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Learn to appreciate the outdoors

Every time I see a squirrel squished on the road I think about retirement, more so if it’s just before winter. I see an obvious comparison. The squirrels have toiled to get all their “savings” in order, although in their case it’s acorns and not dollars. And then, splat, life turns out to be too short and they don’t live to enjoy the nuts of their labors. I think of the many stories I’ve head about people’s lives where retirement hasn’t lasted long enough.

If you go to the outdoors with a thoughtful mind – or maybe I spend way too much time sitting in a tree stand and thinking – there are lots of lessons to learn from what you’ve seen.

Windows of Opportunity

One time at the edge of a swampy area I saw a huge salamander, black with yellow spots, about 6 inches long. I caught it and took it home, wanting to look it up and find out what kind it was. I learned that they only come out at night to feed. The only reason one would be out and about in the daytime would be because it was seeking a mate, and each year the salamanders travel by the same route to the same vernal pool to do so. I’ll never know if it was a male or a female, either way, I apologize.

Strength in Numbers

For a long time, researchers thought ravens were a gregarious bunch, craving each other’s company. Whenever a couple of them found a carcass to eat, they made shrill caws and croaks until more ravens assembled. Finally, one scientist figured it out – the ravens weren’t inviting other ravens to the feast. There were always one or two “boss” ravens, bullies that the others feared. When a feast was available, ravens called each other until enough arrived to challenge and overcome the bullies.


During early archery season I was watching a bunch of squirrels, waiting for deer to arrive, when one squirrel showed up with an ear of corn. I was impressed. The nearest corn field was a good distance away; it was a long way to go, especially since there were plenty of acorns on the ground. The other squirrels stopped what they were doing and a stare down ensued. Then, as one mind, they dove at the ear of corn. None of them wanted to work for it, they just wanted to take it.


Last fall as I sat one afternoon at a cabin in northern Maine, I spotted what looked like little periscopes in a group, swimming along in the lake. I looked through binoculars and saw with surprise that they were loons. It turns out that it’s very hard for loons to take flight, because of their wings are so small compared to their body weight. When young loons are late in developing – from late nesting or when food is scarce – their flight feathers aren’t developed enough when it’s time to migrate. The adults, following an ancient urge, leave the youngsters stranded. Lost? Hungry? Cold? Alone? They swim. They form groups. They cross land, they swim. Sometime along their journey, the wind is right, and they find they can fly.

As hunting season approaches, I’m finding I can hardly wait. Yes, the end goal of our hunting is to harvest an animal – deer, rabbit, squirrel, pheasant, fox, etc. But as you work towards that goal, don’t forget to relax, look and listen, and receive the lessons as they are offered by the great outdoors that we love.

We may be in the outdoors hoping to bag a deer or bear, but we can also just appreciate every day outdoors. Pay attention to all the animals and birds of the forest, for a more rewarding experience of your hunt. LISA PRICE/TIMES NEWS