Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Hunt

We hiked north up the fireroad, an area (either man made or natural) that is broader than a normal foot trail and and is kept clear of deadwood and other combustibles. It was a crisp winter day and the path was dusted with falling snow. A light wind blew and Kota stopped dead in her tracks.  Seeing her do this I knew she had caught the scent of another animal.  I reacted to her by copying what she always does, taking in short breaths while moving my face slightly in different directions.  

From a simple biological perspective Kota’s sense of smell is much more honed than mine, but humans possess a remarkably broader range of sensory perception than most of us are aware. Throughout the twelve years of hiking and camping across the United States, Kota has helped me develop a sense of smell for signs present in those types of natural environments. For instance, it isn’t simply the ability to identify the presence and difference between carnivores and herbivores on the wind from the smell of urine and feces, I can smell changing weather, fire, moss (and hence dampness), vegetation shifts (identify old growth vs. new growth without seeing), and even the presence of dens or caves. Of all the senses smell is Kota’s strength, some animals are first signaled through sound, sight, or feeling, but that dog can retrace my daily movements by smelling the bottom of my shoes.  Mine is obviously sight, which is why her placing her nose in the air and breathing in short intervals signals to me to do the same.