Monday, October 08, 2007

Digging on the Dogs

First one of the day, quickly and humanely dispatched.

There was a fog out early this morning, and on the back roads I notice that both the Poison Ivy and the Sumac are starting to turn red. Fall in not quite here yet, but it's coming.

I do not expect this will be much of a year for leaf color -- the drought has been too fierce. When it gets this bad, the leaves just give up the ghost and come down in great brown drifts.

In drought, there is never much of a color guard to welcome in winter.

Things are beyond dry. The Potomac River is so low that the rocky gorge at Great Falls look like a foreign river. In the smaller creeks you can find dust on the stones where a pool should be. Not good.

The corn is all burned up, but still standing, while the soybeans have already come off, or are in the process.

I visited Nick's Farm last weekend, but the dogs found nothing in two hours of walking around. I have hunted this farm for a long time, and taken several hundred groundhogs off of this 250-acres, but I think Dave's aggressive plowing and ripping of dens has been what has really pushed things to a low level.

Dave has a number of free-range chickens, and he tells me he has just added a pen of turkeys. He says he lost 30 chickens to a raccoon which he trapped and shot, and I told him about two raccoons I had taken out of an old feed bunk some time back. Raccoons up near the house and the chicken pens will not last long with Dave's traps in action. He says he also took out a skunk with 6 babies. I tell him next time to drown them rather than shoot through the trap. Less stink that way. There are a few small things I know about.

Dave gave my name to a farm owner up the road (Call him, he'll get rid of your groundhogs), and I really like this new farm and appreciate the referral. I notice that the soybeans have already come off. A harvest transport truck is still in the fields, and it looks like there might still be some standing beans above the ridge, but with the fog we had, it's still too early for anyone to be cranking up the machine.

I tape up the locator collars really well, as the dogs will be in and out of water today. We check out a few dens in the bean fields, but the groundhogs have left. Who can blame them? There is not much left to eat in these fields. These dens might hold fox in a few months, however, and I will make their acquittance now.

The dogs and I go down to the creek, where it is still green, and the dogs are in and out of a den, but it's hard to tell if they are interested or just playing grab-ass, when -- BAM-- a groundhog bolts out of one of the holes and runs up a tree. Man that was a fast bolt! Smart groundhog. Good for him -- we'll be back later and see how he fares next time.

The dogs settle down and start working, and a bit later they locate again. It's a pretty shallow dig in a tough thicket of tree roots. After a bit of a saw job, we catch up to the groundhog who is not too enormous. He is quickly terminated and recycled for fox food. That's the deal on this farm -- clean out all the groundhogs along the creek where they are wrecking the stream banks. "Yes, ma'am right on it."

Mountain finds another occupied sette and bays it up good, and it sounds like a raccoon. I try to locate. From the sound, Mountain is staying and baying in one location, but the locator is a little shy about exactly where that location is. The box seems to read equally well in a four foot radius. Not good. I bar down to locate a pipe, and hit one, but after digging down to it, I realize it's the wrong one. Or the wrong bit of the right one. As it turns out, there are several den pipes here that are very close together thanks to the intersecting tree roots which keep the ground solid despite all the tunneling.

I eventually hit the right pipe, pull Mountain, and swap Pearl in. Pearl skits up the tube, digs through some dirt and starts to bay. The critter is making a noise that can best be described as "furniture-being-dragged-across-the-floor." I am pretty sure it is a raccoon, as this is the sound I expect from them. I posthole down between the roots for a foot or two, but hit an obstruction and cannot get in enough to figure out what it is. There's not enough room to cut it or remove it. Lots and lots of roots -- always a problem when digging alone.

I cut another hole in the wrong location, but at least I can get into the pipe here, and I reach in and grab Pearl who has a cut lip. I tie her up, and I am turning around to snare whatever's in the den pipe when a large, dark-colored groundhog crowns out of the den entrance. A groundhog? It tries to bolt, but it doesn't make it very far despite my considerable surprise. Damn if I have ever heard a groundhog make the sounds this one did!

Two down (and one bolted), but I am dead from the heat, and the dogs and I head back to the truck.

The day started off with a promise of Fall, but shook that off pretty quickly. Now it's 90 degrees in the shade -- not that we found any shade.

I am cooked, but we'll be back. Hopefully, it will be a little cooler.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was beginning to get a complex thinking I was the only one who ever had to dig multiple holes to get into the right part of the tube in those swiss-cheese dens wrapped around tree roots. Those labyrinths can give man and dog alike a workout.