November in the Big Cypress Swamp
Not Too Early Rising

Early morning in the swamp. Quiet and still, no wind to rustle the leaves or blow the morning fog away. Its the opening morning of hunting season, but today I am only armed with my camera. Tired, I did not rise when the others in camp prepared for their morning hunt. Rather then go get on a stand, I decided to savor a cup of coffee and just poke around in the swamps surrounding camp.

I enjoy noticing the little things in the swamp. A petrified sand dollar, exposed by the uprooting of a tree in one of the previous hurricanes. The lingering morning fog, leaving a lite mist in the swampy air. After enjoying the morning exploration, its time for breakfast, and chores around camp. This evening, We are hosting a cookout for all of the surrounding camps, so a busy day is ahead.

Big Cypress Light Fog Early Morning
Sunrise Early November Morning
Sand Dollar Fossil
Sand Dollar Fossil as old as the Swamp itself
Thousand Year old Sand Dollar

Hurricane Wilma passed through the Big Cypress swamp late in 2005, uprooting and breaking trees. One of the few benefits of tree up rooting is the exposure of what I call cap rock and the geological makeup of the swamp. This rock is made up of sea bottom, shells and other creatures of the sea. As the ocean surface receded, this material hardened into rock.

 In the picture (on the left) is a pretty well  preserved Sand Dollar. Sand Dollars can still be found, live today along the beaches of the West coast of Florida. This early ancestor of them, shows they have not changed much over thousands of years.

Big Cypress Cookout
One of the traditions in our area of the swamp, was a evening cookout on the opening day of hunting season. In the olden days, all the camps from the area attended, enjoying dishes provided from the surrounding swamp. The cookout would consist of deer, wild turkey, quail, maybe some frog legs and I'm sure an occasional alligator or two. As the original camp owners got older, this tradition faded away. About 4 years ago, it was restarted.
This year, it was held at Six Pack camp. Outdoorsmen from seven of the surrounding camps were able to attend. We enjoyed, deer, turkey, salmon, a mix of Florida fish and the usual burgers and side fixings. For a little entertainment, we had the Skunk Ape shoot out, using a potato gun. The winner this year was Jason, from the Kanawha camp. All the attendees enjoyed the camaraderie of their fellow sportsmen.
 


Jason, this years Skunk Ape Shootout Winner
(With a young admirer, waiting to grow into his shootout turn)

Little Pine Nurtured by Ole Grandad
Future Skunk Ape Hunters
 


Bigfoot (Skunk Ape) Expedition
As we were about to head to camp on Friday and while we were still at the Game Management Check Station, a new large fancy truck, pulling a new looking trailer, turned off of the Tamiami Trail onto Loop Road. In large letters on the side of the trailer were the words
"Bigfoot Expedition". A well financed endeavor, from the looks of the equipment. Our laughter, was muted, when one of the guys said "probably financed by a Government Grant!" Anyhow, we already caught him and he is an annual attendee of our cookouts.

 

 
What is this?
Breakfast at Six Pack
Rich, Hoss, Tony and "Ed"

What's This?
On a nice morning, we decided to eat breakfast in the outdoors. A "Great Egret" joined us. Now normally an Egret is not going to let you get within a hundred feet of them, but this one was begging at the breakfast table for a handout. We nicknamed him "Ed" and he returned two mornings to join us for breakfast. We guess he normally lives in a condominium area of Naples and was on vacation in the Big Cypress Swamp. He definitely was comfortable with people. He returned on two afternoons, to see if he could get a little more grub from us. On the last afternoon, he brought two other smaller egrets with him and walked right over too us, looking for a handout. Since we were busy with chores, he decided to move on to greener pastures, as they say.
Click here and here for larger pictures of "Ed"

  Story by Steve Nov. 26, 2006