Baiting and road hunting

Frantically working 12 to 16 hours every day for a month to harvest corn in the hilly North Country, it was bound to happen: a corn spill on our dead-end road.

We sympathized with the truck driver. Our road is steep, narrow, curving, and more than a little rough, and the driveway entrance to our neighbor’s farm is cocked at a twisting uphill angle that no semi-trailer truck could manage. Even with a straight truck, the driver has to turn downhill out of that driveway, creep down to the end of our road, maneuver his truck around in a 50-foot cul-de-sac at the base of our driveway and go roaring back up the road in first gear with engine straining to haul a full load of corn.

Somewhere in the course of his eighth or ninth trip through this challenging circuit, the truck’s grain chute came open on the downhill run, and corn came streaming out. A lot of corn. Maybe a hundred bushels of corn.

On our morning drive to town, we were startled to discover at the bottom of our driveway the curved beginning of The Yellow Brick Road from L. Frank Baum’s book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” I mean, we are rather small people by today’s standards, but we never consider ourselves to be Munchkins.

Getting out of the car to inspect, we learned that this glistening yellow road was not gold, alas, but a four-foot-wide, three-inch-deep strip of corn kernels. Two days later it was clear that the spill was not salvageable by the harvester since it was hopelessly intermingled with the crushed rock and sand of the roadway. The hundred bushel corn spill has become feed for deer, squirrels, raccoons, pheasants, song birds, and other wildlife. From my point of view this is not a bad thing, although I am sorry for the harvester’s financial loss.

Someone’s loss becomes someone else’s gain.

The next evening I was sitting atop one of my deer hunting tree stands on a hillside that overlooks the county road far below. As daylight faded, I could see the shadowy forms of four or five deer emerging from the woods and strolling along the road, enjoying the buffet that this windfall of a corn spill provided.

My first thought was that the few acorns that had fallen to the ground in our oak and maple woods would be ignored by these deer for several weeks while they enjoyed the bounty of the corn spill, the feast on the road. My second thought was more unworthy: would it constitute “baiting” (a violation of the North Country’s deer hunting regulations) if someone (me, for example) were to build a ground blind in a roadside ditch and take advantage of the inadvertent corn spill to attract deer to within shooting range? And would this be a violation of the regulations that prohibit road hunting?

I did not spend much time pondering this devious plan to circumvent hunting laws and ethic, mostly because lurking in a ground blind in a road ditch did not square itself with my concept of hunting. Shameful. Ridiculous. And worst of all, I wouldn’t be able to brag about taking a deer that way.

But the tree stand on the south edge of our farm is probably worthless for the remainder of the bow season, although it is directly over a frequently traveled wildlife trail. All the deer are camped on the opposite side of the coulee, and they are making the short commute to the all-you-can eat corn bar on the county road.

My loss, their gain.

Guess I will abandon this stand on the south edge of our farm and move to the woods on the west side. Maybe the deer over there have not heard about the corn spill.

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About Jerry Johnson

Curmudgeon. Bird hunter and dog trainer; indifferent wing shot. Retired journalist and college public relations director. Novelist and short story writer. Freeholder: 50-acre farm with 130-year-old log house. Husband, father, grandfather. Retired teacher, coach, mentor. Vicious editor. Blogger.
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