Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Walking in the Woods

I think that it is good for me every now and then to just go for a walk in the woods without any specific purpose in mind other than just being there and observing nature. As a hunter, a lot of my time is spent in a tree stand or trying to find a place to set up to call a turkey. This often means entering the woods before daylight and leaving after dark. In between, there is a lot of sitting and waiting. During deer season I'm always conscious of limiting my travel between the stand and the truck so that I minimize the scent and disturbance factors. I tend to travel the same paths, mainly because I know them well enough to quietly move in and out of the woods. During turkey season, scent isn't an issue but movement definitely is.  Once again, I'm slipping in and out of the woods with as little travelling as possible so I hopefully don't spook any turkeys that may be in the area.
Turkey feather
In the summer months however, in that brief time between the end of turkey season and the beginning of archery deer season, I don't feel quite as worried about traveling through the woods. I still try to be aware of deer bedding areas and turkey roosting areas, because I don't want to feel like I have pushed any animals out of their regular haunts. It's during this time of year, usually in the middle of the day when animals are hopefully not as active, that I like to go for a walk and just take a look at the woods. It is always amazing what is there in plain sight, if only I will take the time to slow down and look. Over the years, I have found shed antlers and even whole skulls of bucks, box turtle shells, turkey feathers galore, other bones of various small animals, rubs and scrapes left by bucks I may never have seen, dusting areas used by turkeys, and tracks and other sign from all kinds of animals.
I also enjoy seeing wildlife that I might otherwise miss if I'm hunting. There are always birds of one species or another in the thickets and brush in the woods. I can identify a few species, but there are many more that I am still learning. Squirrels are almost always out and about, and occasionally I will see a chipmunk or two. If I hang around late in the evening at the family farm, there are a couple of owls that may make themselves known. I have seen both of them at one time or another, gliding on silent wings or perched in a tree. More often I know they are there by their calls right at dusk. There are bullfrogs around the pond, again usually identified by their calls, but sometimes one will jump off the bank into the water if I walk too close. If I'm really lucky, I might see a lizard doing his best tree bark impression.
There is a lizard here somewhere......
I don't necessarily take these walks to scout for deer or turkeys, but it seems like every time I'm in the woods I learn something new. I have found some of my best spots to hunt by not specifically looking for them. Going for a walk after deer season, I tend to find new areas that have rub lines or scrapes where a buck has marked his territory. It is also a good chance to see if areas that were used in previous years are still seeing deer activity. Sometimes I wind up kicking myself for not scouting better before the season when I find a particularly good area or set of rubs, but I file this knowledge away for next season. It's a thrill to find these signposts left behind by the bucks, or to find a tree with feathers and droppings around it that indicates a turkey roost. I'm far from being a great woodsman who can read and interpret every sign, but I do feel like every walk in the woods teaches me a little more about the world around me.

Fresh rub on a pine at the end of last deer season
 On these walks I get that same sense of wonder and discovery that I've always had since I was a child. As a hunter I would love to harvest a Boone & Crockett buck, or take a long spurred tom, but these walks help remind me that this is not the ultimate reason why I hunt. I think it all comes back to the fact that I've never lost the curiosity I had growing up. It's the same reason I turned over rocks in the creek when I was young, or spent time collecting the nymph shucks of cicadas. The natural world has always held a fascination for me, and I hope that it always will.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph


  1. Enjoyed this a lot Joseph. I too used to be a curious child and loved to turn rocks over, catch tadpoles and was fascinated by ant hills and watching the industrious business of the ants. Also I enjoyed catching bees and putting them in a canning jar ith a few flowers and waiting for them to make honey. Catching fireflies or as we called them, lightening bugs, was another fun thing.Guess I was a real tomboy. Love to read your blog about "outdoor things". Your grandma Lib would have been so proud of your blog! Keep the stories coming !

  2. Thanks Tish! I used to love catching lightning bugs too growing up, and our yard was one of the best places (and still is!) to find a bunch of them in the summer time. I can remember catching June bugs during the day and lightning bugs at night just about all summer long here in our yard.

  3. Joseph, we also love just walking throught the woods, Guy is much of a hunter himself, me I just walk and shoot with a camera. I have stacks of pictures from walks in the woods in Florida, before we moved up here. We instilled a love of the outdoors in our children and now the same with our grandchildren, only now we don't have to do all the treking, their daddy does a lot of it. Will enjoy reading more of you stories. Keep up the entertaining good work.

    1. Thanks Sandy! Writing this blog has helped me to remember to take a camera with me more often, instead of getting home and wishing I had taken pictures of the neat things I saw.


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