In the Kingdom of the Beaver

21.04.2014  Ville Pohjola



The last rays of the setting sun throw golden spots all over the birch forest. The darkness is already taking over but the light is fighting against it until the last minutes. Those last rays mark the end of an early spring day. In the wilderness of Eastern Finland the shift between day and night is also the shift between winter and spring. The days are already warm but in the evening the temperature drops rapidly and the nights are still clear and cold.

The hunter is also facing the shift in light and temperature. Two hours ago he was wandering through frozen swaps and dark spruce forests. His target was this small wilderness river pool. Ice still covers almost the whole pool. Water can be seen only through one small hole in the ice. Despite the twilight the hole in the ice is easy to see because there is a huge contrast between the white ice and the black water. In this small glen river banks are still partly covered with snow. Dark spots where the snow has already melted indicate that winter is about to lose the battle against summer.

The frozen ground generates two challenges for the hunter. First of all, because the ground is icy it is also loud and it is difficult to move without making a noise. The second challenge is the coldness. After a long hike the heat under the hunter's jacket is high. Luckily the micro climate under the outer shell is slowly balancing the heat, and this makes the hunter feel more comfortable. The long silent wait can start.

The hunter's eyes are nailed to the small dark hole in the ice. There is a pile build from soil and tree trunks behind the hole. The pile is the beaver's nest. To succeed in the beaver hunt one must be very careful. Usually the first signs of the beaver are small bubbles in the water near the air hole next to the nest. Then the beaver might appear, but it is still impossible to shoot. In this phase only the beaver’s nose is dripping through the surface while the beaver swims a couple of rounds. The beaver is very careful and it trusts only two things: its own sense of smell and touch. If the wind blows from behind the hunter towards the beaver, the beaver quickly dives to safety. If the hunter moves even a little the beaver feels the ground shaking and the beaver again disappears under the water.



With good camouflage the hunter can get close to the nest. It is necessary to get close because the target is so small. If the beaver climbs to its feeding place, the small platform at the side of the nest, it vanishes to the dark background and is very difficult to see. If it dives under the ice you can only guess where it goes. There are fallen trees everywhere. Some of them are already finished, meaning their branches have been eaten. Some of the trunks are still fresh, and the beaver selects the one that feels the safest. The hunter should prepare by doing decent reconnaissance, but the trip to the river is usually quite long and it is almost impossible to visit often enough to gather enough information about the beaver’s behaviour. The short winter days do not allow it.

Suddently some bubbles appears to the surface of the water. The beaver has arrived. Hunter can easily see how the beaver nose is working to find out whether it is safe to climb to open air. All of a sudden a huge splash breaks the silence and takes the hunter by surprise. Water spills high from the air hole when the beaver realises that there is a foreign scent in the air. The wind has risen and now blows from behind the hunter. This is the classical mistake that that is difficult to avoid and happens when nature is not favourable. Changing position is no longer possible as the wind has already revealed the hunter. Today’s chance is lost, the next possibility is tomorrow. The hunter packs his gear and starts the hike back to road, this time with the help of a head lamp.

This harsh outdoors of the Northern Karelia is a real clothing laboratory. The distances between villages are long and the paths over frozen swamps, wetlands and wilderness lakes are challenging. If a man wants to hunt here, he must be prepared for long hikes, either with skis or with snow shoes. This is especially true when the target is a cautious beaver. The beaver hide at the most distant backwoods, in their own kingdom. One must be well equipped and be prepared for everything.

Otherwise the frozen wilderness may take its toll.

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