Well, this morning was opening day for modern firearms deer season in West Virginia.
I went out about fifteen minutes before my dad and took my position at The Hooch.
It was a morning of hard frost and grayness.
But it was also a morning of birds. I heard ravens calling all morning. Blue jays shrieked, and crows cawed. Every tree seemed to have some form of woodpecker on it. Big pileated woodpeckers flitted among the skeleton trees. Little downy woodpeckers crept up the trunks. I saw at least one northern flicker, and I’m pretty sure there was a least one red-bellied woodpecker in their midst.
There were also a great many gray squirrels scurrying about. Some of these were melanistic.
But none paid much attention to me.
There were lots of things moving about.
Just no deer.
At about 9:30, the demeanor of the squirrels changed dramatically.
They started ”squacking”– a sound you have to hear to understand fully. It’s an alarm call.
I knew they weren’t making noises about me. They had known I was there for quite some time, but I really didn’t think much of their sounds.
My guess is a hawk of some sort was nearby.
Their squacking went on for about 15 minutes.
Then I heard a shot about 150 yards to my right.
Something barked twice, and then a big gray figure tore across the most distant ridge. It was running fast.
I assumed it was a coyote or a dog, but I didn’t know who would have been dumb enough to let a dog roam during deer season.
About ten minutes later, my dad appeared to my right.
He asked me if I’d seen anything.
“I shot at a coyote. It was pretty big.”
“Is that what that was?”
Apparently, coyotes are bad news for gray squirrels.
I wouldn’t have thought that a single coyote would cause such reaction among them.
But virtually every squirrel in the woods started making alarm calls.
Having seen so many dogs fail at squirrel chasing, I wonder how much more successful coyotes must be.
I’ve never seen squirrels have this reaction to a mere dog roaming near them, but just one coyote in the vicinity caused the squirrels to hit the panic button.
My guess is the coyote was also the reason why the deer weren’t around. These coyotes do hunt deer, but everyone knows that even one free-roaming dog of modest size can cause deer to avoid areas they normally frequent.
So I guess the coyote ruined the deer hunt.
At least the deer killing part of it anyway.