Predators - Observations of a Covid Refugee
- Thursday, 16 September 2021
‘If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure for a big surprise’ James Schneider provides further updates from the U.S. and it’s no teddy bear’s picnic!
When friends ask about differences between stalking in the UK and my new location in southwest Florida, the top answer is undoubtably PREDATORS!
And not just a couple of dangerous beasts ranging about to keep the game population in check, rather many different types of zero, two and four legged creatures all wanting to feast on one’s resident deer population, farm animals and if not careful, oneself.
I recently purchased a small holding adjacent to 30,000 acres of pure Florida forest preserve never to be developed. The land is higher and as such drier, and its proximity ideal for attracting game. However, as I’ve begun to prepare the property for hunting, the trail camera results have been revealing to say the least.
My first significant visitor was in the form of a very large, mature Florida black bear.
Ursus americanus floridanus is one of 16 subspecies of American black bear and the only species in Florida. Unlike whitetail deer that fall within Bergman’s Rule, meaning their size is smaller in hotter climes than their northern cousins, these native creatures can grow to 400+ pounds.
Especially concerning is their ability to climb at speed, causing potential alarm for what would otherwise be a relaxing afternoon in the stand with a properly stored Partagas. Other behaviour of note involves an uncanny ability to execute stealth raids on supplies. Even when food stuffs are packed in protective containers and strategically suspended high above ground, these clever creatures will climb and scheme to access the goods.
A follow-on investigation revealed sizeable tracks from two big cats that wandered across the ground after fresh rain the night before. First thoughts were Florida or black panther, however further research and measurement revealed the tracks were most likely cougar or bobcat. So, one out of four big cats local to the area…that also climb, are solitary but can be aggressive, etc. A different perspective altogether.
Of course, the objective is to avoid these predators and when encountered, make a significant amount of noise to frighten them away while allowing for a clear route of escape. My late father, who was raised in the vast northern woods of Minnesota and no stranger to bears, had a preferred method that involved charging the bear whilst shouting “ooh rah!” at the top of his lungs and banging a skillet with a large metal camp spoon. It worked, and always added a bit of spice for the uninitiated on his fishing trips.
The next several weeks involve clearing and prepping the land for what hopes to be a successful season for North American whitetail. Likewise, the game camera continues to keep a watchful eye for other interesting visitors. Bow season for bucks starts in August and I’m certain for more fun surprises ahead, both in the field and from what the camera captures.
To read more from James's experiences in Florida click here: hunting-in-florida