Wild entertainment from the treestand
Although rifle season has opened here in the Southern Tier, friends often ask me if I get bored waiting in a treestand during archery season. I always reply with an emphatic “no.” Admittedly, while standing in a tree doesn’t give me much to do, blending with the surroundings provides me with so much more to see. From my vantage position high in a hemlock tree, camouflaged head to toe, I can remain relatively motionless and this gives me privy to the actions of some pretty neat critters.
Because my stands are set up in thick cover it’s relatively common for me to hear and see grouse walking on the ground. As outdoor enthusiasts know it’s also fairly common to flush a grouse while walking through the woods, but it’s far less common to have one come walking past you totally unaware of your presence, and I never get tired of watching them.
A few weeks ago while on watch I saw something I've never seen before. Out of the early-morning fog a fisher came walking past my stand. This is the first time in my life I saw one in the wild and it was a treat. Although fishers are more common in the northern, eastern and southeastern part of the state, they are returning to the Southern Tier. As a result of my encounter I checked my books on common New York wildlife and discovered fishers eat a wide variety of small to medium sized mammals and birds, and a variety of hard and soft mast such as beechnuts, acorns, apples and berries. In fact, the one I watched stopped at the base of the apple tree I was perched over and quickly devoured two fairly large apples before moving on. I later discovered fishers are the only known North American mammal that kills and consumes porcupines. They are so good at it they will consume the entire animal, leaving nothing but a quilled hide and a few of the larger bones.
The fisher moved on and so did the time. Still no deer but I remained entertained. A blue jay fluttered to a landing high in a maple tree in front of me and in his beak he had what I thought was a ribbon of some sort. The bird laid the “ribbon” over a branch and began pecking at it until it fell to the ground. As the object fell it suddenly occurred to me it wasn’t a ribbon at all. The jay had a small snake and was attempting to eat it. When the snake hit the ground the jay flew away and I couldn’t help wondering what kind of snake it was and where on Earth the bird found it. The morning was cool and at first I thought the bird discovered the snake sunning itself to get warm. Things just didn’t add up because the sun hardly cleared the horizon so I doubt the small snake was basking in its warmth. A few seconds later the jay returned and once again picked up the snake, only to fly off to parts unknown. I’ll never know if the jay actually ate part of the snake or if it was just playing with it. In any event it was an entertaining morning in the woods.