I had another few days of travel this week, delineating wetlands up north. Fall has most definitely arrived. We had temperatures in the 30s every morning, with hard crunchy frosts. Fortunately, it did not rain and the weather warmed up to beauteous sunny days. Yesterday, I got word from my boss that I won't be going back to this site next week. The delineation effort will continue without me, as I am needed elsewhere.
Of course, my initial instinctive reaction was disappointment. I love fieldwork: I love the intimacy with the land, being outdoors in all sorts of weather, the opportunities to see wildlife up close and personal. I love the variety and the travel, the country roads, the interesting people. However, we had a bit of a frightening experience this week, and the silver lining of office work is looking rather shinier than normal.
It happened about 5:30 Thursday afternoon. The sun was low in the sky, the fields infused with golden light. Because of the long drives to the sites, we tend to work long days, and were delineating a little seep wetland at the corner of a spruce plantation abutting an enormous hayfield. The wetland was isolated and sort of marginal in meeting the criteria, so we stood around debating the issue for a spell, but decided we'd better flag it. Soils were inarguably hydric.
Colleague was hanging flags while I dug the soil sample and recorded floristic data. I looked up across the hayfield and saw an enormous hulk of a man approaching us with a very large rifle. I alerted colleague, but we kept working, as he was still quite a distance away. When he reached us, the hunter was quite kind. He had hiked all the way over to tell us we shouldn't be there.
We had permission to be on the land, of course, as did he. The hunter worried for our safety. He said he saw distant movement, and had me in his spotting scope before the metal clipboard flashed in the sun. It was at that point that he realized we were human and lowered his gun. Apparently our orange field vests were not providing the visibility we had been banking on. We asked him if he knew of other people hunting that property. The answer was affirmative: there were hunters over there, there, there, and there. We were surrounded.
We thanked him profusely, and high tailed out of there. When we reached the safety of the rental car, we looked back into the field. There were several deer moving from the woods into the field, across a path we'd just crossed mere minutes before. We drove straight into town, in search of additional orange wear. We both bought orange hats, and oversized longsleeve orange shirts to wear as an outer layer. Those we wore in the field Friday, as we tried to safely navigate a landscape echoing with gunshots. It was eerie, to say the least.
I have never been asked to do fieldwork in rifle season before. Woodland Agency always pulled all field staff into the office for the duration. So even though the warm, stuffy office will have none of the adventure of field work next week, I think I'm ready for just a wee bit less excitement.