Hunter captures outdoors’ true spirit

Posted Dec. 15, 2008, at 10:28 p.m.

At various times over the past year or so, I’ve received several interesting e-mails from Dave Baker of Glenburn.

Baker is an avid hunter. I’ve never met him, so far as I know, but have come to appreciate his outlook on things, especially when his times in the woods don’t turn out according to plan.

I, for one, can relate.

Baker checked in again on Monday with a season-in-review e-mail that puts hunting in its proper perspective.

There is much more to a hunt, many of us maintain, than the mere filling of a tag.

Baker proved that again this year … many times over.

Baker battled some health woes this season — bronchitis kept him on the sidelines for much of the season — and he never did fill his tag. That doesn’t mean he didn’t experience plenty when he got the chance to head into the woods. In fact, he says the season turned out to be one of his most memorable, for a number of reasons you’re about to share.

Here’s some of what he had to say:

“While bow hunting in the early fall I was sitting in one of my favorite locations, a low level tree stand within a hedgerow that separates two cow pastures and is right on a deer path to some mature apple trees. What I didn’t realize is that the dairy farmer who owns the land also had a bull sharing the field with the cows,” Baker wrote.

“One evening as I saw the cows approaching my end of the field I decided to call it a night as they had a tendency to push the deer back into the woods. As I was packing up my equipment my movement caught the attention of the cows and with the bull leading the way they came right to me…I suspect, looking for food as I had previously seen them run for the feed truck when [the farmer] pulled into the field.

“The bull did not seem impressed by my presence and in my opinion he seemed jealous … he was snorting and stomping his hind legs, kicking them in my direction and several times he poked his head right between the two trees at the base of my stand and shook his head as if to say ‘if I can get in there, you’re mine!’ I took his picture and e-mailed it to my wife and kids with my last will and testament and told her I’d likely be late for dinner.

“It was 7:15 p.m. before the bull lay down 10 feet away and seemed to relax his attention on me. I jumped the five feet to the ground and didn’t look back as I covered the 120 yards to the next cover of trees where I stopped in the darkness. The bull was not far behind, but with me now hidden among the trees he returned to his girls and I was able to safely exit the field.”

Another interesting episode arose when he had his first chance — after 32 years of hunting — to see an albino doe.

“Truly an amazing sight to behold!” Baker wrote. “When I began hunting as a youth I recall being told to never shoot an albino, the Ghost of the Woods, for it is God’s special creature and if harmed, will bring years of bad hunting luck … I’d also heard someone once say it would bring death to an immediate family member as well. I didn’t consider shooting her for one moment, although I did attempt to take a picture of her with my camera phone.

“The flash spooked her and she ran about 10 yards but not sensing danger she returned to within 20 feet of my blind while she grazed and looked me all over with increased curiosity. She spent about five more minutes eating before casually wandering through the hedgerow and into the next field over. With dusk upon me and shooting light gone I walked to the edge of the hedgerow and sat on a rock for nearly 10 minutes and watched her graze through the field before she was chased over the fence and back into the woods with a buck hot on her trail. Where was he 15 minutes ago?”

Then it was time for some real-life predator-and-prey action, as a group of five turkeys pecked around the same blind, scattered, then reassembled and resumed foraging for food.

“My attention turned toward the woods as I heard a noise in the leaves and saw a bobcat doing a belly crawl under the barbed wire fence toward the turkeys no more than 30 feet away,” Baker wrote. “Again, the turkeys sensed danger and as they started to take flight to roost in the nearby trees the bobcat popped up out of the grass and started on a dead sprint for the closest bird. It was truly a Marty Stouffer/Wild America moment watching the bobcat launch himself three to four feet into the air, paws outstretched reaching for the bird.

“He missed, but not by much and retreated back into the woods. The birds decided to call it an early night and never left the safety of the trees.”

Baker also had frequent encounters with a more-or-less friendly skunk, and shared in the success as his son, Josh, bagged his second deer in as many years.

But soon enough, the season drew to a close … and Baker received another priceless gift from the hunting gods.

“My last outing was this past Saturday morning with my muzzleloader that took me to the edge of a recently harvested corn field,” Baker said. “Having been directed to the stand under the cover of darkness I was excited to see the sun rise and before me in the trees were (as best I could count) 84 turkeys all roosted in the bare trees.

“As daylight came on they began to fly off roost and scratch around the field. A short time later I noticed a pair of bald eagles feeding off a dead carcass in the field about 250 yards from me … and after I focused on them a while I realized there were seven individual adult bald eagles and at least a pair of young eagles that hadn’t yet turned white on the head sitting in the trees at the far edge of that field, watching over this small food plot.

“I’ve seen two adults and a young eagle together once before on the lake near my Dad’s ice fishing shack before, but never in my life did I expect to see nine in one gathering … it was kind of like a Thanksgiving feast for the eagles.”

That sounds like a pretty busy season to me, and Baker seems like the kind of hunter who really appreciates those additional experiences that can take place any time you head into the woods.

That’s not to say, however, that he’s not already looking forward to his next adventures afield.

“Expanded zone archery starts on Sept. 12, 2009,” Baker wrote in conclusion. “Only 270 more days to prepare.”

jholyoke@bangordailynews.net

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