Scouting for Wildlife in the Summertime

By: Kenny Presnell

Hunting season is over, you've cleaned and put away your shotguns, muzzleloaders, rifles, and bows. The meat is in the freezer. What do you do now?

As mentioned in our season wrap up, most hunters have left the forest except for a few who have already started scouting for next year.

Brenda and I, in our continued scouting for the upcoming hunting seasons, get out into the state and national wildlife areas as much as we can. On previous outings, we've run across a lot of interesting things. Here is a young box turtle we rescued while he was crossing the road. Notice how small he is compared to the cigarette box:

Box Turtle
Florida Box Turtle

This is a Florida Box Turtle, aka/T. carolina major. They like the moist areas in pine forests. They spend the majority of time on land because they are not water turtles.

We've also seen unfamiliar snakes that caused us to search and find out what kind they were. This is a Rough Green Snake, aka/Opheodrys aestivus:

Rough Green Snake
Rough Green Snake

We learned that the Opheodrys aestivus is a tree climbing snake (arboreal) that eats insects and spiders. They usually don't bite and are considered harmless. Brenda said that may be the case, but she sure didn't want to find out.

From time to time we have run across wild turkey. It does take a keen eye and it's tricky to get near them though. We were lucky enough to get these shots of two of those elusive birds:

Turkey in field
turkey in field

turkey hiding
turkey hiding in grass

I like to keep a record of our sightings and their numbers and locations for possible future use.

We caught up to a gaggle of turkeys which included several hens and their baby poults. First we glassed the turkeys from about 300 yards. Then as we slowly creeped toward them, a mother hen spread her wing to hurry her poults out of the road. We reached them just in time to snap this photo:

Turkey Gaggle
Gaggle of Turkeys

This time of year you may be seeing more turkeys than deer. There is a reason for this. Turkeys can tolerate the heat and need to dust; therefore, you may see them on the dirt roads.

The deer, however, are staying in the shade where it's cooler and closer to their food and water.

doe deer

This time of year, the does are getting ready to drop their fawns. So if you have a group of deer that you have been watching and you notice some of the does go missing, it's because they've moved away from the other deer to places they feel are safer.

When the time comes for her to give birth, the mother doe will go through a very complicated set of steps that she instinctively knows how to do. When the fawn drops, she will clean it and nuzzle it causing it to breathe and defecate. This insures that the fawn's body parts are working correctly.

The doe will then move off leaving the fawn to rest and clean herself. When she has recovered, she will return to the fawn and move him a few hundred yards away from the birth place. This helps ensure that any preditors that find the birth place will have a harder time finding the fawn.

Within a few more hours, the fawn is nursing and able to walk and follow his mother. During this time of walking, she will vocalize to the fawn to ensure that he knows who his mother is.

One year in late summer, our dog Max found one such baby deer. Read about it here.

I'm reluctant to even mention another one of our sightings because we weren't quick enough to get a photo. But I've gotta say it was exciting to see so I'll include it. As is our normal technique for a weekend stroll through the woods, we rolled slowly down a two-rut lane through the forest.

I spotted a dark object moving along the edge of the ruts about 500 yards away. Whenever we see movement ahead in the road, we always stop and look through binoculars to check it out. My suspicion proved correct. At the other end of my binoculars stood a full-grown mama black bear. She towered about 5 feet tall judging from the height of the hedge at her side. A smaller bear cub sat on the ground near her legs.

Slowly, I drove toward the jet black bear, hoping she didn't see or hear us. Our forest-green colored Silverado was somewhat camouflaged, but I couldn't temper the sound of the engine or the swishing of knee-high grass in the road as we creeped along.

We stopped close enough to get a photo. I sprinted from the cab, out and onto the tool box. This was not a hunt with a crossbow, shotgun, or rifle. That day I was shooting with a digital camera. I gotta say, the aim and focus is a bit different than sighting in with a scope on a rifle. Mama and her bear cub were finally in my focus. But just before I snapped the photo, I came into mama bear's focus. She quickly ran through the bushes with the cub hot on her heels.
Unfortunately, I was left with only a blurry shot of bushes and a tale of the ones that got away.

I'm sure you will agree, hunting doesn't stop at the end of the hunting seasons. It can be a year-long adventure as you incorporate scouting into your other activities.

(From Scouting for Wildlife to Our View)

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