We have reached a new cusp in the Henke household. Prior to this, my dogs have always been specialists. Typically, this would be a coonhound and a birddog, sometimes with some ankle-biting rat mutt thrown in by accident. This is important because either all my dogs are psychics or my mind is totally porous and leaks like a sieve.

I can be outside cutting firewood, thinking I would have time to do a training session before supper. When I walk in the back door, whichever canine I anticipated working with is banking off the walls, screaming and refusing to get away from my feet for fear I might forget them. The other dogs are sleeping on the couch.

This works even more strongly if my interest is to actually go hunting. Back when I was into the big hounds, this was easier. If I was going grouse hunting, the coonhound would hardly raise its head. A night-hunting trip would have the house echoing with the coonhound’s bawling while the bird dog dozed and looked annoyed at the noise. Dr. Wifey always referred to them as “Daddy’s Day Dog and Daddy’s Night Dog.”

Nowadays, the hound department is staffed, not by an 80-pound coonhound, but rather an 18-pound beagle. There is still a pointing birddog but the new retriever also hunts during the daytime so if I arrive home thinking maybe I will take an hour or so to go hunting, all three are screaming, digging and trying to shove the others out of the way. Please spare me the suggestions; I have tried them all.

Taking more than one at a time is hideous. You cannot get far enough away from the truck to erase the hideous caterwauling coming from the second shift. I have tried getting the beagle running a track and then letting him go at it while I take the setter for a spin. A couple of close calls with coyote packs have eliminated that option. The ultimate solution has turned out to be locking all three in their boxes, loading the equipment in the truck, then releasing the appointed beast. The other two rattle the windows until I am out of the driveway, then are let out of the box to find a consolation prize in their dishes.

This does nothing, unfortunately, to stave off the psychic pressure they are applying to me so, in order to keep my head from exploding, I typically wind up making three trips so everybody gets a turn. I can no longer write about the great mindful melding with the wild which hunting can provide. I am reduced to being but a mechanism by which the feral Henke canines can commune with nature.

On the topic of communing with nature, it is now time to become one with the questions this month. For the first, I will combine a number of messages all on the same topic.

Do you REALLY believe/not believe in yeti/sasquatch/bigfoot in spite of all the evidence for/against its existence. You are such a genius/idiot.


What are all the insects covering the side of my house and why are they doing it?

It is not uncommon, in the fall, to find large numbers of various insects gathering together prior to hibernating together in large masses. You would have to be more specific in order to answer the “what” part of this. We see large numbers of lady bugs (ladybird beetles), boxelder bugs (the red and black ones) and various species of stink bugs gathering for mass hibernations in the Northeast.

My brother just reported that the side of his house had a great supply of western conifer bugs, a species of stink bug that has been working its way eastward for the past decade or so. When the real cold weather hits, these bugs will all be in groups either under the siding or in the attic or cellar of the house. Last year my attic hosted a ball of lady bugs almost the size of a football. They find their entrances to your house by looking at the heat escaping — they see infrared. In the spring, they will see the outdoor heat and leave by the same path.

On October 19th, I saw a buck deer, a six-pointer, that still had velvet on its antlers. Isn’t that pretty late?

That is a bit late although not totally unheard of. The antlers grow in response to two interrelated factors — amount of daylight and testosterone levels. When the days get shorter, this triggers the production of more testosterone, which essentially kills off the live part of the antlers and, in the absence of its blood supply, the “velvet” dies and sloughs off, leaving the polished antlers. Your buck could have low testosterone levels for any number of reasons, ranging from injury to genetics to diet, which could keep the velvet tissue live for longer than typical.

Wild turkeys are total vegetarians, right?


I think I just took a picture of a wolf in Argyle.

Nothing is impossible, but probably not in this case. The eastern coyote has developed over the years with a contribution of gray wolf genetics leaving it larger and with far more color variation that the typical western coyote. However, a true gray wolf is a much different animal. Color is irrelevant as is size because a large eastern coyote can weigh as much as a small wolf. Good field criteria are the extreme length of leg on the wolf and the size of the head in relation to the body. A couple of years ago, when there was an actual wolf running around the Argyle area, the differences were unmistakable. However, seeing a big coyote at close range is still a treat and not to be taken lightly.

Unless, of course, they are trying to eat my beagle.

Bob Henke writes a weekly outdoors column for The Post-Star.


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