Outdoors Column: Trail Maintenance

We have an extensive trail system around the farm used for recreational riding, hunting, and wildlife watching. The deer and turkeys also make good use of our trails as they travel about the farm. With ash trees dying from the emerald ash borer and the strong winds through the winter and early spring, the trails are needing more than the usual amount of spring maintenance. Saturday was the day to get started. With three chain saws, the little tractor, and the Ranger, my son, grandson, and I headed into the timber with one dog. Whenever somebody is going to do something, Jag, the terrier is always going to go along, just in case we do something fun.


A person does not realize how many ash and elm trees there are until they make an attempt to clear out the ones that have fallen on the trails or cut down the ones that are going to fall during the next wind storm. We spent all day cutting and pushing trees and cutting a few rose bushes just for good measure. Jag found what we were doing to be quite boring. It did not take him long to wander off and find something to hunt. He is not choosey what he hunts, he is always up for the chase. Once in a while, when the equipment was silent, we would hear the dog barking, hot on the trail of something. If the sound was moving through the woods, he was probably after a rabbit. If the barking seemed to stay in one place, he more than likely had a squirrel treed. Whatever he was hunting made him happy.


By late afternoon, with a large section of trail cleared and clipped, we dragged our tired bodies back to the house. Jag did not come back with us, but nobody was surprised by that. He is an independent little dog, and nobody is going to make him quit hunting if there is still hunting to be done. We relaxed a while, had a cold drink and something to eat before Damon and Zane went home. It was getting dark outside and Jag was still not home. I was beginning to wonder about him as he likes to eat right at dark. He has trained me well to feed him at dusk so he can come into the garage and get rested up for bedtime.


An hour or so later, I put his food dish outside, knowing when he returned, he would be hungry after a full day of hunting. By this time, I was beginning to get concerned. Though he does love to hunt, it is unlike him to miss a meal.


My wife and I were getting ready for bed when I went out one last time to see if Jag was back. He stood at the garage door, waiting to be let inside. His dish of dog food had not been touched. When he walked slowly into the garage, I could see he had been in a fight with something. If he was the winner of the fight, I hate to imagine what the loser looked like. Poor old Jag had blood all over him, some fresh, some dried. His ear was torn, and he walked like every joint hurt. He flopped down on his bed and closed his eyes. I moved his food and water next to his bed, turned off the light, and hoped he would be better by morning.


I was shocked at his improvement in the morning. His ear still looked a little ruff and he walked with a bit of a limp, but he had eaten and drank some of his water. He was up and around, ready to go again. By noon, he was ready to do more trail maintenance with us.