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“Scat”

Linda K Burch © June 2007

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“I’m so excited," I squealed as I left a voice message for Deb on her cell phone. “I found bear scat as big around as my forearm and 20 inches long." When Deb returned my call, she shared the excitement of my “discovery." She is one of the few people I know who could, uh, appreciate the beauty of my find.

There are a number of topics in life that are generally understood to be off limits in most ‘social’ situations. Among them are politics, religion, sex, sharing too much dirty laundry about your life, and dare I say it, scat.

You would think as much homage as we pay to the raw materials of scat, that the topic itself would be more, uh, palatable. By raw materials, I of course mean food. From restaurants, to cookbooks, to State Fair competitions, to barbeques, what we put into our mouths has been nearly idolized throughout history and especially in our modern times. On the other hand, discussion of where food ultimately ends up has been selectively avoided as being repugnant and even as a brand of social gaffe. We humans are a curious breed with scat. We contort our faces over scat, yet we then have a curiosity to look down the hole of an outhouse with a flashlight. Even scatological humor is labeled as sophomoric at best and disgusting at worst. That is not to be confused with eschatological discussions however. We use scat references for profanity in too many ways to note here, and scat has more names and euphemisms than just about any other substance. Scat has really gotten a bad rep, when in reality there is so much we can learn from it and so many benefits to be derived from it.

Photo of bear scat found on one of my food plots, end of May 2007
I won’t belabor the importance of scat, but its significance as fertilizer alone gives it credibility. The condition of scat is an indicator of our health, and lack thereof. We are ordered by doctors to have certain scat related tests after age 50, which while often humiliating, could literally save our lives. Scat was a favorite topic of Sigmund Freud who seemed downright fixated on it. Dogs and other animals identify each other via scat and a lot of raw humor seems to include references to scat. Ironically, the Bible nearly vilifies scat in various places. The fact is, scat is simply a byproduct of our amazingly created bodies, like ash is to burnt firewood.

The topic of scat is nearly passé with us hunters however. Hunting has its own scat psychology (scatology?). To know, accept, understand, appreciate and study scat is very important to the hunter. New hunters are always a little taken aback by the matter-of-fact way that scat talk is bandied about by us veterans. I must admit, I was appalled and grossed out the first time a hunting buddy told me that wild turkeys eat the corn out of cattle scat so cattle fields were a good place to hunt turkeys. Ewwww.

The 340 pound bear I arrowed last Sept... it's scat was smaller than that found in May 2007 (photo above)
Hunters know that deer pellet scat is the sign of does and fawns, while clumped deer scat is usually that of an adult buck. Turkey scat is less offensive in terms of size and odor, but still one of the better sign indicators for birds being in the area. And really big bear scat is just plain thrilling - to me anyway.

Being able to identify scat is a great tool in scouting a hunting area. Knowing the various animals in your area, and knowing what they eat can give you many indicators of animal behaviors. For example, you can determine where animals are traveling, how big their range is, which animals are preying on other animals and which food crops are most attractive to local animals.

The next time you see scat, anytime or anywhere, instead of wrinkling your nose like a girl and cussing because it got inextricably embedded in the tread of your hunting boots, appreciate instead the miracle of its creation and the wealth of information it could provide you. Find yourself a stick, and poke around in it. And while only another passionate hunter can share the giddy excitement of “good scat”, this appreciation can be learned like appreciating aged French cheese can be learned. However, I regard aged French cheese as being utterly worthless since it smells like scat but has no redeeming value beyond its hoity toity name.

Here is a helpful link for scat ID.
http://www.bear-tracker.com/animalscat.html

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