It's been a wicked week, obviously, and the Frankenstorm certainly will have an impact on wildlife and wildlife habitat. Raging winds and waters have uprooted many trees in the areas you like to hunt. Streams are rearranged any time severe water stress is experienced. No doubt some of your favorite holes were washed away but new ones will have been created.
Last year the aftermath of a hurricane severely damaged a pheasant farm and many of the birds were scattered. It resulted in many fewer pheasants being released last fall. Pheasants have been released all across the state already, before this storm hit, and no doubt many game farm pheasants were casualties. Foxes and coyotes and crows will have a banquet on these hapless birds.
Wildlife of all species will be affected. Deer and bear - and especially their young - drown when streams and rivers rage. Trees have fallen on animals and birds, trapping and dooming them. And bear dens under tree roots or in any low place were flooded. Thankfully, cubs are not born until January so are safe. Because the mast crop failed in many places, some sow bears may have denned early. Many have no doubt been routed by the high water and are even now looking for new denning sites.
It's not pleasant to think of but it is the stark reality. It surely interrupted the deer rut for a few days and that may mean fewer fawns next spring. But as soon as the rain and wind stopped the deer's hormones kicked up again and those archers who got out at the end of the week, found they could still-hunt quietly and that hungry, rutting deer were on the move.
Pheasant, grouse, squirrel hunting will all be back to normal this week. As I feared, I did not go fall turkey hunting last week because of the weather. I love to hunt in a soft rain or a drizzle but I've never had enough luck in a downpour to brave it. High wind puts every species of game off its feed, so to speak. Game birds find it difficult to rise from the cornfield into the air or to make headway when they do get up. Deer find their chief defensive sense - smell - undependable when the wind is roaring. Scent seems to dissipate quickly when wind is whipping and deer cannot really detect their enemies by scenting them so they choose to hole up and stay there until the storm is over.
I remember deer season in 1983. It wasn't raining but the cold front had arrived with a 45 mph gale so on opening morning branches were falling all over the woods, some with great crashes. I watched a huge tree off in the woods where I was fall to the earth with a terrible shudder and noise and I along with others in my hunting party were plenty skittish. About the time I decided to play it safe and head out of the woods, I spotted movement in the distance. It turned out to be a buck, which I bagged. Then, since I was 3 miles from my truck, I spent the rest of that dangerous day dodging flying branches while I dragged that buck out of the woods.
I've also had more time than usual to spend imagining myself on a brown bear hunt in Alaska or an elk hunt in Montana. Perhaps a safari in Africa. Like most hunters, I've often hoped to be able to go on one of these exciting hunts but I've had to settle for going vicariously, that is, by reading the stories of others who were able to accomplish it. That's the closest I've ever come to any of those hunts.
Harold Kaplan of Altoona went on an African safari this past September. He harvested what is considered by many to be the most dangerous African game animal - a Cape Buffalo. This animal is not called "Black Death" for no reason. They are known to be notoriously short tempered.
Kaplan harvested his 1,500 pound Buff on Sept. 13 in Zimbabwe with a 450-400 3-inch Nitro Express Double Rifle. This will be quite a conversation piece in Kaplan's trophy room.