I turned in my schedule "wish list" last night after also returning that easy-to-accidently-take-home neck alarm we all have to wear while working. I'm not really sure when that will be approved, dissaproved, and whatnot, but I also decreased my availability so that I only have to work 1st and 2nd shift. (Again.) I have two thirds coming up this week, and needless to say I'm not happy about that -- which is part of why I'm demoting. (Demoting means you can be pickier about your hours.)
So, that said...today was a decent day thus far. I awoke pretty late (but only because I was up late on the pc), scrambled out of bed, listened to some music, puffed a smoke and went for a hike up behind my home.
Deer activity has increased in the thin forest that runs through town, and curves behind my house. It is the rut (breeding season)and deer are seen at night on occassion ambling across our lawns, through our gardens, and eventually back up into the woods. From my porch you can occassionally hear the soft clicking of hooves as they scamper across the streets, more often than not heading toward the Noble's fruiting apple tree, or our black walnut.
If you're not looking for them, you may never see the deer. They are clever, and ghostlike in movement, sneaking through the brush and forest edges at the time of dimmest light so as not to be seen by humans. More often than not (unless you actually hike through the woods) the only proof of their presence is deer droppings, or hoofprints.
Today on my hike, I was not only looking for fabulous fungi, but for deer sign -- and more specifically the sign of the bucks themselves.
Last week I was sitting outside talking on my phone with Wendy, when all of the sudden I heard crashing coming down through the woods. As mom and dad pulled out from in front of the house their headlights beamed the noisy intruder, a dandy buck with a nice set of antlers. He is one of a few that frequent the area behind my house, including one MASSIVE buck that was hit up by the high school crossing a few weeks ago. The buck that was hit by a car had 10 total "points" or tines to his antler, with the tenth being a long downward curving spike that was completely non-typical of natural whitetailed deer antlers. My taxidermist friend is trying to purchase the buck from the game warden for a nice price as such a unique animal deserves to be immortalized on someones den wall.
During the rut, the most obvious sign that a BUCK is in the area is by his rubs and scrapes.
No, I'm not talking of skin disorders, but rather of the territorial/glandular markings a white-tailed buck leaves when he wants to have sex. Today, I got some photographs of the freshly peeled rubs.
A "rub" is little more than where a white-tailed buck has shredded the bark of some poor unsuspecting sapling. This activity serves a few purposes:
- it strengthens a buck's neck muscles for up and coming "fights" with other bucks
- it is a scent post, thanks to the glands on a bucks face
- it is a sign for other bucks to see that there are "others" in the area
If a particular buck freqents the same area, an eventual "rub line" develops where there is a series of saplings marked at irregular intervals on the bucks daily (or nightly) route. Study the tree close enough, and you will see what direction the buck was facing, and subsequently moving when he rubbed the tree. Some hunters use this to their advantage, and hunt along rublines HOPING for a peak at the buck who is lurking in the area.
"Scrapes" are a bit different. I have no photographs of them yet, but for whatever reason I only found 1 behind the house today - and it was small. (Definitely not a specimen I'd like to use as an example!) Scrapes are, on occassion, occompanied by rubs. Little more than leaves and soil raked up into a bare batch of earth, the buck makes a scrape to communicate to the ladies that he is in the area, and lookin' for some lovin'! He scrapes the ground, rubs the tree, and licks any branches that are dangling (dangling branches are essential for a scrape). He marks them with pre-orbital scent glands, and to make the situation a bit stinkier...he literally pisses down his leg, rubbing his furry hock (tarsal glands) together to make a stinky scent post for local females to respond to. When a doe is in heat, she will hang around the scrape...urinate in it, deficate, whatever it might take to get the bucks attention.
So yeah... enough of that. Here are some more photos I took of the bleak brown November woods. Even in the brownishness of everything in the forest, there was beauty to be found.