Looking for a Hand Out?

     It’s that time of year when many creatures of the northwoods are looking for a hand out.  Thankfully Stinky hasn’t been around looking in our yard but my neighbor has reported a few special visitors to his.

     Our next door neighbor Michael gets a little bit lonely when his wife is away so he has befriended a Canadian Jay.  These beautiful grey birds are quite friendly and are also known as Gray Jays, Camp Robbers and Whiskey Jacks.  You can guess how they got their name Gray Jay and if you’ve ever been out in the canoe country you have an idea of why they are called Camp Robbers.  They love to hang around campsites waiting for a morsel to drop to the ground so they can swoop in and rob it from you. 


    One time when we were out ice fishing and not catching, I kept myself entertained for hours by feeding these hungry camp robbers.  I was relaxing on shore with a bag of pretzels and the birds were patiently waiting all around me.  I tossed a few broken pieces onto the snow for them and they would soar in to pick them up.  They were having difficulties with the hard pieces of pretzels so I decided to chew the pretzels a bit before handing them out.  Before long I had birds resting on my cap, in my hand and on my boot waiting for more pretzels to be chewed up.  Luckily the contents of the bag disappeared before my jaw fell off and right about the time the anglers were ready to leave.

     Canadian Jays are bold, beautiful birds that will eat just about anything.  When we had bowls of dog food outside the jays would swoop in one after another flying away with huge kernels of dog food.  Most of the time the bowls were empty before the dogs could even get started eating.  The fact they eat anything is how they got their name "Whiskey Jack."  This part of the story is not for the faint of heart.

     According to legend there once was a man in the northwoods known by the name of Jack, who used to like Whiskey.  This part of the story is not difficult to believe because I know for a fact many of the people who winter in the north like whiskey!  The next part of the story is a bit sketchy but rumor has it a guy by the name of Jack attracted a Native American woman and she fell in love with him.  He must have loved his whiskey more than her because he reportedly killed her.  Unfortunately for Jack this woman’s brother found out and decided to seek revenge.  I can’t remember if he killed Jack before he strung him up between a few trees on a forest path or not.  But the Canadian Jays feasted for weeks on poor old Jack, thus the name Whiskey Jacks.

     Hopefully our neighbor Michael won’t start drinking whiskey to pass the time up here this winter…