On Friday morning, my parents and I headed up to Red Hand to pick up dad's new truck. It was a pretty lowkey day that moved at a leisurely pace with limited work to be done. Once we picked up the truck and arrived at the farm, dad met with the landscaper, Barry Bartle, to discuss plans for the new drainage ditch that is being dug to alleviate some of our flooding problems in the plow fields. Barry is without question one of the top hunting minds in the area, with an abundance of knowledge and a seemingly endless library of stories. He hunted our property several years back and always offers excellent advice for bagging the big trophies on our land. After settling on a plan of action with Barry, dad and I went out into the woods to scout the land a bit. Specifically, dad was going to show me the shooting shack that I had yet to see, and we were going to look for the tree stand located deep in the woods. We were able to get to the shack without a problem, but neither of us could spot the tree stand amid the dense foliage. However, we saw deer sign all over the property, and located future sites for some tree stands. We hiked further into the woods than I had ever been, and found some premium locations where some big bucks had been passing through. After scouting, we went back towards the house and spent close to an hour ripping out old barbed wire fencing. We had to clear the fence so that Barry could get into the area without his large excavators getting tangled up and damaged. Overall, it was a fun and easygoing day in which we experienced some really cool sights and sounds. This post is a collection of some of the things we encountered throughout the day. Enjoy!
On our drive back from the truck dealership, I passed right by this turkey. It was hanging out right on the side of the road and strutting for some hens (across the street, not pictured). Now I know what you're thinking. 'How could you possibly hunt turkeys when they just hang out on the side of the road and are unfazed by human presence?' It's important to understand that this is a domestic turkey. Wild turkeys are much different and extremely difficult to hunt. Let me reiterate--extremely difficult to hunt. It is not uncommon for a hunter to spend several years going after the same bird. Anyway, it was still very exciting for me to see such a magnificent and regal bird up close. Additionally, the color pattern of this bird is extremely unique. Farmers who keep domestic birds make sure they have albino breeds so that they don't mistakenly get shot. I had never seen a turkey this color before, and I couldn't help but marvel at its beauty. I heard the turkey gobble once, and as any hunter knows, this sound really makes your heart race. I pulled out my phone to shoot a video of the gobbling tom, and of course he immediately went silent. That's when the outdoorsman in me had an 'Aha' moment. When you're scouting for birds, you try to find out where the birds are located by getting a tom to gobble while it's still on the roost. To do this you make an owl hoot, coyote howl or crow caw. All of these sounds really annoy a dominant tom and cause him to retaliate with a loud gobble. These gobbles are called "shock gobbles" which are different from mating gobbles. The sounds are identical, but the intention is different. A shock gobble is when the tom is a little ticked off and saying 'get the hell off my territory'. A mating gobble is obviously intended to bring a hen in to breed her. Lacking any sort of calling devices in my truck, I tried to quickly think how I could get this bird to gobble before it bolted for the woods. Barry had once told me that a slamming car door or really anything loud and abrupt enough to startle the bird would do the trick. So I whistled loudly and sure enough it elicited an aggressive gobble in return. Of course, once I got this big ole tom gobbling, Duke (our black lab) couldn't help but get it on the action and started barking back at him. The two of them were a riot, fully engaged in a game of "I'm the top male around here". It was quite the scene and I was lucky to capture it on video. (Make sure your sound is turned on for the video.)
Once I arrived at the farm, I headed out into the woods with dad. We took the ATVs really deep into the forest to scout for deer sign and some potential sites for hunting next year. It seems like every time I'm out in the woods I see something that's truly spectacular. Towards the back corner of our property, I spotted a birds nest on a low hanging branch. I gently poked at it with a stick to see if it was an old nest or one currently in use. Then dad reached up and slowly brought it down to eye level, revealing a nest of four tiny newborn birds. They were so adorable but so incredibly ugly at the same time. After snapping a couple pictures, we secured the nest back on the branch so that momma bird could bring them some food. (Click photos to enlarge)
A little further into the woods I found this paw print. It's a little difficult to make out, and it took extremely good eyes to spot (apologies for the hubris). After spending nearly an entire year in the woods scouting and identifying prints on the ground, we have all become very, very good at it. When I first saw the print, I thought it could be one of three animals—black bear, bobcat, or coyote. Immediately we could rule out bear because that print has five fingers. So that leaves either bobcat or coyote. It's less likely that it's a bobcat, but it is entirely possible. Our friend Ivan has several pictures of bobcats on his trail cams located in an identical ecological habitat. The most likely answer though, is that it's a coyote print. Either way, we definitely have a predator on the property. This is exactly why we always bring a rifle out with us into the woods. Just hours earlier, Barry told us, "I don't give a damn what season it is, if you see a coyote, you shoot it. They're nothing but bad news for everybody."
Finding deer hoof prints at Red Hand has become about as exciting as sitting in line at the DMV; they're all over! However, this one stood out to me. Notice the minuscule size of this print. The entire hoof is the size of the tip of my finger. This is undoubtedly a newborn fawn that has just begun walking around. Spring is always a wondrous season for this reason. All the plants start coming back to life, and all the animals in the forest are having their babies. It kind of makes you wonder, in four years could this be the monster buck that everyone in the county is talking about? All those big bucks had to start somewhere, could this be the next big thing?
Finally, we end with the picture that started the whole trip upstate. It's nearly miraculous that we were able to do all the work at the farm up until now without a pickup truck. We are constantly hauling tons of cargo, and picking up the trailers from Windham adds a few extra hours to our drives. The truck was definitely a necessary addition, and will make accomplishing work upstate (and in New Jersey for that matter) much, much easier. It's a pre-owned 2006 Ford F-150 4x4 with a 5.4 liter Triton engine. Dad opted to go with the full cab so that any passengers, Duke included, could fit comfortably. Dad bought it from a dealer up in Otsego County and got a tremendous deal on it; he paid about 75% of the price that the sharks down in Jersey were asking for similar trucks. Plus the salesman (the son of a farmer of course) was just so much nicer than anyone we dealt with down here. Life is just so much more pleasant in the country.
So that just about sums up our trip to Red Hand on Friday. It was a great day, and as always, we all came back home with big smiles, great stories and new memories. Until next time folks...