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Walk in woods not leisurely anymore

At this time of year, everybody, including our grandson, has developed cabin fever. A person needs to get outside, be in the fresh air, and see the sunshine, even during the winter.

Sunday was warmer than it had been in several weeks. Zane was determined somebody needed to take him shed hunting. At four years old, he takes his annual traditions very seriously. For as long as he can remember, we have gone looking for the antlers shed by the bucks at our place during the late winter days of February and March. We generally find some, which is always exciting. Zane can then go gloat on that fact to his mother that he found more than she.

His parents were busy when his Nanna and I stopped by for a visit. It did not take too much convincing to talk us into a walk in the woods. We had been cooped up about as long as we could stand, also. Shed hunting was a good reason to get out get some fresh air.

Two dogs thought going for a walk in the woods was the best idea we ever had. Dogs are easy to please that way. If a person comes home at night and pets them on the head, it is the best thing that has ever happened. Living life with a short attention span leads to a lot of exciting things.

When we bailed out of the truck at the edge of the woods, anticipation was at a fever pitch. Zane knew we were going to find the dropped antlers from my big buck. The dogs were panting and drooling, knowing there were going to be unlimited tracks to follow and perhaps even an opportunity to scare a turkey or deer half to death.

The dogs bounded into the timber and promptly scared three deer off. They were ever so proud of protecting us from the marauding herd. They came back for congratulations as we started our search.

Zane and his Nanna started down one fork of the ditch with Coty, the lab, leading the way. Dulce and I started looking on the other side. Over the hill, I could hear Zane explaining about deer and turkey tracks in the snow. He could tell which way they were going and how big they were. He could even tell if the turkey tracks were made by a hen or a gobbler. I am not sure how he did that, but he talked a good enough line, and Nanna bought it. Coty was having a wonderful time, bounding through the snow and smelling all the wonderful smells. Suddenly he stopped and went to stand between my wife and grandson.

Dulce and I were not too far away when my wife yelled at me to come over there. She had found some strange tracks in the snow and was taking a picture of them when I got there. Dulce ran ahead, crossed the tracks, and went to Zane's side.

I looked carefully at the tracks. They were about four times the size of the tracks left by Coty, who has big feet. They were obviously cat tracks, but as large as my hand. They were also fresh. Not trying to alarm anyone, I suggested we go look for shed antlers near the road where the deer jump the fence. Zane thought that was a good idea. My wife knew, at that point, walks in the woods have changed. Dulce stayed close to Zane and we watched closely while we made our way out of the woods.

Mountain lions range from 50-100 miles for their home territories. If one or a pair decided to take up permanent residence at our place, chances are, we would never see one. Chances are, a single young male was just moving through the area.

The chances are even greater the grandsons will not go for walks alone in the deep timber unless they are escorted by someone with a gun to protect them.

Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.