By Jack McShane

Opening day of gun season was back on November 18th and was relatively quiet here in Bussey Hollow as compared to earlier years. Hunters had to endure a cold, rainy and blustery day, one that could not be considered a great day to be out in the woods. One young and very intrepid hunter did and covered many miles of ground without seeing a deer. It was about 11 that morning when our bell sounded. When I opened the back door, there was the young hunter looking weary, visibly unhappy, and a bit nervous. My first thought was that he had hit a deer that wound up on our property and was there to ask permission to go up on the hill to track it. Nope, he had embarked on his hunt from his dad’s cabin located way up on Wolf Hollow, the next Hollow over, and got disoriented and wound up on Bussey. Thinking he was on Wolf Hollow, he started down what he thought to be the right direction, and only when he saw a couple of houses that he knew were not on Wolf Hollow did he decide to come up and ring our bell and request help. I told him to make sure his gun was unloaded and put it in the trunk of my car. I then drove him back to his dad’s cabin and along the way I told him not to feel bad about getting lost as anyone who spends a lot of time in the forest has on occasion gotten disoriented—including myself. Safely back at his cabin, he thanked me profusely. I felt good too.

Toxic squirrels? Could it be that our red squirrels are so toxic that their predators won’t eat them? Well it appeared this way as I left two fresh killed up where I set my trail cam, which is usually baited with meat table scraps, and, as always scavenged by coyotes, bears or raccoons the first night. The squirrels were left untouched for a week, then disappeared; the scavenger somehow not recorded on the cam. Why did I possess two dead red squirrels? Well, they were raiding our barbecue and had actually chewed through the gas tube, unloading a nearly full propane tank. That was the final straw or actually their final chew.

It was back on November 21st when my emotionally disturbed grouse (or EDG as he is known) finally responded to my whistles. He had not responded the last few days and I was concerned that he had been taken out by some unknown predator. Well, finally, there he was, and although somewhat standoffish, he did jump up on my knee for his usual handful of mixed birdseed. When I got up I was surprised to see another male within ten yards marching around in full strut. Then another two, sex unknown, flew in and hung around for a minute. Then all three were off in a flash. EDG hung around looking a little dumbfounded as to why all his friends took off in such a rush. Little does he know that that is what he is supposed to do when a human is present, as a handful of birdseed is not worth the chance of a blast of buckshot.

Now that the leaves are off the trees and one can see long distances and vast wooded landscapes, I was able to locate the jobsite of the elusive hammerer that my wife thought was a person. I was able to confirm that it was not some hunter nailing up a tree stand, but one of our awesome pileated woodpeckers doing what they do best: hammering out deep excavations in dead trees in search of the bugs that might be therein. When looking at the size of his excavation, I wondered if he had a permit from our local building inspector.

Two months ago I proffered a number of trail-cam shots of bears and their cubs nosing around one of my deer-bone baited sites. There were at the time two sows, one with two cubs, the other with three. The two families never visited together. Since November 21st there has not been a sign of them as apparently all of them are somewhere safely ensconced in their family winter denning sites. In the Spring, if all have survived, they will go their seven separate ways. That cam site is now visited by what appears to be a large and robust looking coyote, probably a male, the perfect image of a coywolf, our local example of evolution.

Now out of the field and into town. As many have noticed in the last few years, we have had an influx of visitors out and about our village environs, especially on weekends, and they have been welcomed by most, as they bring life and variety to our sidewalks, trails and park, and business to our hotel and shops. Being easily recognizable, mostly by their garb and youth, they have been tagged by some of us as Brooklyn hipsters or Brooklyn hicksters. Having been born, but not raised, in Brooklyn myself, I am comfortable having them about. Some may like it here, stay and buy a place.

We need these “Millennials.” I met one standing alone on Woody’s porch at about 9:30 one evening after I was let off by a friend to get in my car parked there in front. (We had been out to dinner at the college in Delhi.) He looked a little bewildered and told me he was having a problem reaching an Uber driver on his cell phone. I explained that we have neither cell nor Uber service here in Andes. I asked where he was headed, hoping to give him a lift to a local place here in Andes. He answered East Meredith. Having had a couple of glasses of wine with dinner I was in no shape to drive all the way to East Meredith. He even offered to give me $40 for the gas. I declined and must say I felt really badly. If one morning you spotted a hipster sacked out on Woody’s porch, well, now you know the story.

To all my critter friends now hibernating I extend a Happy and Safe Spring and human friends, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy New Year!~