Beaver Ponds

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Joined: 06/03/2010

Beaver Ponds
           The beaver is sometimes referred to as the architect or builder of the animal world and I agree conditionally because there are some other great builders in the animal world but the beaver is quite a front runner when you look at the dams and lodges he can build. A beaver pond is the result of the beaver gnawing down aspen trees at a steady pace and using these for food and damming a stream to create a place for the beaver lodge from which the beaver family can live and raise young. The pond is a boon to the surrounding area creating a favorable environment for birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and any number of animals.
           My association with beaver ponds began when I was a kid tramping around the Upper Michigan woods with my BB gun. The swamp past the edge of the city limits where I lived as a kid was a vast complex of low land, puddles and creeks (some of which flowed year round) and I found an old beaver dam and a pond secluded in one section. The beavers had left long before but the dam and the old lodge were both still partially there and were a source of much fascination to me.
When I started using guns bigger than the B-B gun I tried my hand at waterfowl hunting. In October the duck and goose season opened and there were only had a few options to hunt these tasty flyers. One way was to walk the wet lands around the outskirts of town and hope to jump a puddle duck like a fat mallard. Another choice was to hunt from a blind along the Bay of Green Bay but this was a difficult thing for kids to do since we didn’t know too many duck blind owners who would let anyone else hunt there let alone loan us decoys. The other chance to bag a fat duck or goose was to tramp the woods and swamps to find a beaver pond, which I loved to do.
            The beaver pond was perfect for a flock of ducks or geese to overnight on because it provided seclusion and protection from predators. With a little luck a quiet hunter could sometimes sneak close enough to get a decent shot at a bird and maybe bag one. Living on a meager income in those days my family loved any wild game I could harvest and a fat Canada or a few plump ducks was a welcome Thanksgiving treat. The accompanying benefit was a possible place to trap a beaver and get a good price for a prime hide during the trapping season.
            As a kid I was able to fund my hunting license fees and shells for my shotgun by doing odd jobs whenever I could and that allowed me to hunt and fish most of the seasons. During trapping season I sometimes tagged along with an old time trapper who was willing to take the time to teach a “youngun” some of his tricks. Mink and muskrats were always on his ticket and when I found an active beaver pond he was very grateful and showed me the ropes on trapping the luxuriously furred builders. He told me beaver tail was once a delicacy the old mountain men enjoyed and although we did try it once (every kid has a little mountain man in him when he is out exploring in the wild) I was more impressed with the money the pelts brought in. For my help he would share some of the pelt money so I could continue to buy shells and licenses.
            I would do most of my scouting in the woods during the trout season, tramping up and down the streams keeping an eye out for ponds as I fished because they were not only good for fishing but they also were a great attraction for deer and other game that needed water. When the season opened I sometimes bagged a partridge or two when hunting around some of the ponds when ducks weren’t around. Before deer season opened I would check around the ponds for fresh deer tracks in order to find a possible posting spot. The pond was a great source of information about what animals were in the area.
            The last time I was scouting a beaver pond was in the mountains of New Mexico elk hunting. True to my previous experiences the tracks around the pond revealed elk in the area as well as some interesting cougar and coyote tracks. I couldn’t resist lining in a few trout for supper and highly recommend scouting any pond in a hunting area and especially a good beaver pond whether for hunting or fishing.