Like any artist, I never know when or where inspiration for a painting will crop up. For instance, the painting herein was inspired by this year’s unusually mild winter hereabouts. More to the point, allowing that the severe winters of the past two years decimated deer populations statewide, this winter has been a godsend to deer and hunters as well. Clearly, a third consecutive winter of smothering snows and prolonged sub-zero temperatures would have been disastrous to the deer herd, resulting in more restrictive hunting seasons and closures in some areas.
Let’s face it, owing to malnutrition, depletion of body reserves, loss of winter habitat and predation by coyotes, deer in this neck of the woods struggle to survive normal winters, let alone severe ones. Therefore, Maine’s deer-hunting seasons depend entirely on deer-management programs and predator control. Thus inspired, I painted “The Tracking Snow,” a scene depicting old-time Maine deer hunters studying tracks, while the source circled behind them. Painting the whitewashed field sprouting conifers reminded me that it took only a foot or so of snow to force deer into protective “yards” of green-growth. “Trouble is,” I mused, “deer yards don’t protect against coyotes; and the notion that they kill only the infirm is pure nonsense.”
In the interest of conserving and restoring deer populations — thereby ensuring hunting seasons — sportsmen statewide would do well to follow the tracks of a group of Down East coyote hunters and their hounds. Suffice it to say, coyote numbers have decreased and deer numbers have increased in and around the towns of Har-rington and Columbia Falls.
“Deer deserved a break this winter,” I thought while fussing with the anatomy of the buck in the background of the painting. “We’re not out of the woods yet, though. The Ides of March are upon us and I’ll be surprised if that doesn’t inspire Old Man Winter to fire a magnum parting shot our way.”
Tom Hennessey’s columns and artwork can be accessed on the BDN Internet page at www.bangornews.com. Tom’s e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org