After an uneventful residents-only opening day of deer season on Oct. 29, I was among those who smiled when I woke up on Monday morning and the grass on my Bangor lawn was still coated with a blanket of wet snow. We haven’t had many snowy hunting days in these parts over the past several years, and looked forward to taking advantage of some real tracking conditions that afternoon.
What a difference 18 miles can make, though.
What had been two inches of snow on my front lawn appeared to be far more when I reached Holden and Dedham. Beyond that, the snow became much more patchy, and by the time I arrived at my favorite stand of woods down in Otis, I learned that our weekend storm had been as finicky and unpredictable as reported: The gravel road was completely clear and in the course of walking 100 yards I was apt to find 75 yards of bare ground and 25 where a thin layer of snow had piled up a bit.
Walking slowly down a skidder path, however, I saw something that made me pull up short and pay closer attention. On the right side of the trail, the bare, soft soil looked like it had been churned up a bit. And 10 feet off to the left, I saw what looked like a big, round track in the snow.
Deer? Moose? Not quite.
Just forward of the round track was another that was better defined, and easily recognizable: It was the track left by the front paw of a black bear. Not what I was looking for, but pretty cool, nonetheless.
I’ve taken to carrying a small camera with me on my trips afield, and snapped a quick shot. In order to provide a frame of reference, I included my boot in the photo. Unfortunately, I realized afterward, the fact that I’ve got very small feet might lead some to think the bear in question is a real bruiser. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit this: The bear could have fit into my size 8 1/2 boots with room to spare.
Ah, well. Not a deer. But after doing nothing but watch bluejays and red squirrels on opening day, any sign of activity from a larger critter was welcome.
Unfortunately (as you might assume) I saw neither hide nor hair of the bear (or any deer) on that trip into the woods.
But I’ve gone back. More on that later.