There are very few days on Presque Isle when there is no wind, and no sound from the city. These are the best days to record audio. Believe it or not, recording natural sound at Presque Isle usually ends up tainted with train whistles, Erie Sand & Gravel trucks reversing with 'beep, beep, beep,' and various other noises from who knows where. For someone trying to make a nature film near an urban area, it's nearly impossible and nerve wracking to say the least. I really should just bring my audio equipment every day. At this point, I need a van for all the junk I carry around.
This morning is one of those silent days. I pull a plastic bag out of my trunk, along with a sledgehammer and pair of rubber boots. The boots are cold and stiff, and I hope my feet don't cramp up before they can warm up the boots. Inside the plastic bag is a large wad of sheep wool, three glass bottles, a plastic tub, and a plastic squirt bottle. The container's contents are some of the most vile smelling I have ever experienced. Much worse than skunk--if you can imagine.
Yesterday's rain has wiped the trail clean again, and the slate is blank. When I arrive at the first set of traps, I pull out a vile of coyote gland lure. All the rain has probably diluted or eliminated the scents at our trap line. I pluck a dead grass stalk, and shove it into the mucusy mixture. Hold your breath. What covers the end of the grass is enough to stick into our man-made mouse hole at the trap set. Yuck. I have never and will never forget the smell of coyote lure. When I'm in the woods hiking with friends, I can identify the smell immediately if it is near. Thankfully, I have rubber gloves on, and can hold my breath long enough. This is the kind of stuff that sticks in your nose for the rest of the day.
Next is the coyote urine: a squirt on the trap backer. Finally, call lure in a nearby tree. Having scent up high will hopefully do what the lure says it will: call in coyotes from a distance to come and investigate our trap set.
The second set of traps has one that has been set off--but there's no sign by what. No tracks. No hair in the trap. Nothing. Carrie asked me to pull the trap, but the ground is completely frozen. I beat the ground with my hammer, trying to loosen the stakes. No luck. They are stuck. Sometimes I wonder what watches me while I'm tending to the trap line. Surely, carrying all this stinky stuff attracts someone's attention. When I did this study ten years ago, one of the few things we did learn before both coyotes left the peninsula was that coyotes like to follow people. If the coyotes were active, they would eventually follow me on the trails. Not in view, of course. But somewhere just out of view in the thick bayberry bushes, they would follow me up and down the trail until, I guessed, they got bored. Who was studying who here is probably the real question.
I call Carrie and she agrees that if we have to leave the trap we might as well reset it. I now work on reseting the trap without the trappers setting tongs, trappers cap or trappers fork. These are all tools to help prevent getting your fingers snapped in the trap while setting, and to help give leverage to open the trap. The trappers tongs are handy for people with small hands, like me. I open the trap with my feet, and swing the loose jaw towards the dog so I can push it down and set the pan at the right height. Into the ground, pack, pack, pack. First around the trap, then, carefully, inside. Next, sift dirt over top. Make a divit where the pan is--never for get where your trap pan is, scent, sticks, more sticks. Leaves, okay. I'm satisfied with the set and quickly leave the area. On to set three.
I hear a deer thunder away as I crest the dune. The last trap is empty, too. I rescent this, and leave. Back down on the trail, barely visible, are coyote tracks. The sandy portions have frozen with the overnight temperatures, and so even I barely leave a mark with my boots. Yesterday's puddles have frozen solid and clear. A mosiac of brown oak leaves caught within the ice. Things like this never come out in photographs.