Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Realtree 3-D Poncho Coyote Feast

     I get up early to go to work so it is even better to get up early to go to play. I headed out to my favourite park for an early morning stroll hoping to see some moose, hear elk bugling or whatever might be happening today. The morning was chilly, not freezing as a very light west wind rattled the golden leaves still clinging to their aspen trees.  The rustling leaves and damp ground helped muffle my steps as I headed down the dark trail. The eastern sky was lightening with a faint reddish blush as high overhead I could hear geese making their way to an early whole grain breakfast. What a great day to be able.
     A moose is browsing on twigs and underbrush as I pause for a look. This cow moose is accompanied by a calf eating nearby, then another grazing a bit further off. Twin calves are most common and these all looked very healthy and ready for the rigours of winter.
     I was wearing a new Realtree camouflage 3-D leafy poncho so did not seem to worry the moose as normal. Interesting, I thought, will see if other critters act differently too. I don’t walk fast on these nature hikes. I like to walk and pause and sit down for a few minutes just to see or hear what is happening around me. I like to watch the sun light the tops of the trees before it peers over the horizon. The golden leaves are even more golden with the first morning light and they whisper and twitter at each other like girls primping for a date. Chickadees, nuthatches and juncos flit through the underbrush and scamper up the sides of aspen tree boles searching for their breakfast as well. Off in the far distance I can hear ravens and magpies squawking and squabbling over some found feast so will have to watch for that.
Juicy, Tart Cranberries

     I love the smell of the autumn forest. Tart, post frost high-bush cranberries (makes my spit run to think of them), damp and rotting aspen and poplar leaves and buds sweeten the occasional bison patty and moose droppings. With the light breeze mixing and blending the wild raw ingredients there is created a natural “eau de bush” which comes in many essences depending upon the location of the trail and quantity of ingredients.
     I am mesmerised by golden sun beams shining through the forest, lighting dark red rosebushes, many still green aspen tree leaves as well as many shades of grey and taupe coloured tree stems.
     “Why?”  I ask myself, “Do some aspen trees still have green leaves while some are golden and others are already stripped naked? Is it location, micro-climate, genetics, light, shade, wind exposure, dirt, health, water availability, age or whatever combination of all of above?” There are always more questions than answers. Everything is not created equally in the bush either. 
     Further down the leaf littered trail squabbling ravens are more noticeable as are the squawking magpies. About one hundred yards off the trail to the west, I see many flighty scavengers flitting in and out and around the bush. Some seem to be landing onto an unseen runway while others perch on branches in observation or waiting mode.  My curiosity makes me question these events so I quietly make my way in for a look. I have three things going for me today; I am heading up wind, the sun is at my back and I am wearing my new camouflage suit. I follow a little used game trail for a ways then have to veer off through the brush that tugs quietly at my Realtree poncho.
Coyote on Bison Kill
I pause often, listening and watching the actions of the birds. I find a dead log lying amongst the shin tangle that gives me a bit of elevation and makes for a quieter pathway leading in the right direction. I hold onto some brush for balance as I slowly make my way toward a standing tree where I pause and lean against for a brace. I can see part of a coyote working away on a dark coloured corpse that I assume is a moose. As I snap a few pictures another coyote appears which causes the first to snarl a warning to stay back. I want to get closer if I can but knowing how skittish a coyote can be I am hesitant. I wait until the coyote’s head is buried in the carcass and I step down from my perch trying to be as quiet and stealthy as I can. The brush tugs at my poncho as I slowly move toward another dead log. The coyote looks up often, perhaps sensing something, but the meal is more important. I step up onto a second log but it is very wobbly so I am pretty tentative as I slide sideways carefully.
Suspicious Coyote

I spot a third coyote head peering through the brush watching some apparition wobbling sideways so I pause. This suspicious coyote is unsure so it ducks back out of sight. I am finally able to make it to another standing tree that I can lean against and support my camera. I am within 25 yards and can see most of the kill tucked down into a small clearing.
     For the next hour and a half I watch quietly from my precarious perch. The log I am standing on is rotten so every time I relieve one leg to the other, I feel it give way. I am expecting it to crack and dump me into the brush but it never did. The kill is directly upwind from my position so I am getting the full benefit of “eau de rot gut” so not only am I camouflaged by sight but my body odour is also masked downwind. I hope I am not going to carry this essence home with me. Wifey may not find it very appealing. I am also watching carefully for a bear that should be attracted by the scent. I do see that the dead beast is actually a bison, perhaps a year or so old.
     I am sure the coyotes were suspicious of the strange creature observing their actions but they never got so concerned that their meal was interrupted. I am fairly positive that without the camouflaged 3-D poncho I never would have approached so near.
     What an honor it is for me to be able to spend so much time in such close proximity to these wary coyotes. Even the skittish magpies did not seem to mind my close intrusion.
     On my way out of the forest I happened upon another moose. I thought I would check out to see its reaction to a close encounter. I was slow and methodical as I circled to try to find a position that I could get a photo through all the brush. I was watched very closely but the moose never took a step. I finally found a spot where I could see the glint of its eye with the sun behind my back that I could snap a few photos. I thanked the moose as I backed off and went on my way.
Cautious Moose

     I did get a bit of a strange reaction from three women who came jogging down the trail. They seemed more concerned than the moose or the coyotes but they did safely pass by with some relief. I will definitely be using this 3-D poncho for stalking and photographing wildlife in the future. I will not be using it if I ever have to stalk the elusive and discerning human female!
Snow Goose Migration

     What a great day! Life is good! What great fun!

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