“He who moves first is seen first.”
I can’t remember where this quote came from, just that it wasn’t me. The wildlife that surrounds us doesn’t know either, but they live by its meaning.
Once at the Babcock Preserve I came upon some really fresh deer tracks in the snow. The animal had probably seen, smelled, and heard me, and bolted before I had a clue. Admittedly, that’s a steep downhill slope, but what amazed me was that the tracks were 20 feet apart.
That speeding deer was airborne 95 percent of the time. If you want to see what’s going on when you hike your favorite Joshua’s Trust property this winter, you’ll have to do better than I did that day.
Here are a few more quotes, and clues, to maximize the potential for interspecies interactions.
First: it goes without saying, but you’re better off alone. And keep the phone on vibrate. When you stop, stop at a tree – put your back to it and become the tree. Use extra caution cresting a hill, or any place where your view expands rapidly. “Walk slow, see more:” Nellie Teale. Want to take that to an extreme? Try “TATTW.” This hunting acronym means “ten minutes at a tree – then walk.”
Yeah, that’s a long time to “freeze” (especially in winter!) Scan – use wide angle vision and just look for movement, not shapes. Note the conditions. Wet snow makes no crunching sound, nor do wet leaves. Wind hides sound as well. A terrible rainy, windy day may yield a memorable experience.
Bright sun reflects off your glasses and flashes a long way in leafless woods. Wear a hat with a brim. Try not to wear conspicuous colors; this is the only season where white is ok. Look down and look up. If you’re like me, you’ve strolled right under many an owl.
Study the “tongues in trees, the book in a running brook.” Yes, that’s Shakespeare. Learn animal habits and learn your favorite place to hike in all seasons. Where birds and mammals are is never an accident. Anglers call it “Reading the Water.” Listen, too.
Perhaps the best advice is this: teach yourself to walk without looking at your feet more than every few steps. Practice. A walking stick can help. Just make a few of these things habitual, and you’ll increase your enjoyment. Dress warm, get out there, and look around!