Winter is back here in the Connecticut Valley... -4 degrees this morning with twenty mile per hour winds, it was cold! Three inches of rain over the weekend left us with a foot loss of snow, and in the yard, we have next to nothing left. But today it actually went up to 8 degrees so I decided to take a hike in the heat of the day, up though a typical deer yard...I thought there was no snow, so I hiked without snowshows to my later regret. Below you see the Southern side of the Far Ridge...little snow. Lots of blowdown from last nights fierce winds..
Then you see the far Ridge Food Plot, on the North side of the ridge, with a good 14 inches of snow still there..not bad traveling because there was a crust that held me up pretty well.
Below is the tunnel we cut through our Christmas tree plantation last week. The deer love going through here, and we snowmobile though it. It reminds us of a tunnel cut through a huge Cedar swamp grove in Maine that we went through on a snowmobile trip some years ago. It was just like this but a mile long, and called the Love Tunnel...
While these pictures for some reason are not in order, at the end of my hike the sun had gone down, and a beautiful moon was rising. I've heard that it is being chased by Mars this month, and when it gets high above I'll step outside to try to see the red planet.
Next you see me entering the deer yard area, which is typically dark even on a bright day. The rifle you see is my Browning T-Bolt .22, which comes with me on many a hike. It is deadly on squirrels, headshots to 50-70 yards. None chattered today, but I also had my eye out for rabbits, mostly snowshoe hare, for the pot. They are white this time of year, and very difficult to spot without dogs to jog them.
Here is a rabbit trail, and if I had Beagles, this is where I would turn them loose...thousands of tracks this year, whereas last year there were hardly any. Go figure...
Of course, anywhere you find rabbit tracks in this part of the country you are going to see some Fisher tracks too...these were four plus inches, a very good sized animal.
Now, in the deer yard we can see some deer scat, and trails. Today, there was nothing really fresh to see. I have entered this yard in the past and observed many deer. When the snow is very deep they do not run at first, rather they check you out and decide if it is worth the risk to tramp through the deep snow...Today I saw none...indicative of the low snow level.
Apparently the deer had decided at one point to yard up, and had started to strip the hemlock trees of their bark. There isn't much nutrition in this, but it fills their bellies and quells the hunger pains as they burn off natural fat to stay alive. The tree below is so stripped it probably will not make it another year, though they ARE tough!
On the North side of the ridge I began to regret my not bringing snowshoes. There was easily 18 inches of snow, and while that is very little for this time of year, I had thought we lost a lot more. Fortunately the crust was decent in a lot of places and held me up quite well.
Once I got to the trail system, and stopped bushwacking I found places on the trail that the rain had washed nearly to ground level. Then at temperatures way below zero, the ground froze and produced these heaving crystals over 18 inches high. In some places when you hit bare ground you will fall in over a foot, as the earth has heaved and frozen so hard that you are stepping on nothing but a world of crystal, and plunge through!
Below, as I approach the farm through the woods, I take a look at the mess ahead of me, all ice and snowstorm blowdown, and a huge clean-up project that surely won't start before spring. But all in all, a nice two hour hike, it was 8 degrees when I started and four when I finished. Didn't see a single creature, but know that they saw me! Another wonderful afternoon at deer camp!