I was touched by the story of your father's recent passing. 156" buck @ 609 yards
My mother passed this fall around the same time as your father. At the funeral mass Father Doug spoke of all my mother's saintly qualities. And then, tongue-in-cheek, he mentioned the "disease" that he had been told of that just recently struck the family...wedding engagements of 2 of her grandchildren...and the anticipation of future great-grandchildren. [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]
It's too bad Mom can only watch from on high as her "beautiful", "intelligent", "perfect" grandchildren start marrying and then bringing forth the next generation to carry on my mother's wonderful genes.
My dad asked me to use my Wautoma land as the final resting place for her ashes. I placed her ashes at the base of the young tree mentioned in the attached article. This tree is within sight of my primary deer stand where I spend many hours each year contemplating life's mysteries. This is the same tree where 7 years ago in June I came across a tiny, days-old, spotted fawn...the next generation of a beautiful buck.
As we smiled to ourselves at Father Doug's reference to the next generaton in my Mom's lineage, it seemed so fitting to again read the story I wrote 7 years ago about new generations of life under this same young tree at my hunting cabin.
Jim, you and I this Christmas will each be thinking of the loss of two special people in our lives.
But...Life truly does come full circle.
Life Comes Full Circle
by Len Backus
June 5, 1998
Early June is a time of fresh green grass, bright yellow wildflowers and babies of many kinds. Just 2 weeks ago my friend, Dave Boardman, and I had come within 30 feet of a sandhill crane baby still covered in down. Its nervous parents tried hard to entice us into following them away from their offspring. With wide-held wings and with head low to the ground, the mom seemed to pretend it was herding its charge away from us through the tall grass. In fact, we had just barely noticed the baby heading off in the opposite direction by itself, unpursued by us.
This is the first time I have been closer than a couple hundred yards to a baby crane. Nor had I ever seen one without feathers. The sandhill is one of my favorite birds on our 170-acre paradise. They come back earlier in spring and stay longer in fall than any other migratory bird. They are a different color in spring than in fall…though my partially color-blind condition won’t enable me to quite exactly describe the difference. An almost prehistoric trumpeting sound announces their early arrival in March. Well into late fall I hear their cacophony from my deer stands. Yet sometimes there is only a soft swishing sound. Then as I look up from my bowhunting tree-stand I see them pass silently in formation. Often only 30 feet above my head…they are on their way home for the night. Their wingspan is huge and the wing-beat tempo slow.
Today after arriving I check the birdboxes for activity. Last week this year’s first bluebird babies fledged. Photographer friend, Boyd Gibbs, had come out by himself on Saturday. He hoped for predictable activity by the parents in their feeding trips to the perch above the box containing 4 babies. Instead, finding this box empty, he set up his equipment at a different box. There a male and female seemed to be searching for a housekeeping location. Boyd’s shooting was successful and he spent quiet hours in his darkroom earlier this week preparing his close-up, frame filling results for sale at an upcoming art fair.
In checking this same box today I see that the bluebird pair did indeed set up housekeeping. The female arrives with nesting material in her beak. The nest is nearly complete and eggs will probably start to appear tomorrow or the next day. Now I set up my own photo blind with hopes for good shooting tomorrow when these birds become comfortable with my presence only 20 feet away. Boyd said he appreciated the photogenic perch I had provided the bluebirds…a bright-red shovel handle.
It would be great to get a shot there of both birds together, one with nesting material in its beak. In a few weeks, after the hatch, Boyd and I can both shoot the upcoming feeding activity, trying harder this time to be present before the babies fledge.
The bird box 100 feet south has nesting tree swallows. This box is the Zuern style, horizontal box. It is named for its originator, Frank Zuern. My company built the home in Oshkosh of his brother, Dave. Babies are present in the rear protected compartment of this box and the mom darts nervously near my head as I close the inspection door.
I notice baby phoebes are still in the nest beneath the cabin roof above the back door as I walk back in to take a break. Out the picture window the hummingbird activity is frantic around the sugar water feeder. We’ve also been seeing Baltimore orioles but none are present today.
Not five minutes later I see two small birds fly past the window a little uncertainly and I realize that the phoebes have just fledged. Kathy will be disappointed that she missed the event. Last year the baby phoebes flew first to the small table on the porch and we were able to watch them there close up for a while before they headed off to the meadow.
It’s time to head down to the marsh. The lower part of our cornfield nearest the edge of the marsh has always been a little damp for corn. Last week my neighbor who farms my field tells me he will plant that portion of the cornfield with canary grass to harvest for cattle feed. I don’t think the deer will care. They seem to like variety above any single food preference.
Nearing the marsh drainage ditch I notice in the water a single muskrat swimming slowly away. A "vee" shaped ripple chronicles his progress. The water level in the ditch is low. It’s been a dry spring, good for working the fields and for planting.
I angle over a little in my wandering, toward the spot where I shot my buck last November. It had been right on the edge of the marsh where the last little stand of willow brush meets the wetter varieties of grasses.
The shot had been long…459 yards…and from the opposite edge of the marsh. This buck had been the largest in the neighborhood and as the dominant buck he was responsible for breeding most of the does on my land. I had gotten to know him well starting in July when all the bucks hang out in bachelor groups, appearing just before dark in the hayfields. I saw him numerous times during the bow and gun seasons. Now as I approach I wonder if this next fall’s dominant buck will also bed in the same spot.
The grass is already close to 2 feet tall. Just two weeks ago it was barely above my ankles. I can see faint indications of recent traffic. Here is an antler rub on the two-inch trunk of a tamarack tree. My buck had placed it there last fall. I have few tamaracks on my land and this young one is the 5 or 6 year old offspring of an impressive one that stands guard over my pond nearby.
When I shot him, my buck dropped only 10 feet from the rub. I had leaned my rifle against the scarred sapling and included it and the 10 point buck in a picture. Now there seems evidence that a deer has been bedding only a few feet away. Doe or buck, I wonder, and will it still be here this fall.
But wait! There I see a fawn…a few feet into the stand of brush. I backup one step for an unobstructed view and the baby deer stands uncertainly. I have never been this close to a fawn before. It looks only a few days old…so small. Not five feet apart, our eyes lock for a heart thumping half-minute. The tiny, spotted bundle of fur finally bounds away through the tall grass. Movement in the grass halts as the fawn comes to a stop within 20 yards and just out of sight. I quietly back away.
What a feeling! The odds are good that this is actually the offspring of my buck, discovered so close to where its father’s life ended. The breeding season is usually nearly complete when the November gun deer season starts. Each mature doe becomes ready for breeding at a slightly different time. When she is ready all the bucks in the area sense it. However, it is the oldest and dominant buck that keeps the youths at bay while he services her, passing on his characteristics to the local deer herd.
Now quietly sitting back inside the cabin I savor this profound moment. The image of the fawn’s father is forever memorialized on the wall above the door. It has a large white throat patch, widespread antlers and just the nubby start of a second brow tine on his left side. If today’s fawn is a buck I might someday see, in the late July hayfield, a copy of this magnificent animal.