Lessons from a Porcupine

20140613_204043As anyone who reads my hunting essays and articles knows, I have been in the woods hunting for around four decades. It seems so cliché to say that I learn something new every year, but it is true. This year has been no exception as I have had the privilege of siting in treestands over bear bait, here in Alaska. Sitting on stand can be very boring, so whenever any non-targeted animals happen to show onsite it not only breaks up the monotony, but it gives a person a chance to watch and learn.

I have watched several porcupines throughout the years, but never from a treestand. I usually see them from logging roads I am walking on or from my vehicle when driving. Since I am usually trying to get somewhere, I don’t have the luxury of time to view them for extended periods of time.

This year, I have been watching a porcupine around my bear bait. He is missing several quills and I have to assume that when the bears awaken in the spring, porcupines make a good first meal after the bears have cleaned out their systems from their long slumbers. This individual has had to have been harassed by more than one young uneducated bear. Also, it doesn’t help that he actually hangs around a bear bait site.

Another interesting fact that I learned by watching this male porky is he likes to lift his leg and urinate like a male dog does. He even marks certain clumps of grass and stumps like a canine would. I have never witnessed this before and it was a really interesting observation.

I also learned that they have incredible recall as to the layout of their habitat. I watched this particular porcupine climb and walk the length of several deadfall trees that crisscrossed each other. He had to have walked these same logs several times because he knew where to make shortcuts and where to step without even looking in the direction he was traveling. I watched him raise up on his back legs while sniffing the air and in a moment he pivoted 90 degrees to his left and stepped out onto a small branch while he was looking to his right the entire time. That is no coincidence. It made me even me even more curious about these interesting creatures. 

I am not researching them on the internet and they are not the slow, dumb animals that I have always thought they were.