Wednesday, November 11, 2009

One of the Guys...III


(This is part III of a story that begins here.)

While the pheasant dashed between the rows of corn stubble without so much as a pause or backward glance, I pulled the car to the side of the road and waited. The dogs, still running circles in the tangles beside me, apparently had lost him at the road’s edge. And the fact that my vehicle now stood between them and their prey’s low, escaping form had stopped their pursuit in an instant. They ran, tails wagging, back through the fence row in haphazard bounds and were gone.
I rolled off down the road—now beginning to comprehend the great gathering of pickups drawn to a small, unmarked lot, tucked several yards off a quiet, rural road on an otherwise unremarkable Friday morning.

The lot at the lake’s edge was larger and less busy.
Within minutes, I was out on the trail—a wide, mowed, grassy path that ran up the entire south side of the lake, before finally veering off into the woods and joining the marsh beyond. Beside it, thick brush filled a corridor separating the grassy path from the pavement of a well-ridden bike trail.

sycamore leaf on water

basking turtles

I could peek past their branches to see a small, shallow pool where fallen logs collected leaves and spots of sunshine drew turtles from beneath its thick, green surface to bask in an autumn afternoon.


Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly on sycamore leaf

Autumn Meadowhawk, Sympetrum vicinum

Familiar Bluet, Enallagma civile

From within each bush, katydids chirped boldly as I walked past, as they and a number of late-flying dragonflies and damselflies warmed their wings and cruised the unshorn edge. And the air was heavy with the smell of fresh mud, still dark and wet, applied to the large mound of straight, pointed sticks erected by the beaver whose muddy tracks I crossed again and again, as I made my way along the grassy path.


Spring Valley Lake with blind (far right in distance)

The open water of the lake was broad and blue, rimmed with cattails and fading stems of grass that hid several blinds, strategically situated to look out upon its center, and, in a different season, hide the hunters within. Empty on this day, I tried one on for size. A cozy box of space, its roof was draped with nets and its sides wrapped in layers of mottled, shaded fabric. With random branches fixed to its face and a modest bench, it became a nice place to pass the hours--to see and not be seen. For it would appear that our hunt is much the same —it is just our capture that is different.

Slow, deliberate steps rustled the leaves a few feet off the trail. And sure that its source was smaller than a deer’s browsing, larger than a songbird’s scratching steps, I followed, creeping through the bare branches, hoping to see. Up and over the pavement he scurried, to the thicket and swamp beyond. With ease he left me far behind, snared in the thick, tangled mass.

Where the lakeside trail turned toward the marsh, I stopped. Discordant sounds had begun all around--clearly hounds, whose constant calling grew clear and then faded as pairs turned and tracked their prey. Distant shots rang out. And, the dogs ran on, spreading through the woods like wind on wildfire. Until I sensed a transparency I would not expect to feel in such a wild place. In these woods there was no place to hide.

I met a man in blaze orange, his shotgun ready and hunting knife plainly carried in a sheath at his belt, while his dog sniffed the ground at my feet.

“What’s going on,” I asked, my rather wide-eyed look difficult to conceal.
“Opening day on pheasants,” he replied. “Seen any?”
I hesitated and grinned broadly, in part, exploring the options for my response, and in part, now recognizing the utter uselessness of the can of pepper spray hidden in my pocket.
“You wouldn’t tell me if you did, right?”
“Probably not,” I agreed.
“It’d be a good idea to get some orange on.”
“Yep, I’ll be sure to do that. Thanks.”

And we went our separate ways, hunting--
our separate ways.


Hunter of a different sort

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KGMom said...

Ah--so this is why you acquired a new wardrobe of blaze orange!
Great story--I am rooting for the pheasant, even though it is a transplanted species.
When we first moved to our neighborhood, there was an empty lot across from us, and a family of pheasant lived there. I loved that. However, when 3 more houses were built, the pheasants left.

Ginnymo said...

What a nice walk you had. Love the story and I'm sure that hunter knew you wouldn't tell him where all the pheasants were..LOL Great photos Nina! Love the turtle one! I'm partial to turtles..

Heather said...

No place to hide is right. Did you feel surrounded? That must have just felt weird. Photographing from the hide must have been cool, but I'm sure all the waterfowl and other birds were all on their guard that day. Nice story telling on this one, Nina.

Arija said...

I wnder how many hunt because it is a man thing and how many do it out of a genuine need for provisions.Shotgun cartriges are probably worth a lot more than a wild, tough, lead riddled bird.
Ah well, there you go, they dress up like peacocks and go out with their hounds and their god given right to carry a gun and slaughter.

Susan said...

I once went for a walk in the woods, wearing brown cords, and brown suede jacket.Minutes into my walk I heard shots ring out, and too late, realized it was opening day for deer hunting..and around here, that's a big deal (for some). Needless to say, I ran for my life and got back to the trailhead in record time. Blaze orange is good...

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Yep, KGMom, that's me in the lat photo--with the new outfit--blaze orange. Not my choice, as one who prefers to blend in and NOT be seen--but, life-saving in the fall!

Heather--the constant yelping of the hounds was something I've never experienced. And, its echo permeated the entire area--sort of scary, but a good warning that the hunt encompassed a broad area, not just what was in immediate view.

Arija--Your assessment of the expense to hunt versus the value of what is caught, is probably true. But, the up-side of the hunting industry is that the money generated from the sale of licenses goes to maintain the refuges and wildlife areas I often use--at no charge. I was pleased to find the hunters (and these were all male, though I know some women who are responsible hunters, as well) very considerate of my sharing the space on that day. And, one very interested in my photography, not only for his gain in finding a bird--but perhaps, shared appreciation for another who would spend a day walking there?

The hounds I could do without.

Anonymous said...

It is blaze orange season. Never did look good in that colour.

Deborah Godin said...

Blaze orange (aka, I'm-Not-a Pheasant-You-Dope Orange). What must the birds and other hunted critters think of us? Can't we all be friends?

Jane said...

Beautiful autumnal shots, and lovely reflections. Thanks for sharing:)

Gill - That British Woman said...

great story, even greater photos...

Gill in Canada

Gwendolyn said...

Beautiful pictures. I like your story. Thanks for sharing.

eileeninmd said...

Great story and I am so happy to hear that you didn't tell the hunter you saw a Pheasant. I loved your photos, the turtle on the log is wonderful.

Ida said...

Great post.
Lovely pictures
- each and every one.
Artistic. :)

Stine in Ontario said...

Great post and a bit scary too. I don't get the need to hunt with a gun. Hunting with a camera is WAY more fun.

Pearl Maple said...

Beautiful photos to celebrate nature and sky watch friday.

Yes, orange is a safety measure needed some times of years.

Thumbelina said...

Beautiful shots - my favourite has to be the second one. Great captures all of them though.

J Bar said...

such great scenery
Sydney - City and Suburbs

holdingmoments said...

I really enjoyed your account of events Nina. Excellent words and pictures.

Kathiesbirds said...

Nina, I know the feeling. I'm so glad our "captures" don't involve killing. (though in some cultures we could be accused of stealling their souls!)

Heather said...

Nina, in addition to the up-side of hunting that you mention, another one to consider is that there are organizations set up in many states across the U.S. that encourage hunters to donate their kill to local food pantries or similar organizations in an effort to help fight hunger. It is also worth mentioning that division of wildlife offices, as well as national hunting organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation, encourage all hunters to be safe, responsible, and try to instill respect in hunters young and old for the land, and the creatures they have chosen for food.