Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Monday Jan. 16, 2012 -- Chilly and low on coyotes

Monday, January 16, 2012:  That was a true polar blast. Still, it was little more than seasonable.

I did loads of outdoors time and it was actually feeling mighty good out there once the chill was nudged out by brisk activity.


I metal detected a Pinelands spot where an old hunting lodge once stood, prior to 1925 (burn down date).  I’d been there a couple times in the past, looking for a highly desirable albeit oft overlooked collectible: lead patch weights. 


Patch weights are smallish (maybe two inches by 2.5 inches) square or rectangular sheets of lead. They are thin and easily shaped with light hand pressure. They were tacked (lightly nailed) onto the bottom of wooden decoys to make them bottom heavy, allowing for a more tenacious uprightness, especially those slightly top heavy decoys with raised necks. 


Though patch weights can still easily be made, the weathered look they acquire over decades in the ground make the ones I dig hugely popular with decoy collectors needing to replace lost weights on prize decoys. It doesn’t behoove the bottom of an expensive decoy to display four or more tack weight holes -- and often a discolored area where a patch weight once resided. Also, carvers often hollowed out a spot for the patch weights to reside. Not having one in there really shows on a display decoy.


Anyway, I only found one weight but did detect two highly collectible reloadable shotgun shells, circa 1920s, even more sought after than patch weights.


Nature watch: If you get into the woods (as things warm a good bit), listen for what is a very strong showing or red-headed woodpeckers. Though a year-round resident, the population has seemingly been growing locally, quite possibly due to some blights that have killed trees or attracted invasive insects.


These rowdy woodpeckers can easily be heard tapping around in leafless trees, even on the coldest days. This time of year, they don’t offer that loud staccato head-banging sound famed in summer tree lines. The wintering woodpeckers are actually tapping into stored goods. The species is famed for stocking up on winter victuals by jamming insects and seeds into cracks, crevices and holes in trees -- or even old wooden buildings. They often jam living grasshoppers into tight holes where the long-legged delicacies stay alive but unable to escape. That offers the woodpeckers a little fresh meat in the cold months. 


WHERE FOR ART THOUGH, WILEY: The local coyote count is down to near nothing. I base that on data like tracks, infrared backyard cameras (many folks now have them), motion-activated hunters’ video cams, and untouched carcasses of road kills -- that just sit around until the turkey buzzards pick them clean.


While I’m sure that state-assigned trappers are playing a big part in the disappearance, it’s likely no coincidence that New Jersey’s nighttime coyote hunt is also now underway, running until March. Great. Nothing our outback needs more than a pack of high-powered hunters firing off rounds at things that go bump in the night. What’s more, I’m betting nighttime hunters are far more likely to be 400 rabbits to the wind.


(OK, I’ll explain that, as best I can. You’re gonna like this. True story, by the way.


The Aztecs saw drunkenness as a truly blessed thing. It was simply heavenly to be bent to hell and back. Obviously, this was before they attended a soccer match or two. 


Anyway, the Aztecs were hot on their dazzling goddess named Mayahuel. Two of her main attractions were, well, mythological breasts. They not only looked great when depicted in life-sized stone idols – plastic had not yet been invented -- but the mammaries also magically issued forth a fermented drinking pleasure called pulque – from the same plant that would later be tapped for tequila and mescal. I’ve tasted it – from a glass, mind ya.       


Per legend, Mayahuel fed the planet’s offspring from her pulchritudinous pulque breasts.


For whatever Aztec reasoning, human offspring were just as often seen as suckling rabbits -- blitzed bunnies as it were. Therefore, a single pulque-swigging offspring became synonymous with the darling first phase of drunkenness.


I’m not sure at what point a mythological hottie breastfeeding rabbits leads to a drunkenness rating system, but apparently it’s pretty early on. The rabbit thing soars from the very first sip. You go from a one-rabbit high, to a two-rabbit high, to a three-rabbit high to a quick break to water the forest a bit.


Be it a divine calculation or simple unconsciousness, the Aztecs kinda stopped at a 400-rabbit high. It became the numerical height of utter holiness. It might very well be the same numbering system that had the makers of the Mayan calendar finally saying, “Screw this. That’s plenty far enough for a stinkin’ calendar to go. Let’s go tie on a  couple rabbits.” Hey, word spread quickly about Mayahuel. And whadda ya wanna bet that just about nightly someone would belt out, “400 rabbits of pulque on the wall, 400 rabbits of pulque. You take one down and pass it around …” )

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