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On The Trail: White tale


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Old buddy Tom White — known to many as an affable Northfield potter, avid hunter/naturalist and plain old nice guy — phoned Monday morning. Though I missed his call, he left a message and we hooked up later that afternoon.

Always monitoring wildlife around his rustic home and studio, where his domestic turkeys have been known to attract wild cousins for him to assess each spring. White had an interesting observation to share. It seems that inspection of his weekend trail camera had revealed three antlered whitetail bucks. Imagine that! There it was, pushing toward March, long after most deer have shed their antlers, and all three were still sporting headgear — two pronghorns, one with brow tines making it a 6-pointer, and a big, handsome, trophy 8-pointer he recognized.

“I’ve seen the big one before but never when hunting,” he said, which would not be surprising to anyone familiar with elusive big bucks. Think about it: buck grow large due to wisdom. Yeah, yeah, I know some may be lucky. But wisdom trumps dumb luck any day of the week, and tends to be longer lasting.

So there you have it. Three more Franklin County bucks still wearing their antlers this late in the game. Interesting indeed. Then again, word from Leverett during blackpowder season had it that some of the bucks being killed were losing their antlers on the drag from the woods. Different strokes for different folks in nature’s games.

Meanwhile, on the home front Monday morning, day after the snowstorm, I cut several tracks of the same solitary deer frolicking through the Christmas trees populating Sunken Meadow along the Green River. Given the erratic behavior displayed by the foot-free tracks, that deer appeared to have enjoyed its post-storm romp through the bottomland, bounding here and there, walking elsewhere. The tracks meandered here and there around and through the meadow, where I kept bumping into them walking the perimeter.

In one spot, approaching a large riverside apple tree that always drops early apples in the summer, I noticed straight-line tracks ahead. When I reached them, I discovered they were about five feet apart in a straight line, which seemed odd to me. I examined them carefully to confirm they were made by a deer, then backtracked maybe 12 steps to inspect the stride, which remained consistent and seemed long to me.

“Gee,” I thought. “I wonder if that deer is walking on three legs, thus a long stride caused by a hop?” But, no, that was definitely not the case. This deer just had a long stride; or at least it looked longer than normal to me. Even more intriguing, it wasn’t the track of the trophy buck I had bumped many times last year. I know that buck’s wide, heifer-like hoofprint. This long-strider’s prints, heels prominent, were narrower and without question not his.

Hmmmmm?

Well, that set of tracks continued bugging me long after passing them and, once I got home, I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I measure them with the chestnut crook cane that always accompanies my walks? Then, I would have an accurate measurement for discussion.”

The reason for my diligence regarding this subject was that I had shared the observation with White on the phone Monday afternoon and my description was greeted with silence, as though he was silently questioning it. I just let it pass.

Next day, walking the same route, the tracks were melted a little but still intact and exactly the same distance apart as the previous day. So, I laid down my cane, marked the top of the crook and found the stride to be a cane and a half long. Once I got home, I put a yardstick to the cane and discovered it was 37 inches, making the stride about 56 inches, just shy of five feet. Maybe that’s not a long stride for a deer, but it stuck out to my eye and I have seen many deer tracks. No, it wasn’t over five feet as I had suspected, but it was basically a five-foot stride, longer than usual, in my opinion.

Enough of that ... but sticking to the same subject of neighborhood deer, my friend and neighbor who spotted 15 baldies in back of his home last week saw them again, this time heading down to his yard from Smead Hill in the evening. You can bet the folks at the Alexlee House up the road have seen those deer many times, likely eating their ornamental bushes.

Which reminds me: it’s getting to be that time of the year to drive through the upper Country Farms section of Greenfield by the intersection of Eunice Williams and Leyden roads, where many deer can be seen just before dark coming out of their yard on a southern exposure above the Webb Farm. It’s a sight to behold. Well worth the drive. And if you want to see more deer, take Barton Road home. They seem to like the ornamental bushes in people’s yards there, too, after a long winter.

Don’t dilly-dally. The Country Farms deer phenomenon is here today, gone tomorrow.

Recorder sports editor Gary Sanderson is a senior-active member of the outdoor-writers associations of America and New England. Blog: www.tavernfare.com. Email: gsand53@outlook.com.