November Weekend
Short Story

Its the opening weekend of general gun season in the Big Cypress National Preserve. We enjoyed a four day hunting trip. The weather was not so good to us, a cold front pushed through causing us to lose a morning and afternoon hunt, due to the rainy and stormy weather.. We were not successful with a harvest, and have a reason why, but first let me update you on the progress of the BICY's new cabin at Camp Calusa.
As you can see from the picture to the right, they are finished with the new cabin. Freshly painted, with shutters completed. They have not furnished it yet, but have started on rebuilding the original kitchen. As you can see in the picture, they have removed the walls and all the contents, (its that big pile in the middle of the picture). They seem to be keeping the original supports and beams. The columns were made from lighter pine and the beams from both lighter pine and cypress poles. For those that don't know, lighter pine is the heart wood of a dead pine. Hard as a nail and heavy, it will survive termites and most anything, but fire. It looks like I will be updating you on the progress, longer then I expected.

  BICY starting to rebuild kitchen
New Cabin finished, starting to rebuild kitchen
Panther scratch tree
Panther Scratch Tree Panther claw marks on tree
Panther Claw Marks

Sugar Mill
I have been collecting information for a story I want to write about an area that is called the Sugar Mill on the Quadrangle maps of the Big Cypress Swamp. I wanted to take some pictures inside of it, so Hoss, Rich and I went to it, on Sunday afternoon after the rains quit. The Sugar Mill is a hardwood hammock, located on the former "Calusa Ranch". This large hammock has had several uses in its history, from the Calusa Indians, to the logger's in the 40's, but that's a story for later.

We went into the heart of the Sugar Mill, to an area that is most likely an Indian mound. As we looked around, we discovered several trees that had been pushed down and a few of them snapped off at the base. This was very unusual and on closer examination, discovered these trees were panther scratch trees. These trees had scratch marks of various ages on them, some old and some very new. When we realized what we were looking at, we quickly started scanning the tree limbs of the large oaks that were above us. We didn't want the surprise of a panther dropping in on us. In the dark twilight of this hammock, it would be easy to miss a big cat up on a large oak limb.

This leads me, to what we think is the reason we are not being successful in our hunts this year. Panther sign has been strong in the area around the camps. Few deer, hog and raccoon tracks have been seen this year. The theory is that the deer and hog have left because of  panthers, and the raccoons, well the panther(s) probably thought they were delicious. Anyhow that's our theory, we prefer that over the other theory, that we have poachers in the area. FWC officers have not been seen in our area lately.

On the trip out to the hard road, I got turned around a little, (no! not lost!). We saw some country that we had not seen before and probably will not be allowed to see again, after the designated trails are in. We ended up going way east of our normal route, and now I have a few more pictures of camps to add to the camp pages. I learned a long time ago, if you keep going south, eventually you will find the hard road, Its hard to miss, since it stretches across the state.

For those that are wondering, the hardened trail is getting worse and worse. Its getting so bad that, some ORV's are running along side of it because its smoother. (That's why the prairie's ended up with so many tracks side by side, Mr. Donahue). I hope the NPS rethinks their building (oops, I mean repair of existing trail) technique, if these trails are going to last.

  Camp in Hardwood Island
New camp for camp pages
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Story by Steve - November, 2002