Last week I spoke about a few of the sounds one might experience while afoot in the woods. Then, some friends and I traveled to Armstrong County to visit my outdoor buddy, Joanie Haidle. It's where my buddy, Dick Ryan of Altoona and I go to hunt deer so we were anxious to look around and see how the deer population looks.
We hardly got beyond the front porch, however, as there was so much to see as we watched from around the kitchen table, looking out the huge window at what was going on outside. Joanie lives so far back in the boonies that one could almost hunt from the back porch.
There were two hummingbird feeders suspended from the porch just outside that window. We watched as many as 15 hummingbirds at one time flitting around those feeders. We got a visual demonstration of bird warfare from these dainty but violent tiny creatures as they fought with one another for rights to sit on the feeders by themselves.
It's the old, old scenario played out by every wild creature that has to survive in the wilds: fight off all contenders for the food supply. With that instinct in play, the birds chased and pecked one another constantly. If a bird lit and another hummingbird hovered near the feeder, the bird would leave its food and dive-bomb toward the "intruder."
With 10 or more birds flitting around the feeders at any one time, it became a battle royal. There was, of course, plenty of food for all and if they could rationalize - as humans do - that taking turns, eating peacefully side by side would mean every one of them could be satisfied, was the "civilized" way to behave, all would be well.
But operating on the old "survival of the fittest" instinct, they spent huge amounts of time and energy scrapping with one another and chasing other birds from the neighborhood.
Just beyond the porch is an old pond, with wildflowers growing in abundance all around it. Whenever we could tear our eyes off the hummingbird fights, we could see bunches of butterflies flitting about making good use of the flowers.
Just beyond the wildflowers and butterflies, is a small grassy clearing and the deer paraded back and forth in it often. Ryan and I reminisced about the deer season a few years ago when it was pouring rain. So we decided to go back to the house at noon and get dried off and dry our clothes and take a break while the rain lasted. So while we sat there, bemoaning the rain and drinking coffee, we looked out and sure enough, several deer were loafing about in the little clearing.
Later, we began discussing the barred owls that are so abundant in the area. Since Joanie is such a gifted caller, we asked her to demonstrate again the 9-note cadence of the barred owl. So we gathered close around the table and reveled in that beautiful sound.
For awhile the world situation and the elections coming up and other woes of the world were put aside while we immersed ourselves in sights and sounds of the wild world, whose ways and habits have remained the same for generations. We engaged in what hunters and outdoors people have done for generations, too. We exchanged tales of things we have seen and experienced over the years as we went about hunting and/or hiking.
Dick Ryan and I entertained the folks with our remembrance of the time we had our deer rifles run over. We had gone deer hunting and just before dawn came upon a young fellow at the edge of the woods with his small car stuck up to its doors in the mud.
We found a small rise in the middle of the field where we could set our rifles down safely while we attempted to help. Our attempts were futile but along came a hunter with one of those huge trucks set up on oversized tires.
He'd pull him out, he said, but first he'd have to turn his truck around. Before we could stop him he gunned the truck and made a big circle out in the field to get in the right position and in the process, Dick and I watched helplessly as he ran smack over our rifles.
If you can imagine pulling a gun out of the sucking mud in which it has been buried, then you know how we felt. Grass, mud and manure clung to our firearms. Who could know what damage had been done so we just went back home and spent the rest of our hunting day cleaning and sighting in our rifles.
We talked of all the deer and gobblers we have bagged on that farm, of the time Joanie had three shots in one morning at the biggest gobbler any of us has ever seen and missed them all. I remembered the time a gray fox sneaked up on me just before dawn one spring morning and thought I was his lunch. I spotted him just as he squatted into the pounce position.
Dick remember that just last deer season, he left his deer stand at noon on Saturday to go home and I climbed up into that stand and within 5 minutes of my arrival bagged an 8-point buck there.
That's what happens when a bunch of hunters get together. No one ever forgets all the wonderful things they have seen and heard in Pennsylvania's woods.