With deer season now more than halfway through, I’ve got a somewhat embarrassing observation to make: I’ve apparently been infested. And it’s not what you think.
No, my hunting grounds are not infested with 20-point bucks, and I’m not sitting in my ground blind obsessing about which of the bruisers I’m going to shoot and drag home with me.
That would be great. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s not my dilemma.
No, my infestation is a lot more miniscule. And annoying. And, I suppose, preventable.
I’ve got mice. And other rodents. And they’re driving me nuts.
Generally, my rodent woes during deer season involve red squirrels, which have been harassing me in tree stands and ground blinds for years. This year, it seems that my little red buddies sent out invitations to their rodent brethren, and told others that they ought to stop by for a visit.
The first to arrive — I think of him as an advance scout — caught my attention one evening just before hunting season arrived.
There I was, heading out to the gas grill to cook up a burger or six. Otherwise, minding my own business. I opened the grill lid to give it a quick scrape-down, and there, looking me square in the eyes, was a mouse.
Sitting inside the grill. Where I had planned on putting my burgers.
Naturally, I was alarmed. I slammed the lid. I swore. I even considered (briefly) not cooking up the burgers.
Odd, I thought. That had never happened to me before.
It got odder. And worse.
A couple weeks later, I poked around in the back room of my garage, which, incidentally, sits about 10 feet from my gas grill. I was going through open totes, looking through various deer hunting garments, looking for the proper blaze orange accessories to make my opening day as comfortable and safe as I could.
I sniffed, appalled at a rather foul odor. Then, as I moved one orange vest to see what was beneath it, I found myself — AGAIN — face to face with a mouse. The same mouse, I’m betting, but most of the little critters look pretty similar, and I couldn’t be sure.
And that made a huge difference. Did I have a solitary, single visitor who had stopped by for a burger and a nap? Or did I have … gulp … an infestation.
And what was I to do?
My grill is outdoors, as it should be. If a mouse hops up there for a little nibble on the charred cheese left behind after I cook up some burgers, who could blame him? But my storage room? It’s dry. It’s warm. And it’s more or less weather-tight. Not, however, mouse-tight. And if one mouse can find his way into my not-so-secure fortress, so could a dozen. Or more.
As you may have assumed, my hunting season hasn’t gotten off to a great start. Well, my buddy got a deer on opening day, which was good, but other than that, it’s been a bit of a bust.
First, I couldn’t find my tent stakes — I think the mouse stole ’em — and I couldn’t secure my ground blind to the ground when I first set it up. A few days later, we had a windstorm, and my tent went belly-up, exposing my chair and an old heater that I keep in there to the elements.
And the second Saturday of the season, as I sat in perfect silence, waiting for the buck of a lifetime, I got another surprise.
A scurrying of feet, and a flash of brown caught my attention. Not from out there, in the forest. But from in here, in my blind. With me.
Looking down at my feet, I saw that I had company. Again. Not a red squirrel, which was great. Not a mouse, which was even better.
But a long-snouted, squinty-eyed mole, who had decided to stop by for a visit.
I’m thinking the squirrels sent him an invitation, too.
After noticing that he had company, the mole didn’t stick around long enough for me to ask.
No, I may not be a great deer hunter. But I’m apparently a world-class rodent rustler. And that’s got to count for something.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, is published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.