This past weekend marked the end of most remaining hunting and trapping seasons. Coyotes, crows and groundhogs will be the only legal quarry until spring gobbler season.
Those who participated in the recent Mosquito Creek coyote hunt dealt with the aftermath of the short-lived thaw. A frozen crust for much of the weekend would support the weight of a coyote without leaving an impression in the snow. Windy conditions also impacted the hunt, although 102 coyotes were still harvested by more than 4,000 participants.
Lucky hunters received $160 for each coyote they harvested, but weight is still the main focus. This year’s heaviest male and female coyote each paid nearly $8,000.
It does not take much consideration of the above numbers to conclude a $25 bounty would do little to encourage the increase in the annual coyote harvest.
• While I was out and about this weekend, the discovery of fox, raccoon and skunks indicated that love is in the air. Many species will begin to seek out mates in the weeks to come, and this movement can be fatal. As a trapper it is always sad to see a furbearer result in roadkill, especially after nearly surviving the winter.
Those who harvested fur this year should remember that no green fur may be possessed 10 days past the season end.
• Bare ground created by the thaw will make things easier on wildlife and allow for access to once-buried food sources. Even though cold temperatures have returned, the dark ground that is exposed will continue to absorb the sun’s heat and expand.
• Getting around the woods with the remaining snow and ice can be difficult and at times downright dangerous. The promise of snow this week will allow a fresh pallet for identifying animal tracks, yet also will hide any frozen spots that remain. Caution should be used when remote areas, ice and frigid temperatures are combined. Slipping and falling is easy enough in western Pennsylvania terrain much less when inch-thick ice dots the ridges.
• Southern winds have transplanted some early migrating birds, but the end of winter still appears to be several weeks away.
The effects of cabin fever have begun to weigh heavily on those who favor their time outdoors. While throwing in the towel and retreating to the couch is easy enough, going through hunting and fishing gear can be just as entertaining. Organization can be the difference between wetting a line for a few hours or realizing it would take longer just to locate the gear. When one participates in multiple outdoor activities, equipment can quickly become in a tangled pile.
• In the southern part of the county the southern slopes are now prime for shed hunting, with the white antler contrasting greatly against the barren forest floor.