Tending the barrel has been quick and easy. I park at the bottom of the hill at the washout and walk a quarter-mile to the barrel. I enjoy the daily trip. I make noise going in to help prevent meeting up with bears at the site. With If I have someone with me, we talk. If I’m alone, I sometimes sing. I sing horribly so any bear in a quarter-mile radius should be running for cover. “Hey Bears! I’m coming in,” I yell from the top of the trail. I’m glad nobody can see me as I know how ridiculous I am.
It’s been disappointing so far, nothing has touched the barrel or walked past the camera, but it hasn’t been a week yet. I’m realistic about it being a new site and the bears not knowing it’s there.
Yesterday was the first eventful day. My drum of bait is here and I was excited to get it out there. I forked doughnuts into the five gallon pail and left earlier than any other day. The horseflies weren’t out in full force yet, the sun was shining, and it wasn’t yet 70*. The yeasty smell of the old glazed doughnuts filled the Jeep. It’s times like this when I’m eager to trade the Jeep in for a truck. I put the windows down and the music up.
It’s peaceful in the woods. The breeze rustled the leaves and the birds sang. I pulled the logs out of the barrel, dumped the doughnuts, and just as I picked up the last log, a log on the trail behind and to the left of me snapped loudly. “Hey! I’m out here!”
I expect a bear to run at an unexpected voice yelling. Nothing ran. I listened. Nothing. I listened. Nothing. I leaned forward and to both sides hoping to catch a glimpse of something resembling moose hair through the trees and brush. Nothing. I listened while counting to sixty. Must have been a widow maker settling. Glad I wasn’t right there when it happened. I went back to work, listening to what was happening around me. I checked the game cam for photos and refreshed the scent lure.
And then, it started walking toward me. “HEY! WHOOO HOOO!” Branches snapped under its feet. And they snapped under my feet as I grabbed my five gallon bucket and sprinted over a small slash pile I normally pick and choose my way across. Sore knee? Didn’t notice it as I dropped the bucket at the base of the ladder and made my way to the top in a few seconds. I spun around, sat down (no harness yet!) and looked around. It wasn’t moving so I couldn’t place it by sound and couldn’t see it.
Here’s where I confess Mistake #2. …as I dropped the bucket at the base of the ladder. The scent lure was in the bucket. I should have left the bucket and lure at the barrel, not brought it with me to the tree stand. I’d thought of getting out of the way and getting away from a large animal, but I hadn’t thought of the lure I carried to safety with me. Chances are small that if this were a bear it would come up the ladder but I didn’t need to increase those chances. I won’t make that mistake again. Bears belong at the barrel, not the tree stand.
I yelled out “HEY!” again and the animal turned to its right, crashed through the brush and left on the trail behind my tree stand. I looked over both shoulders but couldn’t see it. Before it got too far away it stopped walking, then started again, and I realized then that there were two animals. The first one walked for 10-15 seconds before the second one moved. It was easy to hear the crunch underfoot of two animals, one loud and one much quieter. I think they were a cow and calf moose.
I stayed in the stand for about 10 minutes, waiting, listening, hoping to see something. I spent the time planning my exit (bushwhack the more direct route back to the Jeep) and looking around. The woods is denser than I’d realized. I’m looking forward to spending more time in the stand when hunting opens. There’s still a lot to learn about this new site. Rather than bushwhack I left via the trail so I could look for tracks. I didn’t find any on the trail, the dirt road leading to the trail, or the dirt road back to the Jeep. I’m reasonably sure I heard moose.