Bits and Pieces
I thought I would share a few things I have observed in nature, just bits and pieces that are pretty much un-related, are in no particular order have no real story to tell and things I probably wouldn’t talk about usually, but I thought they might be interesting perhaps entertaining or even instructive in some way, and if I don’t write them down while they are on my mind, I’ll most likely never write them down and probably forget them over time, so….here goes, for whatever value they may have to the reader.
I watched a doe deer and her two fawns slide down a big steep snow bank, on their rear ends and land in a lake, then swim back to shore and run back up the hill on dry ground, then get out on the snow bank, sit down again and slide down again till they hit the lake and swim out again and repeat this game over and over again. They were having great fun! It was the same as if I was watching people. This happened up high in the rugged mountains of southern Idaho at a lake called Moose Lake in the Copper Basin Country. We were Boy Scouts, and had hiked about seven miles up to this lake. These deer would stand on the top of the snow bank where it started to get steeply inclined downhill, then they would let their hind legs collapse, toes pointed toward the front legs, and their rear ends would hit the snow, so they were in a sitting position with their front legs still standing. Then they would use their front legs to pull them forward, digging their pointed toes in the hard snow to get purchase until they got momentum going downhill, and they would slide in this position, butt in the snow, front legs used to keep them from tipping over sideways and whoosh- away they would go whizzing down the hill till they splashed into the lake, they were having a ball. It was summer time, but at that altitude, there were sizable snow banks, quite hard and compact along parts of the lake, which hadn’t melted yet, and these deer were thoroughly enjoying their slippery slides. I have never seen deer do that, except that one time.
At this same lake we could catch trout using only a gold bare hook just cast it out and reel it back. The shiny little gold object I guess looked good to eat and so they tried it. We found this out by accident.
Have you ever been chased by an angry bird that stands five feet high, with a wing span of five or six feet or more and big hard pointed bill like a sword? I accidentally walked into the nesting area of a mother Sandhill crane. I didn’t see her, it was in very tall grass. I got within about 10 feet of her when she exploded out of the grass, coming straight for me with her wings out spread, and making weird noises, her long legs were running hard toward me, and her sharp bill looked mighty dangerous, I ran for all I was worth and when she thought I was far enough away from her nest, she let me go. Was I scared? BIG TIME! I was fencing on the seven bar ranch in Island Park, and I never expected a surprise like that.
Have you ever eaten beaver? It’s really good, tastes like turkey, and beaver tail is very good too. I experienced this treat while trapping beaver with my friend Jeff Kennedy, down in Utah up Diamond Fork south of Spanish Fork. You bake the tail till it swells up like a balloon, then crack it open like an egg and scoop out the inside, it tasted like tapioca quite a bit and somewhat sweet. The old mountain men and trappers liked beaver and beaver tail, me too.
Have you ever had a wild baby bunny hop into your face? I was sleeping in the woods out behind our cabin in Island Park with my brothers. It was early in the morning, I was still sleeping, but I could hear a thumping noise coming toward me. It startled me and I raised my head up to see what it was. It was a baby snowshoe rabbit, hopping along, it probably thought I was a log and it tried to jump over me. It was then that I raised my head and so he hopped right into my face, the side of my face. He hit me in the cheek and bounced off it and tumbled to the ground. He quickly sat up looking at me, twitching his little nose, trying to smell me. His dark black little eyes looking at me so innocently yet inquisitively. “What or who are you,” he seemed to be asking. He was just a little gray ball of fur with the cutest little face and ears. A big grin came across my face and I talked to him for a few seconds. “Well good morning thumper, how are you?” He just stared at me and twitched his cute little nose and ears. “Where’s your mommy?” That got his attention, and with that he turned around and hopped off the way he came I watched his cute little bunny tail bobbing until he disappeared into the tall grass. Now that’s a great way to wake up in the morning. It made my day, but it probably didn’t make his. I could still feel the wet spot on my cheek where his nose hit.
During the winters the whitetail deer would come from the river bottoms up to our pasture, hope the fence and come over to our hay stack and eat hay alongside our horse, there were about 20 head of deer. The horse seemed to like the company and the deer seemed to like hanging out with Skinny. He was very old, the last of my herd, and it did my heart good that he had some friends that liked him. Some of the deer would lay down on the old hay that had got tromped on, and Skinny would lay down by them and they seemed contented. I miss seeing that, since Skinny died and we no longer have hay, the deer come into the Aullman’s hay across the fence to the south, I usually see a few in the evenings, but nothing like the big bunch at our place, ole Skinny was like the patriarch and the herd just felt at home with him. I didn’t mind what they ate because it was a happy time for Skinny each evening.
Our dog Buck was a golden lab, a beautiful dog we raised from a pup. When he was about half grown there were two or three foxes that came around our place, out in Don’s hay field, and Buck would go out there and bark at them, but eventually they became friends, and often in the evening they would show up and Buck would run out to greet them and they would go running around, sort of playing tag with each other. The foxes really liked Buck and he them, I worried that he might run off and live with them, but he loved us and this was his home- he just wanted friends to play with. He grew bigger and the foxes eventually disappeared, but it was fun while it lasted.
When I was elk hunting, I always enjoyed the bugling of the bulls- but it was also fun to listen to the cow elk talking back and forth with their calves. In the late evening especially at dusk- the cows and calves seemed very talkative and I just liked sitting still, hidden in the brush and listen to them talk. They sort of meow like cats, but it’s not the same sound, it’s more soft. They have a language and the tones change according to what they are saying- it’s an education to watch them and listen. The bulls are very aware of the cows and what they are saying, and the cows of course are very aware of the bulls, but I never noticed too much talk between the bulls and cows, the bulls talked to bulls with the grunts and shrill bugles and whistling, and it was all macho- who’s biggest and strongest and get out of my territory and leave my cows alone if you know what’s good for you, while the cows and calves were talking to each other about all the gossip going on amongst the harem- and always talking to their kids, and vice versa, and the kids loved to romp and play with each other. Kinda sounds familiar.
I’ve only been up close and personal a couple of times with fawns, baby deer. My friend Bob and I found a couple of spotted fawns laying in the grass when we were on a horse back trip up strawberry. We got right up close, we could have touched them. They lay perfectly still. It’s so amazing they are so beautiful and innocent.
One time, when I was herding cows in the summer, I came across a baby antelope. I was on my horse Hondo, when he jumped up out of the grass under a big sage brush, and ran off. It was so sad it made me cry, because his hind right leg was dangling it was broken, I didn’t know how it happened, but I suspect it was from falling into a badger hole while running. Anyway, the little guy was all alone, I couldn’t see his mother anywhere. You see some sad things. There’s no way of telling if it grew up and the broken part just withered and fell off, but most likely a coyote or cougar probably got him. I have seen three legged deer, the stump completely healed over and they can run almost as good on three legs as on four, amazing.
Otters are such amazing animals in the water they are so swift with those powerful tails and webbed feet- boy can they cover the ground, or water. They are comical, just fun to watch. They always seems to be with other otters, playing and cavorting, swimming, fishing, eating fish, they seem to enjoy life to the fullest- very energetic and graceful- I used to see otters a lot on the river here, but have not seen them in the past decade very much. I suspect too much trapping.
I watched an osprey eat a fish one time. Out in our backyard there’s a light pole and he landed on the top of the pole with a pretty good size fish. He started with the eyes and brain, the delicacy obviously. Then he stripped the meat off the sides. I can’t remember the insides, what he did. But it was sort of amazing because the Fijians eat fish the same way. First the eyes and the brain. If you’re the guest of honor, you get the head and its proper etiquette to eat the eyes first then the brain, then the rest of the head. I was the guest of honor more than once, but I really would have preferred the meat along the sides. Fijians and ospreys, quite the pair. They both love to fish, dive and enjoy the water and eat fish.
I love how muskox defend themselves and their young from the wolves. They stand in a tight circle, facing outward, the calves on the inside of the circle, wo betide the wolves or wolf who tries to get at the calves, those massive hooked horns will meet them at any point (pun) along the outside of the circle. The buffalo and elk haven’t figured how to do that- yet.
A horse bite is BAD. Do not get bitten by a horse. You will lose something. A barracuda bite is similar. An elder in our mission lost his pectoral muscle to a barracuda. A horse got a bite of my chest, boy did that hurt. I still had to ride him though.