John Harrigan: Weasel bloodlust, lots of guns and hungry pigs of the woods

JOHN HARRIGAN May 11. 2013 10:21PM

It was a pine marten, a reader said, certain after he'd seen it and looked it up. And the very next day a man stopped me outside Ducret's Store, a sporting goods emporium in Colebrook, and said pretty much the same thing. "Cute little feller," he said. "Cute" to me was a bit of a stretch. Weasels are cute, and martens and their cousins the mink are nice to look at, but lethal.

A mink will, out of bloodlust, kill off an entire chicken coop, biting their necks. Oh, okay, so will a weasel. But weasels, being diminutive, can be cute.

Two weasels once accompanied me on a snowshoe trip, whirling around my feet as I slogged up an old stone wall on the east side of Deadwater. And a house weasel, a welcome guest on account of solving the mice problem, used to run, upside down, on the rafters in the main cabin at Clarksville Pond, eagerly accepting treats from proffered forks.

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A while back, a reader sent me an anguishing note about seeing his dog disemboweled by a coyote, a note that has haunted me ever since. Coyotes can be a love-hate relationship. They inhabit a niche left by our persecution of the wolf. While I love to go out and try to call them in from my rooftop deck on a warm evening, I have no illusions about their habits.

On the last Sunday evening in April, I let my dog Millie out to take care of business and then, just for the fun of it, made my best coyote cry. In came Millie, like a flash. She'd been fooled by my cry, but displayed the better instinct.

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The "gun violence" debate is shrill and devoid of facts and depressing. There is a wide gap of reality and common sense, I think, between urban environs and countryside.

Nobody wants to address what to do about 300 million guns, 200 million of them handguns, loose in the nation. Oh, they'll just go away. "Background checks" on private sales? Right. How?

Criminals and thugs will not be bothered with laws. Calling 911 to save your bacon or your family's lives is simply not a viable option. Even in the cities the response time is too late. That leaves those 15 percent of us living on 85 percent of the land, the countryside, in even greater jeopardy. What preserves sanity in the face of all this is assertion and cohesion.

No group seems to have a handle on how many crimes are prevented because of people having quick access to guns, probably because most such cases are not reported. But it is surely in the hundreds of thousands per year.

Big Media continue to get this story wrong. No "permit" (yet) is required to own a firearm. No "license" is needed to carry a firearm, obvious or concealed. If it's to be carried concealed and loaded, yes. Is this rocket science?

I have around a dozen guns. Some are heirlooms, and all have a story. Although some are cherished, in the end they are nothing more than tools in the toolbox to me. Do I keep one handy and ready? You bet. Calling 911 is not an option.

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"Hunting the Snow-Line," I think, would be a pretty good title for a book, the book that at this rate I'll never get to write, unless I make it to The Home, warm and comfy with three squares a day.

As I think I mentioned in this space a couple of weeks ago (See? Ready for The Home), at this time of year we see hawks and other birds of prey hunting the snow-line as it recedes northward, just as they hunted it on its southward march last Fall.

An old friend stopped me in the parking lot at LaPerle's IGA just the other day, and remarked on how many hawks he'd been seeing. "Hunting the snow-line," I offered, and he said "Wow, I never thought about it that way," and I should have said "Neither did I, until about the age of forty," but didn't.

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Last week I wrote about seeing a bear sitting down in Landaff, gorging on an ant-heap, and wondered about energy spent versus energy obtained.

And there in this past issue of Hawkeye was longtime CO Doug Galenski, in "North of the Notches," with this:

"Bears are very efficient in that they will figure out the easiest way to obtain the maximum amount of calories."

Doug's right. Not for nothing did the French voyageurs call them "cochons de bois" - pigs of the woods. A bear will peel an RV apart like an onion to get at food inside.

Which is why we do not leave so much as a morsel in our hike-in camp. Every bit of food not consumed is carried out, because there's nothing that'll ransack and wreck a camp like a hungry bear, although raccoons are a close second.

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Finally, an aside to readers:

I'm way, way behind on my e-mail. In fact, I sometimes don't even check it for days on end, which gives my kids the hives. But the bottom line is that if you want to get hold of me, don't rely on e-mail. Call me instead, at 237-4445, 237-5501, or 331-4414.

And, as I always say when I get caught up on written missives, thanks for being readers.

John Harrigan's address: Box 39, Colebrook NH 03576, or e-mail at

John Harrigan

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