Traveling Trails Less Traveled. By Buckshot Anderson
For December 7th, 2007 Edition.
For those of us who spend a great deal of time in the out-of-doors bonding with Ma Nature we will often receive a “bonus” that I like to refer to as a “chance encounter.” Whether you count yourself as a hiker, jogger, bird watcher, naturalist, environmentalist, hunter or whatever, it is often those chance encounters with creatures that inhabit our fields, forests and sky that produce exceptional memories.
This past deer season three of my hunting companions had chance encounters with critters other than deer. Steve was surprised one morning when I drove a coyote out of a swamp and the canine prowler nearly ran him over as he sat on a canvas chair on a hillside. Steve commented with a grin, “it was real up close and personal!”
Several days later Craig and Shelly had a close encounter with a magnificent red fox, which was also driven out of an area swamp. Craig summed up their memory by stating “ it’s amazing what you often see when you spend time in the woods.”
Just a year ago while I was sitting in a U. P. cedar swamp on opening day I was privileged to watch a very rare great gray owl attempt to nab a gray squirrel that was searching the forest floor for chow. The owl silently glided through the dense canopy of tree limbs and perched on a dead limb not 30 yards from where I sat. It eyeballed the squirrel for about 15 minutes then decided this was a no-win situation and silently flew away to look for easier pickings. Of course I did not have my camera with me!
Many years ago, probably in the early ‘70s I saw what has been my one and only peregrine falcon. I was easing through a mature stand of jack pine at the time and suddenly saw a very large hawk like bird zipping thought the forest chasing a grouse. The grouse made a defensive maneuver by quickly banking left into a small stand of balsam. The peregrine was taken by surprise and overshot its target, then landed on a dead limb to evaluate the situation. The grouse must have hunkered down in the balsam as after several minutes the falcon flew away, still hungry. I had to look at a picture of the bird in our bird book to make sure I saw what I saw!
One sunny afternoon a few years ago, as I sat contentedly under the spreading branches of a mature white spruce tree, a family of red squirrels appeared and began collecting cones for winter fodder. They entertained me for a good half-hour when suddenly the entire group rapidly climbed a tree and began to chatter. Off to my left I spied what had spooked the squirrels. A snow-white weasel (ermine) came bouncing through the swamp headed right at the tree where the squirrel family cowered.
Now the weasel is a notorious killer, feared by numerous animals and birds due to the weasel’s reputation as a vicious bloodthirsty predator, afraid of no other living thing! I had never seen a weasel climb a tree and was not sure if they could, but I suspected I was about to find out. However, a greater surprise was in store for me.
I’m not sure if it was pa or ma red squirrel that decided to go on the attack but one of the adult squirrels raced down the tree and rapidly approached the cunning weasel! At first I thought the squirrel was bonkers, or perhaps had decided to sacrifice itself for the safety of its family. I was wrong on both counts!
The weasel rose up on its hind legs as if to meet the charging squirrel head on, but then whirled around and tore off at mach one. The charging squirrel stopped and chattered at the departing weasel as if to say, “nay, nay, ya big sissy, take that!”
Speaking of weasels, this past October while hunting in North Dakota one of our group had an up close and personal experience with a weasel. Ed Petras was sitting in a clump of cattails when he noticed one of his ducks that was lying on the ground by his feet was slowly sliding into the vegetation. Then he saw what was making the duck move. A small brown weasel was attempting to grab a free lunch. Eddie yelled, but the weasel persisted. A short tug of war took place and Ed won.
Bob Riley, one of my long time pals had an experience back in 1970 that nearly required him to have to change his underwear! It was the second day of deer season and the north was being bombarded by a raging snowstorm. Three of us were hunting just west of highway C as guests of Dave Pucci, using some of his ground blinds along an oak covered ridge.
Bob, like all of us, was hunkered down in his stand with his back against a tree attempting to escape the wet pelting snow being hurled earthward by a shrieking northeast wind. Bob recalled the incident. “I was silently wondering why I was sitting outside getting soaked when suddenly I got a feeling that someone or something was watching me. You know the feeling. We’ve all had it a few times. Well, I turned my head to the right and but two feet away was the head of a big doe looking at me from behind the tree.”
You get the picture? Bob said he came up off his chair about three feet and the doe nearly turned herself inside out beating a hasty retreat. Bob has continued to wonder who was more frightened, he or the doe?
I guess my all-time most unexpected chance encounter took place in Florida back in the early 60s. Frank Jessup, a good old local boy, and I were hunting ducks in one of the many sloughs along the St. Johns River near Sanford, FL. We knocked down a drake pintail, which fell onto a grass-covered mud flat on the other side of a narrow channel of water. I was wearing waders and volunteered to play retriever.
I was about halfway across the knee-deep channel when what at first looked like a moss covered log slowly rose to the surface about three feet to my right. Frank sounded an alarm a second before he shot at the “log” with his shotgun. “Git out of there, it’s a big ole ‘gator!” As the fineshot covered the beast’s head, the water erupted in a mighty swirl and the monster vanished!
Now let me tell you, at times humans can walk on water! After my heartbeat returned to normal I retrieved the duck and asked Frank to fetch our canoe and tote me back to the safe side of the channel.
So, when you are out and about in Ma Nature’s house, be prepared at any moment for an unexpected chance encounter!
Mr. Leon "Buckshot" Anderson is one of the few old time hunting and fishing guides left in Northern Wisconsin. Buckshot is a personal friend of the family and has known and worked with my grandfather, Howard "Pop" Dean, both of whom are members of the fresh water fishing hall of fame, Legendary Guide. Buckshot has authored 7 books on the great outdoors. All of his books can be purchased directly from him, at a discount, by email: email@example.com or by mail to: 2220 Deadman's Gulch Road, St. Germain, WI 54558.
Books by Leon "Buckshot" Anderson Click Here
Yes; Deadman's Gulch is the correct name, I have been on that road many times. Sincerely David D. Cruger
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