Friday, February 1, 2013

Coyotes and Groundhogs - Open Season


Saturday, Feb. 2 is Groundhog Day. There is some interesting history about the day such as the Groundhog Meat Packaging Company which was located in Punxsutawney, PA. For a brief overview of some lesser known facts not made known in thousands of magazine and newspaper articles or movies, Groundhog.
What many people may not know, and not included in the link above, is that in Pennsylvania, there is an open season on groundhogs - basically, see one, go shoot it.
Another creature which has an “open season” placed on it's head, is the coyote. Now certainly, theeastern coyote, which is a different animal than the western coyote, can be troublesome. They are secretive and opportunistic; they can and will attack small farm animals, deer and other wildlife, as well as small household pets.
Last weekend in my neighborhood was a coyote hunt which was sponsored by a local organization. In my neighborhood, the hunt attracted a rather large number of hunters and dogs. They traveled in a 12 pick-up truck caravan up and down the back roads to hunt.
It was a nice, mild day in the woods after a week of bitter cold and blowing snow.
No one (landowners, residents) were informed, or even asked, if the property could be used for the hunt. That January thaw day, I was walking my dog, talking to several loggers when shots rang out and dogs began to howl. A white pick-up truck raced up my driveway as the driver was talking on a walkie-talkie.
The somewhat excited driver stopped, jumped out of the truck and told me and the loggers to “Get out, our dogs are chasing a coyote back in those woods”.
Needless to say, the hunter was asked to leave immediately, which he did after a short discussion about, landowner rights, safety and guns. This event was not government organized, nor a government regulation – it was done by a private group of so called citizen “sportsmen”.
I'm a hunter, I enjoy hunting, I don't post our property. But this coyote hunt made me “coyote mad”. This hunt was totally unsafe, a gross violation of the rights of those who pay taxes on the land, and of questionable value to anyone. Now, I like hunting with a dog for birds or rabbits, but I am uncomfortable with using dogs to hunt dogs – why not just leave the dog home and actually “hunt”?
There is a nice hill back where they were hunting where we often take small children to go sledding. Thankfully, that activity was planned for that day. There is also a popular trail for snow mobiles in the immediate vicinity, thankfully at that moment no one was using it. Over the last several days, I have discovered some neighbors were not impressed with this coyote hunt either largely because of safety issues and an apparent lack of respect for others.
I suspect next year's hunt will be properly conducted for the safety of everyone.
Oh, (on the lighter side of things), did you know it was the coyote who made the stars? It's a fun story.

Hay Shortage

Last year wasn't a good year for growing hay in this region. The weather just did not cooperate. The temperatures soared and the rains never came. Then came the army worms. These small caterpillars are rather uncommon in this region and survived in greater numbers because of last year's mild winter weather.
The shortage has led to some pretty high prices for a round bale of hay. Those bales last year sold for $35 - $45, today those same bales, if they can be found, cost $70 to $100.
While most large farms, such as dairy and/or beef, will be able to skimp through until spring, hobby farmers are beginning to feel the pinch. Many of them buy hay from the larger farms for horses and cows. However, there is no hay available. For additional information, Shortage.

February Garden

Planning during the dead of winter helps for a more successful garden. Like many others, I like to try something new every year. This year it just may be sweet potatoes.
February is also a good month to prune fruit trees and bushes such as blueberries. In the woods, this is a good month to be building brush piles on a mild days. Brush piles give the rabbits and other small animals a place to hide when the unexpected coyote hunter comes blazing away unannounced except for his dog howling. In a few short weeks, the peepers could be singing, last year, the chorus started on March 15.
While it seems like the dead of winter, there are signs of spring approaching besides Groundhog Day. It won't be long before maple syrup buckets are hung to collect the sap and sugar shacks become hubs of activity as smoke billows into a cloudless, sunny sky. Maple syrup season is a fun time of the year with many family opportunities to enjoy.



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