We haven’t been bothered by bears all summer because we quit feeding the birds as soon as the snow was gone in the spring. We started feeding them again a couple weeks ago and have had lots of chickadees, juncos, blue jays and nuthatches, with an occasional woodpecker and a few goldfinches. I kept a five-gallon pail of sunflower seeds on the corner of the deck outside the kitchen door. The night after I filled the bucket of birdseed Snuffy slept inside the house. Next morning I found the cover to the birdseed bucket missing, and the level of seeds was down about six inches. I concluded that a bear must have paid a visit. I have not yet found the bucket lid, so I don’t know what the bear did with it. Snuffy slept outside again the next night, and he woke us up in the wee hours, barking. After about an hour, I got up and brought Snuffy in to shut him up. I suspect the bear must have returned but was discouraged by Snuffy’s barking. I have learned to keep the birdseed bucket inside the door since these happenings.
A night or two later, Snuffy encountered another skunk! Snuffy reeks, but not as badly as the last time when he killed the skunk. This time Snuffy got the worst end of the deal because he is now limping whenever he puts his left front paw down. I’m not sure what happened, because I can’t find any wounds on the paw due to the long hair between the pads on his feet. Sometimes you can’t win for losing!
Deer hunting has been uneventful so far this year. Few tracks are to be found around Mason. Not like it used to be, which brings back memories of my first successful hunt. Brother Rupert hunted all the hills around the Pleasant River valley when he was young, and he learned their haunts and which way they would usually run when spooked off most of the ridges and mountain tops around the valley. There were many more deer in the area in those days. Rupert often led groups of up to five or six family and friends, and he knew where to place most of the “setters.”
From the time I was about 10 years old till I finished high school, I lived alone with my mother in our old farmhouse in Mason. We always had a few chickens, a cow and a pig, which it was my duty to tend. ‘Course the cow had to be milked night and morning. The year I was 13 I started hunting with Rupert and company on Saturdays and holidays in November. One Saturday morning just after daylight I was headed for the barn with the milk pail when Rupert and the other hunters arrived, guns in hand. I really wanted to go, but I had the cow to milk. I hurried through the milking, hoping that the hunters hadn’t left me. When I came out of the barn, I was really glad to see that they were waiting for me.
I grabbed my gun for the day, a small caliber .218 Bee bolt action rifle belonging to Brother Stanley, and we all headed up the valley in motor vehicles to the end of the road. From there we headed up a woods road along Pleasant River up to the beaver dams near the foot of Butters Mountain. I followed Rupert from there somewhere along the left shoulder of the mountain, where he “set” me on a small, flat space where I could see quite a distance down hill through the open growth hardwoods. Rupert pointed out a small, yellow birch sapling and suggested I could rest my gun on the side of that tree if I happened to see a deer down below me.
After what seemed like hours of being jumped by squirrels or mice rustling in the dry leaves, I finally heard an animal running down hill to my left. A deer! A small doe bounded down between the trees, getting further away with every jump. It finally stopped about 100 yards away, turned about 90 degrees and looked back. Now’s my chance! I rested the rifle against the side of the little yellow birch, took careful aim at the deer’s left shoulder and pulled the trigger. Bang! The deer dropped in its tracks! I bounded down the hill, gun in hand to where the deer lay with its head up. Then it started bleating, a pitiful crying bleat, like a baby crying! I really felt bad because I can’t stand to see an animal suffer. I resolved to myself to be strong. I couldn’t let the other hunters see me being a sissy! I put the gun barrel to the deer’s head behind the ear and pulled the trigger, ending the pitiful bleating.