While out tracking I heard a snowmobile drive up and down the park road. A short time later I came across some very fresh black bear tracks. The machine had apparently frightened the animals and got them moving even though it was midday.
Above and below are rear tracks of the bear. Note the explosion of snow in front of the track above caused by the speed of the animal.
A front track, about 5 inches wide.
The bear and two dear used the same get away trail to escape the snow machines. All were moving at great speed. The bear sometimes moved through brush so thick I could barely walk yet it was running in a gallop.
Another demonstration of the speed at which the bear was moving.
Later I stopped to rest and heard the bear crash through the brush not to far from me. I tracked it and found it had doubled back on itself and must have heard me coming up to meet him or her. I had thought it long gone. In Connecticut we don’t see a lot of bears so it was a thrill to me to be in the woods with one.
Some Otter slides out on the swamp. You can see his tail swish to the side as he traveled toward the background.
A bobcat hunting.
Here he stopped to sit for a while.
A coyote in a happy, dancing, sideways lope on the way to a family reunion. Here the family has met and greeted each other. Some friendly wrestling among pack mates. It was wonderful to see such behaviour spelled out in the tracks. In my mind I could see them prancing and playing, and testing each other.
Saw two ravens today, rare in the area I saw them but I think less and less so. I have seen them within a mile of that spot twice before and actually found one dead on the side of the road a few years ago. I injoy the wildness that these animals of the deeper woods add to suburban Connecticut.
I went into Wells State Forest in Massachusetts, a place I hadn’t been before, with just a knife and some cordage and got a fire from scratch.
I was in a forest of mixed red and white pine, oaks and red maple ( sorry no pictures, left the camera back home). I searched around for some dry materials, it had been damp recently, and found plenty of oak leaves still on the trees. Everything on the ground was damp. I then broke a dead maple branch in half lengthwise and came out with a ready formed depression for the handhold on the inside of a knot.
I then went to the top of a high rock ledge for the spindle and hand hold. As I thought everything was dryer up there and I broke some dead branches from the white pines.
I carved up the set and got the tinder bundle ready. I had picked up a bow stick and got that ready too. I used some pitch from the red pines to lubricate the handhold and started to burn in the hearthboard.
I struggled for a while with all the little things that can go wrong with a bowdrill. It seemed this set had every problem that any set I’ve ever used had, the spindle was tapered, my first notch was too wide and it burned out that side, causing the spindle to fly out most annoyingly, among others.
Finally after much cursing, on what would have been the last try, I got a coal and blew it to flame. It was a great feeling to be able to make fire outside of the comfort of the familiar.
I have been working on a couple whitetail hides using the wet scrape method. One of them was given to me already bucked and scraped by a friend and ready to brain. With all the hard work done I still screwed it up by putting it in the brains (eggs) to wet.
It stiffened right up during final stretching so I have dampened it and put it back in the brains.
On my next try softening I still didn’t get it very soft. I really beat on it which hurt my hands, I couldn’t do this all the time, its to rough on my developing carpel tunnel syndrome. I don’t know if this hide was not bucked enough or my braining or softening is not good enough. In the spring I will try frame softening.
The holidays slowed me down a little but now I’m back at it.
I did some firemaking yesterday with mullin and basswood. I harvested some cattail stalks the other day and made a bowdrill string out of basswood bark I harvested last summer, a three strand braided one. Haven’t tried it yet.
Can’t wait for the snow. I didn’t get in much tracking last winter and look forward to doing a lot this year.
Got a coal with white pine on white pine with bowdrill today. It took a fair amount of speed and the coal took a long time to coalesce. I had three coals go out in 3 or 4 seconds before I got one that would stay burning. The white pine’s dust pile burst into flame after sitting in the wind for five minutes or so.
I intend to experiment further with the dust pile turned tinderbundle. It may be useful if tinder materials are rare.
I was generously given a mullein and a cattail stalk today by my buddy Kevin to try for handdrill. The cattail was to damp so I put that up to dry and used the mullein.
I got good coals on a damp day with both white cedar and basswood as a hearthboard. It took a lot of speed on the cedar and both speed and pressure on the basswood. The mullein made a lot of smoke before I got a coal and was a lot of work. Not as easy as goldenrod if you ask me.
Also gave red cedar bowdrill another try and failed. Any moisture in the air and it becomes exponentally more difficult.