The snowshoe hare uses white fur to camouflage itself during winter, but that doesn’t work so well if there’s no snow for the rabbit to hide in.
I always struggle trying to pick out what to wear when I go hunting. Too few layers and my teeth are chattering within 30 minutes. Too many and I’m slicked with sweat while I move slowly through the woods.
This morning was no different as I looked at the day’s weather report—high 20’s early in the morning and low 40’s in the afternoon. Not helpful. I’d rather it just stay cold all day. I settled on a light pair of thermal underwear and my light wool jacket because I was running out of time to make it into the woods by daybreak.
A short car ride later, I was crunching over the frosted brown leaves, ducking to avoid a beech sapling as it whipped toward my eyes. A dense thicket of birch saplings and briars spread before me. Not an ideal place to take a walk, but perfect to find a deer bedded down, hiding from other hunters. My eyes scanned the brush subconsciously, looking for signs of life.
That’s when my eyes settled on the patch of stark white among the brown of leaves and fallen limbs. It looked like an old enamel cook pot. I never pass up digging around rubbish piles for old bottles, so I decided to check it out.
About 10 feet away, I realized the pot was looking back at me. It wasn’t a pot at all. It was a snowshoe hare, in full-on winter fur.
Snowshoe hare shed their brown fur in favor of white each winter. It’s a great ploy to avoid predators: be brown when the ground is brown, and be white when the ground is white.
Unfortunately for this hare, the warm, snow-free day meant he was struggling with his wardrobe as much as I was. Instead of blending in, his white fur made him obvious.
I took out my camera and started snapping pictures, surprised by how close I could get. It dawned on me that the hare probably didn’t even know his white fur gave him away. He thought he was camouflaged. There aren’t any mirrors in the woods.
Normally, of course, the snowshoe hare and many other critters have great camouflage. It’s amazing how much wildlife you can walk past and never see because their colors and patience fool you into thinking they’re not there.
With that thought in mind, I recommitted myself to a greater awareness of my surroundings. I pictured a brown deer bedded down in a ball among the brown leaves, its eyes and ears slowly tracking my steps. I set my mind to find that pattern as I left the bunny behind and continued my hunt.
PS – The hare’s wardrobe malfunction didn’t last long. I hunted the same property the next day, and this is what I saw:
No surprise, I didn’t spy the snowshoe hare. I pictured him hopping around, eating and sleeping without a worry among the freshly fallen snow.