Noisy Animals

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Joined: 06/03/2010

Noisy Animals
        I have had many visitors while I sat waiting patiently on a deer stand. Deer being by nature very curious, especially in the early fall before the rut. Does, who are the watchdogs of the family, no matter the family size, often investigate when something in their area seems out of place, even a quiet hunter sitting under a tree. I have had does walk up to me and peer intently into my face waiting for some sign I am a danger to them while flipping their tails nervously until the tail shoots straight up in the typical whitetail “flag” of warning. The young deer are the most inquisitive of all and one fall several spring fawns were so intrigued by me and my gun barrel they actually stepped up to smell it. Obviously they hadn’t learned much fear in the five months or so they had lived.               
         Coyotes are usually nocturnal around the north woods but they move in the daytime when conditions are right, like a nice rainy day when the woods are gloomy and silent. One time a lone coyote trotted right past me without even a glance as I paused to choose which path to take and he would have been an easy shot but I didn’t want to scare any deer in the area. Another time several coyotes chased a doe almost into my lap as I sat quietly listening for deer. The doe was exhausted, probably just about to become feed for a coyotes belly and stopped short of me just barely as the coyotes, being more alert, quickly disappeared into the woods. The deer seemed to be content to stay near me as it caught its breath until it finally trotted off in a direction opposite of the coyotes.                         
        Skunks are very nosy and they have little fear of anything including a silent hunter sitting under a tree. I have had a skunk walk right over my foot as it nosed for something in the grass beneath where I sat and it paid no attention to me at all. I have also had a skunk charge me when it had its young ones so I generally tend to avoid skunk family troops when possible; the fact that they may be rabid is also a good reason to avoid skunks if possible. I once had a Springer Spaniel that loved to chase skunks and it was always a battle to keep her odor free during partridge season! The worst time for skunks is in late summer when they dig up yards for grubs, a favorite skunk food.
        Porcupines are slow and unconcerned about almost anything, often displaying no visible awareness of their surroundings and perhaps that may indicate the size of their mental capacity.  I have had “porkies” walk right up to me with little notice that I was there. I once sat under a big pine tree along a deer path before first light and had a porcupine climb down right over my head as day dawned  and it very likely would have continued right onto my head had I not gotten up to confront it. The poor thing was so startled it had no idea what to do and finally let out a little groan like squawk. They seem to love pines and you can usually tell when one is up there by the pile of droppings under the tree. One porcupine can really damage or even kill a large tree with its voracious appetite.
        Partridge are sometimes like a chicken as they stalk the forest floor, peeping and walking stealthily, pecking for food as they go until the least little noise alerts them and they sneak away without you even seeing how they do it or they bursting into the air with thundering wings scaring everything around. In the spring the male grouse will “drum” to attract a mate and that sound is like a loud boom, boom, boom that starts slow but increases rapidly for a minute or so until it stops. I have seen prairie chickens drumming in New Mexico but I have never been able to see a ruffed grouse actually drumming even though I have tried many times to locate the drumming sound. These grouse are so unpredictable that a hunter never knows if the bird will flush and fly away or simply flutter up into a tree to sit watching the hunter as if daring him to shoot.
        Squirrels are some of the very noisiest critters for such little animals as they scurry back and forth on dry leaves making a heck of a racket or when they stop to chatter like crazy. The red pine squirrels are the nosiest and the noisiest and the messiest. They will sit on a branch eating a pine cone and chattering in between bites. The grays are quieter as they hop along to and from their food stashes. Sometimes the reds and grays clash and the red ones seem more aggressive. I don’t know how true it is but I have been told by some of the old timers that the red squirrel will try to castrate the male gray if it invades the reds territory but no matter what the red will be chattering. Whatever the truth squirrels are very noisy!
        Blue jays are some of the noisiest birds in the woods jeering at anything that moves. The jays act like a kind of sentry and signal any intruder’s position by flying over and screaming loudly. They can be quite annoying to a hunter trying to stalk quietly through the woods. Stalking deer in a cold, noisy November woods is hard enough without a silly jay overhead tracking your every step.  Another noisy bird, the Pileated Woodpecker, sounds off by pounding on a dead tree and the knocking carries quite far in the woods. They also squeal or squawk loudly as they fly in their zigzag flight from tree to tree, which makes them quite comical but very noisy. They are truly beautiful though and a pleasure to see as they are the largest woodpecker in the north woods even if they do act a little zany.
        Finally, man is one of the noisiest creatures in the woods. No matter how hard we try it is almost impossible to be as quiet as we would like to be in the woods. The “old-timers” wore wool to quiet their presence and smart hunters get out when it’s raining to take advantage of the quiet woods. Noise can be a hunter’s worst enemy or best friend depending on who is making the noise. A wise hunter learns which noise is ok and which isn’t.