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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge & Ewing Bottoms

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...Dawn in Ewing Bottoms


Two of my favorite places that I try to visit at least a couple times a year are Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge & Ewing Bottoms in south central Indiana. At Muscatatuck nine miles of gravel roads are open sunrise to sunset seven days/week plus eight hiking trails ranging from a fifth of a mile to four miles. These wind thru 7,802 acres of river, creeks, and wetland. In 1966, Muscatatuck Refuge was established using money obtained from the sale of Federal Miratory Waterfowl Stamps, commonly known as Duck Stamps. Muscatatuck is the place to see a river otter BTW. River otters were officially considered extinct in Indiana in 1942. In 1995, state wildlife officials began releasing otters captured in Louisiana into several locations in Indiana. The 25 otters released here have reproduced with such success that several hundred of the critters now call the area home. If you spend any time at all here you will see a river otter. Plus over 280 species of birds have been seen at Muscatatuck!

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Waterfowl abounds here

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A big piliated woodpecker trashing a dead tree

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A familly of otters on the ice

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And then every winter there is the spectacle of the sandhill cranes at nearby Ewing Bottoms.

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Low wet fields stretch for miles and miles and thousands of sandhill cranes overwinter here. This trip a freight train came thundering by and as I watched several thousand of these huge birds took to the air at once filling the air with their odd cries in a spectacle right out of National Geographic. If you live anywhere within driving distance and like birds this is a cant miss show. Just fill up before leaving town this is literally the middle of nowhere with one lane gravel roads being the main way to get around. In winter when the cranes are there many of these roads flood so its best just to have a full tank and wander around rather than have a set route. And listen every now and then the sound of four or five thousand cranes in a field carries for miles.

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If your like me and love old barns you will be in heaven here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Trail camera whitetails

A trail camera set up on a bucket feeder filled with corn. The weather so far has just been too nice for the feeder to really draw in many deer so far but they are starting to use it.

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An old doe showing another whose boss

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Whats that blinking light on that tree????


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culmination

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For the last hunt of the year I decided to forsake the familiar woods of the cabin to spend time with my father. Not that I was giving up anything in quality, for my father's place is just about the best place I know to deerhunt. The last few years has seen him tag a monster buck every year. But this year he was under the weather and had hardly hunted. With a pair of deer in the freezer already I was as much interested in spending time with him as I was hunting.

The weather forcast for the late season muzzleloader hunt was nice. Too nice in fact and I didn't have very high hopes. The first morning I saw a doe and her two fully grown fawns cross the path about about a hundred yards away on the walk back out to the house. I probably could have taken a shot as the doe stopped and stared before walking off but I was using an old fashioned "real" muzzleloader with open sights and didn't feel comfortable with the shot. All morning turkeys had called thru the woods but all I saw were squirrels. Well and a small herd of cattle that milled around about fifty yards out before wandering off. Another odd moment in a year of odd moments.

That evening before I left for the tree Dad had offered the use of his inline muzzleloader equiped with a scope. You know one of those that shoot like a high powered rifle out to close to two hundred yards. But I refused and took the old Thompson center. All was pretty quiet for over an hour then out in the field I saw a doe. And another. And another till there were six. Now I was up a tree about fifty or sixty yards inside the woods and they were on a route that would take them by at about seventy five yards. Right off I was thinking you big dummy if only you had taken the inline. The lead doe then stopped at about eighty or ninety yards looking out over the huge field they were in nervously. I seriously considered shooting but held off. Suddenly she spooked and ran the other way. But then she looped back into my woods followed by the other does. And there they stood for several long minutes before they began working my way. I picked out the biggest one and just let them come. Closer and closer they came till they were well inside bow range much less gun range. The big doe stopped and looked back the other way just as I centered her chest in the iron sights. At the shot she disappeared in a huge cloud of white smoke from the muzzleloader. Then she ran about seventy yards and stood there looking back. I was just wondering how I could possibly have missed when her legs buckled and she went down. It had been a long and eventfull season even with no big buck. I had passed on two smaller bucks waiting for the big buck that was rubbing trees as big as my leg at my cabin. But I had spent alot of quality time in the woods and had done my part in balancing the herd and feeding my family by putting three does in the freezer. A successful year in my book.