By Jack McShane

At the end of October there was an overhead and also overheard conversation that went, I think, something like this: Leader: “Hey that tall cherry tree in McShane’s front yard looks just right, what do you think?” Two out of the seven conversationalists chimed up with opposing thoughts on the issue while the remaining five, although not too sure and hesitating, seemed to decide the leader was right: It was the tall cherry tree for a landing and short respite from the long journey south. The two dissenters passed by the tree, but eventually and rather sheepishly made U-turns and joined back up with the main group, now perched peacefully, and joined in their chirpy chatter. After a short period of time this small flock of birds simultaneously and in seeming verbal agreement flew off continuing their sojourn to some southern destination. All this is just my own interpretation of some red-breasted robin speak.

A very chaotic scene on Route 30 that might have become deadly occurred on one of my afternoon trips into Margaretville. Eight deer, led by a large matriarchal doe on the reservoir side of the road, decided to jump the guard rail and cross the road. They were deterred from going any further as there was a sheer cliff on the other side which the top mom rightfully decided was impossible to scale. As the five that had crossed turned back they were greeted by the last three that had now also leaped over the guard rail causing what could only be considered deer pandemonium mid-road. Only a few yards away I had stopped and now, with blinkers on, was waving down a very large oncoming truck with two cars close behind. The driver caught sight of me in time and braked down hard, causing a near rear-ending. All ended well as the confused and chaotic herd leaped back over the rail and headed down toward the reservoir. Did they swim across? I don’t know, but what I do know is that all of us drivers high fived each other, a potentially deadly interaction avoided.

High in the sky a skein of Canada geese, lined up in V formation for their annual migration south, was obviously in great confusion as the leader was leading them in the wrong direction—northwest. The group was very unhappy as witnessed by their erratic honking that sounded like multiple pleadings to the leader to reverse course. This honking of the flock along with their irregular flight behavior, forced the leader to give up reign to another who righted the flight direction to the southwest and now, comfortable with new and sane leadership, it was a happy group going in the right direction. Sane leadership is not only a prerequisite in the human world, but in the natural world as well.

One sunny afternoon as I approached a major trail intersection high on our hill I saw what I initially thought to be a small black dog making haste about fifty yards below me. Suddenly there were three and it was then that I realized not three little black dogs, but three little black bear cubs. Where the heck was mom? In scanning the not too dense forest below, I saw that she was rumbling along in parallel with them, but not in the lead as I would have expected. I suspect something spooked them into this uncoordinated race through the woods, which I believe would eventually end in a family reunion. Interestingly, the whole family was recorded on one of my trail cams moments before indulging on some venison scraps left just to get their attention. What spooked them into hasty and apparent chaotic retreat is unknown, and there was nothing on the cam pictures that might give me a clue. They probably wound up the run in some leafy redoubt, but not the one for permanent winter hibernation as there was still plenty of natural food in the forest, wild apples and acorns. Cubs usually stay with mom over their second winter, dispersing the following spring so as not to interfere with mom looking to hook up with a local and suitable boar.

About bears: The DEC on November 8th sent a note stating that the reported bear take, which includes the special early season in September and the continuing bow season, is down about 20% from last year. This is likely due to warm weather and the abundance of wild foods. Macwa thrives! Also, on this date on my return trip from Margaretville I came close to hitting a deer, so close that upon arriving home I checked the front end of my car for tail hair. None. Lucky day!

The rut is now in full swing. You will be reading this around December 1st and probably fully aware by the resounding booms that gun season opened on November 18th  and will continue until December 10th . Be sure to wear bright clothing when strolling about in our forests during this time.

“To appoint oneself, in a way, an inspector of the forest for many years in succession, and for long seasons, means joining a not overcrowded profession. No matter; the meditative mind returns from that school fully satisfied.” Author unknown and right on; sure wish I could write like that.~