I am quite fortunate to have a variety of wild spaces to explore so close to home, and most within the city limits of Ottawa. One favourite spot is seven minutes down the road and borders our busiest highway. The wildlife this area holds is vast, and when you wander off the beaten path a little, the rewards can be astonishing.
I headed out this past Tuesday in hopes of getting some turkey and deer images. However, it was a couple of extremely friendly – and inquisitive ruffed grouse – that truly made the day.
Not long into my hike I flushed out a bird from a distance away. A fairly common occurrence with these usually “people wary” forest inhabitants. But a second bird stayed around, and while I slowly approached, continued to go about her business. I spent the next 25 minutes less than ten feet from this curious grouse. Each time I would sit down on the ground she would rush towards me and prance back and forth – most of the time within arms reach! Of course, my camera was firing constantly, and I was rewarded with some extremely close up shots of this beautifully-detailed bird.
I continued my walk, and less than 500 yards away, encountered my second grouse that was equally friendly.
After twenty minutes of “hanging out” I bid farewell and continued on.
Through all of my years spent in the outdoors, a goal has always been to find a deer shed. For those that aren’t aware, a “shed” is another term for antler and is used to describe this discarded mass of bone that a buck loses each winter or early spring. They are not easy to locate, and if not found fairly quickly, porcupines, mice, and squirrels make easy work of them by chewing this calcium-rich treat.
And then it happened. Sitting in an open area of grass lay my very first shed! To say I was excited was an understatement!
This antler was in great shape, other than a few small nibbles on one end of a tine, and judging from its conditions (and since I had walked that area only a week earlier) I am fairly certain it had been recently dropped. Although I searched the area thoroughly, I came up unlucky finding the other.
As I made my way back to the truck, with my new treasure strapped securely to my back pack, I reflected on what an amazing experience this day in the woods had been.
The next morning I invited my Dad to join me and we headed back into the woods shortly after 9am. No sooner had we walked 50 yards when six deer bounded across the path in front of us. If that isn’t a good sign I’m not sure what is!
Although we did flush a grouse from one of the areas I had found them in the previous day, it took us some time to find our first “tame” bird quite a distance away in a new spot. Acting just like the previous two, this bird delighted us by feeding at our feet, prancing around, and posing merrily away.
This bird was much different from the last two, though. As we continued our hike….it followed us!! If we managed to get too far ahead, it would race forward to catch up. At one point, it jumped on my Dad’s foot while we walked! This continued on for 20 minutes, across open spaces of fields, thick brush, and forested areas. It is something we have never experienced – and perhaps never will again. I did to begin to worry about the little girl, as she made herself very vulnerable when away from cover, and an owl or hawk would have made quick work of her if they had spied her on the ground.
She did lag behind at one point and it was then, I’m assuming, she decided she had had enough. Funny enough, some hours later as we made our way back to where we originally found her, their she was again, greeting us and along she came for another short walk! Simply amazing!
Although we didn’t find another deer shed on this outing, we did manage to see a couple of more deer, a large flock of cedar and bohemian waxwings, and a lone porcupine sleeping in a tree. Not a bad little outing.
I decided that night to head back once more come morning. I had a feeling the matching deer shed had to be close by, and with the aid of my GPS, working a grid search of the surrounding area just might bring me some luck and the reward I was searching for.
I went to sleep that night dreaming of grouse and deer antlers – the things only a nature nut might fixate on!
The next morning was a crisp and cool one, meaning a toque and gloves were along for the hike. I walked past the usual grouse haunts but unfortunately our new friends didn’t seem to be home. As I made my way down to the area of my previous deer shed find I came across a flock of turkey and several deer.
I began my grid search and worked the land hard. With no luck I decided to expand, and on a hunch (and after doing some research the previous nigh) I headed to an area approximately 600 yards east. This spot is a forest of evergreens which would make an ideal bedding area for deer. And which is often the case, antlers are knocked off while deer are bedding down for the day. I worked the outside perimeter, the inside, then walked around the most easternly edge – a spot that bordered a small marsh. As I made my way around a tree I spotted the shed – glistening in the sun and laying just a few feet from the edge of the conifers. I raced up to it with pure excitement!!!
You can see from this following image exactly where it was found.
This shed was much larger in diametre, more stocky and aged, and had a neat drop back tine. It was also six points in comparison to the other that scored four. After getting home and comparing the two, I quickly decided that these came from two separate bucks, which means their are at least two more sheds to be found!!!
What an amazing three days spent in the woods! I hiked a total of 26.4 km’s over that time – and every step was definitely worth it.
I’ll be back out again next week – searching for more sheds, photogenic grouse, and anything else the wonderful world of nature has to offer.
Yours in the Outdoors,
(click on images to view full size)
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