December 2004 Weekend
Short Story

December in the Big Cypress Swamp is the time when the swamps start drying up. It is also the time that Cold Fronts start passing through. Every four or five days a new front will push through. This provides interesting and colorful sunrises and sunsets. While most city folk are sleeping, December sportsmen are early risers. They travel in the dark to a secluded place and usually have climbed a tree stand in time to watch the dark turn to light.
Some mornings can be bitter cold, with a strong wind from the Northwest, but this December Saturday morning was a cool and calm morning. So quiet, you could here the squeak of the wings of the Ibis as they flew by in formation, heading for a morning meal. There are not that many places in the world, that are really quiet, with no background noise, but the Big Cypress is one of them. I would imagine that most people don't know that the wings of birds squeak when they fly. Only in a quiet place, like the Big Cypress Swamp, is this natural sound revealed to those that quietly listen.

  Sunrise in the Big Cypress
A Big Cypress Swamp December Sunrise

Back Yard Gator
In a April 2004. weekend story, I told about discovering a gator living in the back yard of Camp Six Pack. Just thirty feet from the kitchen, out in the pine and palmettos, was a gator living under a pine tree. For those that know alligators, this would be a unexpected place to find one. After the rains of summer began and the swamps begin filling with water, the back yard gator moved on. Several times I checked over the summer and the hole, while full of water was empty of any alligator.
Now that the swamps are drying up, I checked again and there is a new smaller gator occupying the water hole. The entrance to the hole under the pine tree had shown signs that it had been used for many years by alligators. This new gator confirms that on a regular basis, when the swamps dry up, different alligators use this hole as a refuge. I imagine this little gator, which I estimate to be about three or four feet long, will be replaced latter in the dry season, by a bigger gator. The little guy will either move on or become a meal for a bigger gator, as less and less wet spots are in the swamp.

New Palmetto Gator
Camp Sixpack 2004 Back Yard Gator

Gator giving me the Eye
Last Years Back Yard Gator
(Picture take from about the same spot)

Turkey Gobbles

A cold front passed through, with a heavy rain for about thirty minutes Friday night, Saturday was cool, and Saturday night was cold, as the back edge to the front continued on by. By Sunday morning, it had gotten cold and we were reluctant to leave our bunks. So getting up at sunrise and hanging around camp, I was surprised to hear a wild turkey gobble, just to the northwest of camp.  Why a turkey would be gobbling in December and not waiting to March, I don't know. Maybe he was just enjoying the first real cold snap of the winter. It just so happens that I had just gotten a new slate turkey call and decided to give it a try
I gave a few soft yelps on my slate caller and the turkey gobbled back. He seemed to be about three hundred yards to the northwest, in a pine island. After about 15 minutes of quiet, I moved to the front gate and called again from there. No answer, so I walked back into camp and started to chat with my friends. After another 10 minutes or so, I stepped out the kitchen door and gave another yelp or two on the slate call.

Just out side of the open grass area, on the south side of camp, a Gobble came back, so loud, it startled me. Not more then seventy or eighty feet away, another loud gobble. For those that have never heard a wild turkey gobble up close, it is as exciting and unique a sound, that only experienced hunters usually hear from so close. This turkey would not come any closer, not braving the open grass area. I heard it make a few soft yelps, as it slipped back to the west and into a swamp on the west side of camp. I hope it remembers its way back to camp, when the spring turkey season opens in March.


Morning Ibis
"Ibis" in the Treetops on a Early Morning

  Ibis, my initial thoughts of this bird are why are they not extinct? This white bird, about a foot or so in height, will stand in the swamp water in groups of three to twelve or more and let you quietly walk up to them. When you are about thirty feet away, they react. The reaction is to fly up to the nearest tree tops and squawk at you. In the days of plume hunting, it is surprising that these birds were not completely taken. They don't seem to have a sense of survival that is inherent in most of the swamp animals. "Man is a danger, flee................!"
Nope! not these birds. Fortunately for them, they are not a game bird, although almost any of the older swamp hunters will tell you of eating a "Curlew", when hunting was lean. "Curlew" is another name that "Ibis" are called in the Big Cypress Swamp. Myself, I have never been that hungry, but................... that day may come.....................!
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Story by Steve - Dec. 19, 2004