Hunting treks offer a great opportunity to take in nature

February 1, 2013

Not much to report on the fishing front. With water temperatures in the low 40s and upper 30s, the only game in town is fishing for sea bass and tog in the ocean. We had reports of tog caught at Reef Site 11 and from wrecks in 100 feet of water, but the wind has prevented boats from sailing on most days.

With the end of sea bass season in sight, I would recommend booking a trip on a boat out of Lewes or Indian River before the end of February. So far this winter, the sea bass trips have limited out rather quickly, allowing anglers to spend the remainder of the day working on tog. Be sure to ask the captain if this is his plan.

Winter woods

On Monday and Tuesday I was invited to hunt deer on a friend’s property. He had killed all the deer he wanted and was kind enough to think of me to keep the seat in his stand warm.

On Monday it was bit chilly, but I was dressed for the weather and the stand is well protected from the wind. I am sure there was a time when I could get into a tree stand with some semblance of grace and dignity, but those days are long gone and now I am glad there is no one around except the squirrels to see me struggle, grunt and groan while attempting to twist and pull my old body into position. The one thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that the owner of the property is 10 years older than I am and hunts from the same stand.

Once in place, I load the gun and settle in for the evening. It takes awhile to become totally aware of the surroundings, but soon I am watching the various wildlife that inhabits the winter woods. The squirrels and birds are the most active and they seem to be in constant motion. The cardinals and sparrows flitter from branch to branch picking berries or scouring the ground for seeds. The woodpeckers run up and down the trees looking for bugs under the bark. The squirrels run hither and thither digging under leaves to find nuts they may or may not have buried earlier.

All will scatter when something that I can neither see nor hear triggers their alarm system. After a few seconds, the silent-to-me all clear is given, and everything goes back to normal.

Cardinals are the most colorful things in the woods, and I wonder why they stand out so well while every other animal is camouflaged in gray and brown? Whatever the reason, it does not seem to make them more noticeable to predators, as at one time I counted at least three males in one bush.

I have said before that the first bird watchers were deer hunters. All those hours in the stand waiting for that big buck to walk past gives one plenty of opportunity to observe avian life.

Unlike the birds at my backyard feeder, the ones in the woods seem to get along much better. Perhaps it is because the food in the wild is spread out over a much larger area with plenty of room for everyone. The backyard feeder is more like a boardinghouse table with all hands trying to grab the last potato.

On occasion a bird, usually a sparrow, will land on a branch next to my stand. He has no idea I am there, and I can get a real close look while he eats and jumps from one branch to another.

Humans are a bit too much taken with what we perceive as beauty. Everyone loves the cardinals and yellow finches, while the lowly sparrow gets no respect. Next time you get the chance, take a good look at a sparrow. They are just as beautiful as any other bird and deserve as much respect.

I was surprised by the lack of predators. I never saw a fox or a coyote, and considering all the prey available you would think they would be around. I realize most predators work the night shift, but my friend’s trail cameras have not recorded any. He has photos of deer, raccoons and turkeys, but no fox or coyotes.

As you have probably guessed, my deer hunting sojourn did not produce any venison. In fact, I never saw a deer, in spite of the proof of their existence supplied by the trail cameras. I plan to hunt another property on Friday, and perhaps by the time you read this, I will be putting some meat in the freezer.

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age.  Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast.  He has been the regional editor for Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine.  He was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine.  Eric is the author of three books; Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits.  He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

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