Winter hike turns into scouting mission
Recently, I had an opportunity to accompany a couple of friends for a snowshoe hike. We weren’t bringing guns – this wasn’t a hunting trip – just snowshoes, binoculars and cameras. We were checking out a place that we might include as a destination for guided snowshoe excursions that we’ll be offering out of Bird’s Eye Outfitters this winter in Sault Ste. Marie.
Usually, if I’m strapping on snowshoes, it’s because we’re going rabbit hunting or I’m accompanying a friend who is trapping, or maybe we’re going fishing on an inland lake where the wind hasn’t kept the snow to a manageable level. Several years ago, I used to take occasional hikes on snowshoes just for the exercise. My neck of the woods gets over 120 inches of snow every winter, so snowshoeing is a popular activity with both tourists and locals, whether for exercise or just for fun.
But within minutes of leaving the truck, I realized I was enjoying an additional benefit of the trek that my non-hunting hiking partners were not getting – I was gathering some intel for future hunting trips. We found snowshoe hare, grey squirrel, fox and white-tailed deer tracks right away, and our route took us around several frozen beaver ponds that I believe will be worth revisiting in the summer to discover whether they are holding ducks and geese.
We stayed in fairly open areas that are easier to traverse in snowshoes, so we didn’t see much ruffed grouse sign, but a return hike in the spring, when it would be easy to hear drumming birds, would help us determine whether the thickets would be worth scouring more thoroughly.