkey or chicken we raised, or moose thanks to a friend who hit a moose. I wish I were baking bread today but since we still have half of a sour dough seven grain loaf there’s no need to bake.

What’s happening at your place today?

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Deer Hunting Season Ends – wins and losses

Deer Hunting Season Ends – wins and losses

Deer Hunting Season

Deer hunting season is over for me. It’s my least favorite, least productive hunting season. I get cold easily, though this year it was unusually warm for the first four weeks and I wasn’t cold until the end. There aren’t a lot of deer around so we can shoot only bucks. I hunted almost every day and saw one buck right here on our land. I heard him crunch dry leaves and snap a branch on his way to an apple tree behind my right shoulder. Big bodied and four points, one of three bucks we have pictures of on the game cameras. He ate the apples on the ground and walked away from me. I watched his antlers over raspberry bushes and then his wide rump disappear into the woods. He had no interest in my bleats. His ears didn’t even twitch.

Food Plot

Steve built a food plot in the spring. I cut down a few trees but he really did all the work. He built it and they came. A ten point and two four point bucks, a lone doe, a doe with one fawn, and a doe with twins. Last year we had two bucks, the lone doe and a doe with one fawn. Progress. The ten point disappeared after being on the camera at the end of the second week of deer hunting season. Neighbors a quarter-mile down the road have a doe with quadruplets at their apple tree on a regular basis, and they’ve put mineral blocks out for them. They look great, strong and healthy. Seven fawns in a quarter-mile section of road. That’s encouraging. With our food plot and their mineral blocks and a major decrease in logging in the area for an extended period of time, our deer herd has some time to increase.

Decreased Logging

The major land owner that won’t be logging in the near future has blocked access to side roads. They’ve lined boulders up across the roads’ entrances and dug up culverts. When there weren’t culverts or boulders they dumped large piles of gravel or dug out the road. The number of heater hunters (they drive the back roads and don’t get out of the warm truck until they see a deer) dropped drastically. The folks who got out and walked harvested some big bucks. We saw a ten point with a drop tine being registered at Waite General Store. Five years from now we should see more and bigger deer. It’s encouraging.

Wins and Losses

Neither of us harvested a deer so that’s a loss. The wins for the deer and their habitat are huge and far outweigh venison in the freezer. Winter is here with single digit temperatures and a little snow here. Five miles from here the ground is still bare. Another easy winter seems unlikely but an average winter will be just fine. Survival of the fittest keeps the wildlife healthiest. deer hunting season, splay
deer hunting season, 10 point buck
deer hunting season, doe with twin fawns
deer hunting season, doe and twins
four point buck, low antlers, deer hunting season,
deer hunting season, four point buck, high antlers

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Snow Cover – last day of November

Snow Cover – last day of November

Snow Cover

Enough snow fell last night to bring out the plow and sand truck. We were going to get up at 3 am to drive to Molunkus Stream Camps, hunt our way to the blind at Big Field, and wait for deer. I’ve had a feeling of gloom and doom for five days and willed the alarm to remain silent. And it did, through no fault of mine. Steve woke at 6 am, unusually late for us. We got up at 3:30 Tuesday morning to hunt and were more tired than we realized. I looked out the window to beautiful snow cover, rolled over and snuggled in. Hunting this morning? No thanks.

I’m not ready for snow. Three cords of firewood still need to be moved into the high tunnel. It’s the three of the what ended up being six cords of firewood I wasn’t planning on, wasn’t prepared for, didn’t have time to deal with. But here it is and there it sits. It might still be there in the spring. The lawnmower is still sitting in front of the barn, uncovered. The bear bait barrels too heavy for me to move are still in front of the barn. We’ll get them taken care of Sunday with help from the tractor. Until then, I’m enjoying the snow cover while hoping it melts.

There are still quite a few apples for the deer. They’ve been coming every night for the apples that drop during the day. They’re also eating turnip and forage radish tops (bottom photo) in the food plot in the orchard. When muzzleloading season ends Saturday I’ll put pumpkins in the new food plot. Zoey wasn’t thrilled by the snow first thing this morning but it didn’t take long to get excited. Zomobile ran circles around Ava. Ava seems to almost not notice Zoey’s antics. Waking up to snow cover was a reminder that like it or not, winter is coming.

Healing

I’m working out a recipe for a healing salve. I took a horrid fall down a flight of stairs about two years ago. Breaking my tailbone and pelvis, tearing both rotor cuffs, and doing other damage left me aching most of the time (a major contributor to cutting back). I’m working on a salve that might help my joints. I’ll have the crockpot out today to get the steeping started. Any natural healing suggestions for aching joints and muscles?

Today’s Work

Today’s work consists of tidying up an article for a new “project.” I’ve been asked to write for a publication based in Ireland. The article has been written for a week but I’m not happy with it. The editor is wonderful. She’ll read it and pass it back to me for a rewrite. She’ll make me a better writer as she helps me slide into her publication’s style. My first article will be published in December. I’ll give you the link when it’s live. Later on I’ll be hunter in the snow cover, looking for a track to follow, one that brings me to a buck. ha  That won’t happen but I’m going to try anyway! What are you doing today?

snow cover, firewood
snow cover, crab apples,
snow cover, wild yellow apples
snow-cover-ava-zoey
snow-cover-pond
snow-cover-fence-post
snow-cover-forage-radish-food-plot

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November First on the Homestead

November First on the Homestead

November First on the Homestead

The kitchen is cool, almost cold in the morning now. November first dawned in the 20°s, feeling more like December. Sourdough bread spent the night in its first rise in the coldest corner of the kitchen. Poke poke poke. I dumped the flattening dough from the bowl into a bread pan and pushed it aside to rise for the day.

After coffee, chores, and then a breakfast of homemade bread toasted on cast iron, an Autumn spiced bear sausage patty and a duck egg, I spent a little time preparing the rest of supper. Butternut squash soup with Linguica sausage and the sourdough white wheat bread. Peeled, cut up, chicken stock, pan fried the sausage to release some fat and improve flavor, tossed together in the crock pot to simmer. And then off to lunch with a dear friend I’ve missed.

november first, homestead, butternut squash soup, linguicahomemade bread, november first, deer huntingDeer season (rifle) opened Saturday, a few days earlier than what used to be November first. Steve and I spent the morning and evening on a ridge looking for a buck we chased on closing day last year. He wasn’t registered so unless Mother Nature got him, or the hunter who fired a shot that echoed between two ridges and down into a valley found him, he’s out there. You couldn’t prove it by us. We found tracks big enough to be a buck but that’s all we saw.

ridge, deer hunting, november first, autumn colorsNovember first, birch trees, autumn, foliage, November, deer hunting

Butchering Day

Sunday was on of those days I dread and look forward to. I dread the killing and butchering of the meat chickens but I look forward to excellent meat from happy, well-raised chickens, and to having the job done. Chicken wise it was the worst year ever. More mortality than ten years normally put together. Started with 32 chickens, butchered 21, couldn’t use the meat from one because it had some sort of yuck of which I’ll spare you the details. The turkeys’ day comes this Sunday.

Loss

Steve put down an injured runner duck. She was seven or eight or nine years old and still in excellent health but mortally wounded. She was already shivering in the cold. Can’t have her freeze to death this winter. She survived a bobcat attack many years ago. She didn’t lay many eggs anymore and she absolutely didn’t want to be touch but she was still a valuable part of our homestead. She made us smile. Her two sisters spent November first looking for and quacking to her.

new moon, november firstCoyote Problems

I’m distracted early in the morning and again late in the afternoon each day but Sunday by coyotes. They’ve been in the backyard, around the hen house and meat chicken pen, and even on the porch. Finding their wet paw prints on the porch is annoying and uncomfortable. They shouldn’t be this comfortable being close to the house with us and two dogs here. I’ve been sitting in a popup ground blind, calling like a screaming jack rabbit (which makes me want to shoot the speaker after 30 seconds) and a howling coyote. So far no good. They show up a half hour before and after legal shooting time. We can’t night hunt them again until mid-December when the last deer hunting season closes.

I’m hoping the November first new moon brings change in deer movement and opportunities to rid the neighborhood of the coyotes. It’s time they went back into the woods and away from the few homes on our road.

November first already. Where did this year go?

Routine Change – Freezing Cold Nights

Routine Change – Freezing Cold Nights

 Routine Change

Routine change seems to happen quickly even though fall creeps in slowly, particularly this year. Last week we had daytime temperatures in the high 70’s and nighttime temps in the low 50’s. This morning the hose was frozen because the temp dipped into the high 20’s. At 10 am the water trickled through enough to get the thawing process started. Routine change: drain the hose during evening chores and make sure it’s stretched out where the morning sun will find it earliest.

Moving the Chicken Tractor

Every morning I let the Cornish Cross meat chickens out of the tractor to run for the day. I bring them a little corn to help them warm up quickly. Every evening I move the tractor onto clean grass or soil, move their five gallon waterer into the tractor, and wait for them to go in for the night. Routine change: As of today I’m moving the tractor in the morning and leaving the tarp over it so the sun can warm the ground during the day, giving them a warmer spot to sleep at night.

Building a Fire

checked firewood, routine change, dry firewoodMost mornings I’m up early, start the coffee, get the kindling and firewood, build a fire and get my shower while the coffee finishes. I dress by the fire that’s still catching, barely enough warmth to start the groan and pop of the heating metal. Routine change: Bring in the kindling and firewood after evening chores. Build the fire first thing in the morning, then start the coffee. Coffee takes a few minutes to make because we grind beans each time we make a pot. The spent grounds are stored to be scattered in the herb garden. Building the fire first won’t make a huge difference but it’s a few extra minutes for the heat to build.

I’m looking forward to days inside later this week, watching the rain fall while sitting by the fire, working without interruption, writing writing writing for something other than a paycheck. I’ll roast a chicken with potatoes, carrots and onions on an open fire by the pond on Wednesday and then use the leftover chicken for chicken salad with cranberries and walnuts, fajitas and a soup.

Coyote Problem

routine change, coyote, meat chickens, cornish cross, A coyote has been hanging out here for more than a week. One came through in April and July. A youngster very much attached to our back porch, backyard and orchard, visits nightly for the past week. It arrives a little earlier each night, just after Steve turned off the noisy saw and came in last night.

We can’t night hunt again until mid-December but if I catch it in the act of bothering the meat chickens, well, it’s days are over. The cold nights seem to have spurred its desire to hunt here. The deer haven’t been around since the coyote showed up. I will feel bad for ending its life. It’s not an animal I’ll eat and I won’t tan its hide. I really don’t know what I’ll do with it; it’s been quite a while since we’ve had to kill one. I hope it takes on a routine change before it’s too late.

And speaking of killing. <sigh> One of the meat chickens, a hen, is mostly likely developing pneumonia. We’re in wait-to-see mode. We have two choices. Treat her with antibiotics or slaughter soon. We’re two or three weeks away from processing all of the meat chickens. We don’t want antibiotics in our food when we have a strong alternative. She’s fryer size now, certainly large enough to provide three meals for the two of us. I’ll see how she is in the morning. I’m ready for the poultry routine to change, for them to move on to the freezer. It’s chilly during the day, cold at night, and sometimes so windy I have to tack down the tarp covering the entire tractor at night. It’s not good meat-raising weather now as it takes more food to keep themselves warm as well as grow.

Are you going through a routine change as autumn progresses?

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Deer Blowing, Skunk Waddling, No Bear

Deer Blowing, Skunk Waddling, No Bear

Deer Blowing

It was a good day to be seated in a mini chair behind the pile of trees I use as a ground blind. After sitting in the rain at two sites on Wednesday my boots were soaking wet, and I’d forgotten to dry them in the sun and breeze. A middle-aged brain cramp left me sitting in the shade, in a breeze, with cold, wet feet. Cold feet make the rest of me cold. You’d think I’d learn. A deer blowing took my mind off the chill.

Rustling through woods behind me and to the right alerted me to the largest of three skunks on its way in. It always stops at the base of the same tree to potty or mark its territory, I’m not sure which. It stopped, not noticing me as usual, and then went about its merry way. A yellow bellied sapsucker drummed up a racket as it flew tree to tree to tree in search of supper. Red squirrels chased each other in another cops and robbers getaway scene.

The Doe

The doe usually walks through the woods to my left or right in the late afternoon. I waited, listening for her footsteps in the crunchy leaves and the occasional snapping of a twig. A little before 5 pm I heard her. She walks back and forth on the same trail. The ground is bare other than the duff; no grass or even ferns so I can’t imagine why she’s there so often.

I’m getting good practice at sitting stone still with this doe around. I challenge myself to let her get as close as possible before she discovers me by sight or scent or because I move. Yesterday she was 20 feet behind me before she found me. Have you ever heard a deer blowing at you? She startled me again even though I knew it was coming at some point. The combination of blowing and the sound of her hooves trampling the ground as she whirled around to storm out made me jump. I listened to her a few minutes, grinning as I thought about how close she’d gotten this time and how much progress I’ve made in this little game of mine. And then I remembered my phone and turned on the camera. You can’t see her but if you turn up the volume and listen closely you’ll hear a deer blowing.

Doe Deer Blowing

Tree Stand Life – what happens around me

Tree Stand Life – what happens around me

Tree Stand Life

Bear hunting isn’t going well. Remember when I had so many bears coming to the barrel? Except for one bear, they are gone. Blackberries are abundant but starting to dwindle as they ripen and fall off, are picked by people, and eaten by the bears and other animals. There were substantially more mushrooms than usual after decent rain in September. If hyperphagia has started the bears aren’t coming to our bait barrels to gorge on food. Chubby shows up off and on now, often walking past the barrel on his way to somewhere else. I’m living a tree stand life these days and loving it most of the time. This leaves me with a lot of time to think, plan, and observe the natural world around me.

tree stand life, observe nature, nature notes

Turkeys

I was able to watch Eastern Wild turkeys the first two days of tree stand life but after being “busted” on day two, they haven’t been back. Turkeys have excellent vision and the biggest tom spotted me in no time. One alarm call and they were off, not to be seen again so far.

Whitetail Does and Fawn

When the wind isn’t blowing I can hear what’s going on for miles around me. Early in the season I listened to two deer walking slowly up the gravel road behind me. Ten minutes later I heard cracking in the woods and feet scuffling in the dry leaves this time inside the tree line. The deer slowed its pace as it approached stand. It came out of the dense woods into a clearing that’s filling in with wild hazelnuts. Deer stomp when they’re alarmed or angry. It stood 20 feet from my stand and stomped non-stop for two or three minutes, and then blew so hard I was startled. I laughed to myself. It’s like knowing the toaster is going to pop up and jumping when it does.

A big doe, so big that if she were a buck people would say “nice buck,” blew 103 times in the first 15 or 20 minutes. She startled me twice because I thought she was done. Listening closely, I could follow her movements without seeing it. Eventually I knew she was far enough away that I could slowly turn my head to the left and strain my eyes in her direction. After bursts of 17 to 20 blows at a time, she gave up on finding what (me) she knew was there but couldn’t see. She “got” me on Monday when I was looking for a bear at the barrel instead of paying attention to all that was around me. A sudden noise made me think a bear huffed at me, and it took a second to realize it was her blowing as she ran away.

Two days later, while sitting behind the ground blind, cracking in the woods to my right caught my attention. A doe and yearling browsed 100 feet away on grass and raspberry leaves. I could see parts of them but never their entire bodies at once. This time, the deer didn’t know anything was “off.” It was easy to watch them, and good to know I could sit so still they didn’t know I existed.

Owls

Barred owls start hooting each afternoon at 4:30, give or take a few minutes. I can almost tell the time based on the owls. Steve can do the same from his stand. One or two barred owls start hooting there at 6 pm. Some days it’s only one, other days there are two. And one day, a great horned owl started to hoot leisurely at first, then frantically for quite a while. I wanted to know why but of course, sitting on the side of a tree no where near the owl, I’ll never know.

Mobbed by Birds

Chickadees mobbed me many times. Dozens of chickadees surround an offender, flying between trees and hopping among branches until their curiosity is satisfied or they’re convinced the threat is over. The mob got me in the first week of the season. It started with noisy blue jays and grew to chickadees and other small songbirds I couldn’t see without turning my head. Were bears close enough to hear the ruckus? mmmm…I don’t know. After a while I moved enough to use my phone and record the racket.

Skunks & Squirrels

tree stand life, skunkThe Three Skunkseteers keep me amused part of most days. Each skunk is different. Three sizes, three stripe patterns, three personalities, three feeding patterns. The largest skunk balls up something with its front paws and then scrambles backward, rolling whatever it is it has across the forest floor. I can’t tell what it has even after inspecting the ground where this happens.

Red squirrels are a big part of tree stand life whether you’re hunting bear, deer or something else. I’ve watched chase scenes that would make Hollywood envious, fights that make bar room brawls look like child’s play, and a little sex, too.

Imaginary Bears

Bears do show up while I’m living the tree stand life. They’re imaginary. As the sun drops and moves to the west the shadows change. I strain to see the large black spot behind the barrel, the black space that appears for a few minutes as the sun is behind a large balsam tree. As the sun fades the black space grows. Movement? A bear? No, just the breeze blowing a hazelnut bush to the right of the barrel, along the trail Chubby uses when he shows up a7 9:30 pm and again after midnight. By the time I have to climb down and make my way through the woods to gravel road the imaginary bears are gone, too dark to exist.

 

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Five on Friday – April 15

Five on Friday – April 15

Five on Friday – April 15

I’m joining in on Five On Friday – April 15 this week. I’m chosen five highlights or activities of my week. If you’d like to join in you can find the information at the Five on Friday link.

I’ve been working outside and in the high tunnel, wrote a freelance piece for 1800Gear, and working on this new blog. We’ll be working outside this weekend. I think black fly season will start early so we want to get as much done as possible before they’re unbearable. We plan on taking a little time out to do some fishing. There are a couple of small streams I’d like to explore this spring. It would be nice to have fresh brook trout for supper.

Monday was off to a beautiful start. If you click on the photo you’ll get to see more photos of the sunrise.
sunrise over thebarn, good morning sunrise
I made whole wheat sourdough bread, as usual. I tried a batch of sourdough rye but it was a disaster. I didn’t have the hydration right so it stuck to the Banneton. I haven’t figured out how to get the dough off the fiber yet.

whole wheat, sourdough

The deer are coming to the food plot earlier now. They’ve been here in late afternoon. I didn’t see them but there are photos on the game camera. It’s time for antlers to start growing so I’ll be looking closely at the pictures.

whitetail doe, white-tailed, deer, food plot

I’ve been watching the amount of damage a porcupine is causing to trees on Democrat Ridge. Some of the trees are gnawed but others have been girdled and will die. There are at least two dozens trees damaged.

porcupine, damage, tree, girdle trees

Last night on our way back from looking for a place to fly fish we saw this yearling white-tailed deer. Do you notice anything unusual? Look closely. It’s a piebald, also called roan. It has white fur where white fur doesn’t belong.

roan, white-tailed, deer, piebald, piebald deer