Sunday, January 11, 2009

Come to the woods with me!

Today wasn't quite as nice as yesterday, but it was still pretty decent compared to what's predicted, so after we got out chores done at home this morning, Mr. Johnson wanted to head out to the woods and get some of our deer stands taken down. We left around noon and only got a couple miles down the road when we saw this -- holy moley, look at all those turkeys! This was worth stopping the car for. I didn't use the wide angle shot, but there were even more turkeys to the right of this shot! We guessed probably close to 75 total and a bunch of them were big ol' longbeards. Now that deer hunting is over, Mr. Johnson is really looking forward to turkey season again this year. Poor guy, he'll have to wait at least 3 more months :-(

When we got to the deer hunting woods, we split up. My job was to take down the little seats from our permanent stands and loosen up the bindings holding the ladder stand to the tree (to avoid damaging the tree when it grows more in the spring). I wanted to be home by 3 PM, but of course, I'm always the one who gets sidetracked and today was no exception. I headed towards the first stand through deer's known bedding area. I saw lots of tracks and finally spotted this area on a south-facing slope under a big cedar tree where some deer had laid down.

I crawled under the tree for a closer look and found this huge, fresh pawprint. Another "holy moley moment!" Since I didn't have a tape measure in my pocket, my glove has to do as an indicator of the size of this print. I measured the glove when I got home and it's about 5 inches across at the widest point. Naturally my first thought was this was too huge to be a dog print, but there aren't any wolves in Southeastern Minnesota, are there??

OK, well, I'd better get going on what I'm supposed to be doing. Looking down the hill towards my stand, I was amazed at all the tracks in the woods.

I was so absorbed in looking at tracks that I almost walked past the deer stand and had to backtrack a little bit to find it. There it is! (good thing that pink arrow was there!) I was happy to see that the deer trails still go up and down the hill right next to this tree. Next year, I will definitely get a deer from this stand!

I got the little seat down and started hiking up the hill to the cornfield. Easier said than done for this out-of-shape, middle-aged biker woman! The snow was sofa king deep! How do the deer walk in this stuff and where are my feet?

I finally made it to the corn field where the snow was not quite so deep and found more tracks! If you read my post from yesterday, who do you think made these tracks? If you said "fox" that's exactly what I thought. I know there are foxes in these woods because Mr. Johnson and I both saw them while we were deer hunting here last fall.

Here are some more fun tracks--a mouse! And see its little hole next to the corn stalk? How do they dig through all this snow? It's probably at least 8 inches deep here.

I saw some 'almost fresh' turkey tracks in these woods too. Mr. Johnson was happy to see these and plans to place a blind in this vicinity for our turkey season in the spring.

Here's another big pawprint again--on another game trail in this woods. Same animal? I never did see find any hair, poop, or other clues, so I'll probably never know who made these tracks.

Who says squirrels don't remember where they bury their nuts? Looks like he found one here or was at least attempting to.

Oh gosh, I'd better get going, I still have to climb another tree and pull the seat down.

Thanks for coming along with me to the woods. Wasn't that fun? And you didn't even have to put on your coat or boots!

Have a great week everyone and stay warm!


KGMom said...

Such fun--following you through the woods.
Do tell--what made the big track? Any guesses? Wolves, even though there aren't any?
I love the mouse tracks--as for the hole, I bet they burrow and stay warm. Snow is a good insulator.

Mama Pea said...

Enjoyed this hike with you again tonight! Good thing it was on your blog as I don't know if I could have made it in reality after the outing we had today. I'm pooped! Blogging about it later tonight. The only sign of wildlife we saw were deer tracks and what we're pretty sure was a pile of wolf scat.

Thanks again for a great nature hike.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

This was a blast Ruthie. Thanks for taking us along. I wouldn't get anything accomplished out there with all those tracks to follow and cipher over. Good thing you have those pink arrows on those stands. ;) I about fell out of my chair laughing at that.

Red said...

I've heard wolves are making a comeback... maybe there are some out your way! It's either that, or a good sized dog.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking us along to the woods, what a nice hike in the fresh snow [we had 1/2 in last nite]. The pics are so cute especially the mouse one and the little hole. I laughed out loud at the commentaries, Dad wondered what I was laughting at, he'll find out soon enuf when he reads this blog. Thanks for taking us along on this trip. We spent the afternoon waiting for the battery charger to charge the car battery, it never did so it looks like we will be buying a new battery, oh well. Dad took down the Christmas tree while he was waiting, good job.


Mel said...

Hi Ruthie!
It was fun to join you on your 'removing seats mision'... I also wonder what are those prints...

Susan Gets Native said...

My feet are cold just reading that.

Richard said...

Ruthie...You forgot that Minn. is the home of the "Timberwolves"..:-)

Jayne said...

So you got one down to Mr. Johnson's ten? LOLOLOL! I'd be the same way Ruthie! Love all the mystery tracks!

Ruth said...

What an interesting hike. That deep snow would be challenging to walk in for sure. I have seen a lot of turkeys about this winter and think of you when I spot them. They are hanging around corn fields as they look for food.

Dana and Daisy said...

I once saw a very large dog-looking print when I was backpacking and I later asked a ranger if there could be wolves in the area and he said no. But it wasn't a coyote and it'd have to be a very large dog to make that mark, and in an area without trails and no other prints around? hmm?

Also the area where our cabin is supposedly no longer has mountain lions, and any "official" person will tell you they are not there. But I have a friend who has seen one and another friend who found a deer carcass on her property that looked like it had been eaten by one. We all think the word is mum by the officials.

Marsha said...

I too enjoyed this walk with you through the woods...great post!

Richard said...

Was reading up on wolves in MN. and it is quite possible those tracks do belong to a wolf. While they tend to be in the northern part of the state, they do cover a large area in their wanderings. You should contact DNR with a wolf sign sighting.

Leedra said...

Should leave one up and use as a photographer's blind. You can hide to make photos of the animals.

Leedra’s Photos For Fun
Photography By Leedra

RuthieJ said...

Hi Donna,
Thanks for coming along--glad you enjoyed the trip!

Hi MamaPea,
It was a fun afternoon, but my knees aren't too happy about it today!
You've seen wolf tracks up there--any thoughts on that huge pawprint I found? Do they ever leave individual prints like that?

Hi Lisa,
That treestand looks so much different covered with snow than it did last summer and fall! Glad you enjoyed it.

Hi Red,
We always hear rumors and then finding a pawprint like this really makes me wonder!

Thanks for coming along Mom. What do you think about that pawprint? Have you heard any "wolf rumors" lately?
Sorry to hear about your car battery--you definitely will need a good one with our cold forecast ahead.

Glad you could come along Mel. I think Mr. Johnson gave me the easy assignments because he knows how easily I get distracted once I'm in the woods!

Hi Susan,
My cheeks were the only thing that got cold--it was a little windy but I'm glad I've got plenty of warm clothes.

You're right Richard, I did think about that.....

Oh Jayne, in the time it took me to accomplish me 3 tasks, Mr. Johnson took down 5 stands and made another trip back to the car. He's a machine and I'm such a diddler!

Hi Ruth,
I was wishing I had brought my snow shoes or at least a walking stick. They've gotten a few more significant snowfalls than we had in Rochester. I don't know how the turkeys and other wildlife find enough to eat to survive a Minnesota winter.

Hi Dana,
I agree with you....I'm sure that's information the authorities don't want people to know about--especially based upon the fear it might cause. We had our trail cameras in this area last fall too and I was hoping something might show up on the camera, but no sightings there either.

Thanks Marsha!

Thanks for doing the homework for me Richard. I was hoping Troutbirder might have some information to share too--this is closer to his neck of the woods.

Hi Leedra,
I did get quite a few good photos of birds and deer from these deer stands last fall. It's a good wildlife area.

Shellmo said...

Such a beautiful walk and love seeing all the "evidence" that the animal friends have left in the snow!

Mama Pea said...

Ruthie - I just asked my husband if he thought there could be timber wolves in southern MN and he said coyotes, but no wolves. Then I showed him your post and told him how big the prints were that you saw and he said, "Oh! That looks like a wolf to me!" So . . . ???

Mary C said...

Great post, Ruthie. And I didn't feel cold at all! ;o) Are these woods private property? If so, are there any homes around? And if so, would the residents possibly know if they've seen any wolves around? Just curious.

Anonymous said...

Every now and then I'll talk to someone who swears they've seen a wolf...nothing that can be confirmed, however. There's no reason why they couldn't be in the woods. There are wolves over in WI and I don't see any reason why they wouldn't cross the river and get established in the woods over here. There's certainly plenty of deer for them to chase!! If it wasn't a wolf, it would have to be a REALLY big dog!
Your sissy.

Lynne said...

I had to come back to see if you id'd that huge track. You should ask Julie Z. She knows tracks really well. Maybe she'd id it. I think the MN DNR range maps show a pretty big migratory range.

Heather said...

Thanks for taking us along on your walk Ruthie. I'll be sharing a walk of my own sometime in the next couple of days (maybe even tonight, if I can figure out which pictures I want to post). Just how many tree stands do you guys have up? As far as being a dawdler, you sound like me. Very rarely can I go on a walk without stopping to look at or listen to something. It must drive my husband crazy, but he's super patient and never says a peep about all my stopping.

Robin Wedewer said...

What a great walk in the woods with you, Ruthie. I have missed you.

I wish that the hunters who--illegally--erect the deer stands on our property would remove them as conscientiously as you do where you hunt. It's so frustrating to go into the woods and have to tear them down, without even knowing who was there. (Hello! Knock on my door!)

Are the coyotes encroaching up there yet? Probably not. But there have been sightings here in Maryland. They're headed your way!

Robin Wedewer
National Gardening Examiner

Meggie said...

Thanks for the walk in the woods, Ruthie! I didn't even have to put on my boots. Those tracks are most interesting.

troutbirder said...

I got 3 emails last week with a picture of a bowhunter with a 200+ lb. "cougar" shot near Caledonia.... and earlier in Wisc., Iowa, North Dakota, Kansas, Montana and Alabama. Maybe he moved on to Roch!

Mary said...

I had a blast! Thank you, Ruthie! Oh, if I had snow... I was track watcher all my life and loved it. I was never sure who the tracks belonged to, but I had fun.

Stay warm! Is this perhaps the coldest weekend of the winter thus far? We expect 4 above tomorrow :o)


mon@rch said...

Love these guys! :)

RuthieJ said...

Hi Shelley,
Thanks for coming along....glad you enjoyed the walk!

Thanks MamaPea, I did send this photo to the MN DNR also and received the ambiguous reply of "maybe so, maybe no." The Rochester DNR guy did admit that wolves have been spotted in SE MN, but usually north and east of Rochester. I guess I'll just have to continue investigating and try to spend more time in this area in 2009 to see if I can find out who left these pawprints.

Hi Lynne,
I guess with the DNR's non-committal response, it's up to me to try and find out if these are really wolf prints after all.

Hi Heather,
I'm really behind on my blogging and will try to catch up this weekend. I think we have 2 portable stands to remove yet, so a total of probably 8 or 9 stands (2 permanent, 1 ladder that we leave out year-round and 5 or 6 portable that we can move as the deer change their seasonal habits). My husband is like yours, he puts up with my dawdling because he knows it makes me happy to be out in the woods: "Happy Wife, Happy Life!"

Hi Robin,
Thanks for stopping by, it was really nice to hear from you. I don't know about your area, but in MN, it's illegal to hunt private property without permission--whether you've posted No Trespassing signs or not. It's the hunter's responsibility to find out who the landowner is and ask for permission to hunt there. As a landowner, I believe you have the right to remove any stands you find on your property. Take them down and sell them on eBay--if they're on your property, they're yours!

I only heard coyotes once last fall. There used to be more here, but maybe the "wolf" got them! ;-)

Thanks Meggie, I'm glad you could come along!

Hi Troutbirder,
Someone at work sent me those cougar photos also (shot near Caledonia). I checked the Google map and could find no such road names near Caledonia! I believe the guy in the photo probably shot that cougar, but the Caledonia location is totally bogus!!

Aw Mare, 4 degrees -- that's awful! Do you have a heater in your pond? I would worry about what that's going to do to all your plantings that can't survive those cold temps.

Thanks for stopping by Mon@rch, glad you could come along on my hike to the woods.