Enjoying my view of nature from the boonies

Recently, I traveled to Armstrong County for two weeks of spring gobbler with my best hunting buddy, Joanie Haidle.

Mere hours after my arrival, however, her mother became very ill, was taken to the hospital by ambulance . Since she is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s, Joanie stayed in the hospital around the clock to help take care of her mother’s specialized needs.

I, therefore, spent most of the two weeks alone at Joanie’s house. It provided a perfect time frame for me to go gobbler hunting alone but the weather scotched me. Terrible thunderstorms almost every day, the woods wet, the roads muddy. In the essence of safety, since I knew no one in that area who could help me if I fell, got lost or whatever, I elected not to go hunting those days.

Joanie lives so far in the boonies that UPS and other delivery services, have to follow GPS to get there. But she has a view that few others have. She lives in a small valley, where mountainsides converge on her land from all sides and two huge ponds in her front acreage. From a wrap-around porch on her house you can see it all.

Deer use her front yard as a crossing from one ridge to the other, turkeys gobble at dawn for three months straight, and a plethora of bird feeding stations hang from the rafters of her front porch and if you sit quietly and wait you will see wildlife acting natural.

Especially if you are sitting there, as I was every single morning at 5 a.m., coffee in hand, binoculars ready.

From 1-15 deer appeared most days out of the mist along the woods edges to feed, pulling at the branches of the Russian Olive bushes, kicking any deer away if it tried to share her space. Last years’ fawns frolicked and raced around the clearings, their mothers , now heavy with new fawns, ignored their antics. One tree was the deer’s favorite. It had low hanging branches and they would stand on their hind legs kicking with their front legs to maintain balance while they nipped at those branches.

The first deer to appear in the morning got that favored tree and fights for that right were frequent and often vicious. There is no sense of sharing with wild animals. They are not humans, they do not have tender feelings for others. They are totally self- centered and will kick their own youngsters away from their food sources of the moment.

There were three chipmunks residing on Joanie’s property and I don’t know what relationship each of them had with the other but if you wanted or needed a lesson in animal dominance, they provided it.

The first one to appear each morning was “Short-Tail.” What happened to the last half of his tail I do not know, but his stub was obvious so that is what I call him. He was the boss. The second and third chippies had regular-sized tails but the third was obviously the youngest of the trio.

“Short-Tail” ruled the space under an overhanging bird feeder. The birds working in the feeder would scratch lots of seed out which hit the carpeted floor. He fed here and the other two chipmunks could do nothing unless he was not there. If one of them dared to approach the space, he froze, stared them down and then attacked. So these races were a daily source of entertainment. Watching two chippies trying to sneak in a bite or two while the boss wasn’t looking was comical.

Throughout the morning each chippie would cautiously peek around a corner to see if the boss was there. If he wasn’t, they would gleefully pounce on the space, stuffing s much seed in their pouch as they manage, looking around every other second to see if “Short-Tail” was anywhere in sight.

We would look at this daily tableau and think “there’s plenty for everybody, why don’t you just share?” But animals live by instincts. Any source of food they find is theirs, their boundaries of their home area fixed in their consciousness and beware to any and all who try to invade. So they spend 10 times the energy chasing rivals and thieves as they would if they just calmly let the others have some too while they are there.

The birds behave exactly the same way. They land in the hanging feeder station and peck at a seed, then look all around to see what enemies are in the area. If another bird lands in the feeder, there is either a fight between them or one bird automatically concedes and flies away. The hummingbirds, which have a separate feeder, has four little outlets at which birds could feed but I never saw more than one outlet being used at a time since all it takes to start a tussle was for the one at the feeder to hear the incoming buzz of another hummingbird. Then the fight was on, the intruder being chased and pecked by the first hummingbird.

It all reminded me of the scene that occurs when we put two toddlers in the same room. Let the visitor choose to play with a toy and the resident child immediately grabs it, wanting it himself.

So I spent every morning watching the show, chipmunks racing around like tornadoes, deer kicking away others from his favorite tree, birds screeching and chasing and pecking.

He provided me the look at animal ingenuity. One morning as he ran down the porch he noticed a length of small hose hanging from one of the rafters. He climbed to the rafter, jumped off, ran across the rafter to the hanging bird feeder and jumped smack into the middle of feeder. Birdseed exploded from every direction and things were fine until the other two chippies, came sneaking close and didn’t see him on the floor and boldly walked to the porch under the feeder.

“Short-Tail” froze and stared down at them from the feeder. His cheeks were so stuffed from seed that he looked grotesque. His cheeks, swollen from seeds packed in them, almost covered his eyes. But he zeroed in on the unsuspecting rivals below him and swan-dived at them from the overhanging feeder. He didn’t know which one to chase and it was a comical rundown like I have never before seen.

You can watch all of this going on if you just spend some time enjoying nature going on around you.