I am addicted to hunting for bones in the woods.
My witch hermano took me to visit his secret tree shine at the nature preserve. Zooming right past the majestic tree itself, I snatched up a stray tooth and a rib bone and squealed, ” OMG, DEAD THINGS.”
That’s the kind of witch I am.
So anyway, now that I can find dead treasures in the woods whenever I want, I cannot stop. I guess it is good for my ADD to work quietly on a simple, focused task. It is a very meditative activity. More importantly, however, bones are fucking rad and finding things is a triumph of childlike glee that never gets old.
-You will need a container to put your treasures. I’ve dumped out a tin of mints on the spot when I found a surprise dead bat but a baggie, or something with a lid already packed is nice. Probably not a tupperware other people in the house use for food, they get creeped out by such things.
-A Very Technical Tool: a stick. Grab a good poking stick to root around with.
-Insect repellent. I don’t usually get bitten and I get eaten alive hunting for bones. Live animals to bite and dead things to eat mean the bugs are already exactly where you want to be. Be advised you may very well get attacked more than you are accustomed.
You probably don’t need
-A sieve. Unless the ground is very fine or sandy, a sieve is just going to get clogged with dirt, leaves, and seeds.
-Gloves. I mean, yeah dead things might have germs but so do keyboards, door handles, money, everything else. Wash your hands. Don’t lick your fingers or touch your eyeballs.
-A Shovel, spade, or other legit digging tool. More on this below, but suffice to say you are not going to be doing any deep archaeological excavating. A stick is fine, for real.
Owl tree, find it
Owls (and other large birds of prey, but let’s let hootie-hoos be the star today) consume their prey at the home nest and litter the ground with tiny remains. Don’t worry, they will be scattered about and you do not need to root around in owl pellets (although you can and may as well, you are already creeping in the woods touching dead things).
the perfect Owl Tree
This is the ideal Owl Tree, in order of most to least important features to look for:
-Big, Tall, Old. Owls don’t screw around with sad, little Charlie Brown Christmas Trees.
-In a wooded area. What I really mean is an area that is not regularly mowed as this will scatter or obliterate bones or any other goodies. Many birds of prey do in fact nest and hunt in open prairie where they can see small rodents easily, but these areas are regularly maintained even if they don’t look like it by homeowner’s association standards. Denser terrain is a better place to start.
-A little off the beaten path. The less human traffic and dense forest you can get to is where wild things like to be. If you can clamber beyond the landscaped path few yards, you’ll find more undisturbed sites.However, seclusion is relative; I’ve found bones under trees along the paved bike trails in wooded parks.
-Near a creek or source of water. This is ideal habitat for majestic flap-flaps to get everything they need and likely the tree will have been nested in continuously. Hence, more accumulated bones.
-Don’t skip a tree because you don’t notice any birds or a nest. Some birds of prey don’t even build them, but even if they do, they will usually be too difficult to spy from the ground.
Seriously, stop digging
All the bones I’ve found have been less than half and inch under the leaf litter and debris, most were right there on the surface. Bones aren’t going to be buried unless a human purposely interred them there, an animal buried a snack and forgot about it (not common, especially in areas where wildlife does not hibernate), or they lay in the path of rain runoff where mud from uphill collects. Like I said, almost all the bones I find I spotted right on top of the ground so digging any more that just scratching around with a stick is a waste of time. You might uncover something, but I find more bones in the same amount of time scouring with the naked eye.
Another time-waster is over-focusing on the spot where you just found a bone. This is where I am really tempted to start digging. However, excluding freshly dead carcasses, bones that are loose in the woods are going to be scattered. Reeeally scattered. Scattered by the animal that killed it, scattered by scavengers making away with the scraps, other creatures digging or passing through, and the elements. It’s hard not to fall for the hot hand fallacy, especially when you are in a groove, so this is something I have to constantly remind myself. Suffice to say, you likely won’t find a bonanza of bones right under the one you just discovered.