A quinzhee is an old Ojibwa Indian hunting shelter. When men were out hunting big game in the winter, they necessarily traveled light and brought no shelter with them. The quinzhee could be built in a few hours. First you mound up a huge pile of snow (We did it with a grain scoop; the Ojibwa did it with their snowshoes). Then a few hours later you hollow it out.
The mixing of the cold upper snow with the warmer lower snow results in a cementing of the ice crystals. In a matter of hours you can safely dig into the pile.

I’d always wanted to try to use a quinzhee as a photo blind to get images of eagles (or fox, or Coyote, or ???). So last week Ryan Marshik and I built one in the Blackhoof WMA in Carlton County. I then dragged a couple of deer carcasses that I’d been hoarding in my garage out in the meadow, 50 yards from the quinzhee. We put up a couple sturdy eagle perches and returned at sunrise the following day.

What we learned is that two species of bird that have the least to fear—Bald Eagles and Common Ravens—seem to be the most fearful and cautious. We could hear them out there, and a couple eagles did a fly-by, but none landed on or near the carcass. One brave Raven finally fed on the deer. After 4 1/2 hours in the cozy quinzhee (roomy enough for two plus camera gear and tripods) we decided that we’d been beat. Maybe they saw movement through the portals, or maybe they could hear us rustling around and whispering, who knows.

A few days later, Ryan had luck with a Rough-legged Hawk feasting for an hour on the carrion. I didn’t even realize that the vole-eating hawk would eat dead deer!

A deer rib cage close to the quinzhee provided more action with chickadees, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, and even an unexpected Pileated Woodpecker feeding on the fat and flesh.

Maybe the reason the eagles were so nervous is because the quinzhee looks kind of like a white Darth Vader! Maybe a storm trooper?

Below is a selection of Trail Camera photos. I left it out for a few days to take photos while I was at work or sleeping. The Trail Camera never sleeps! Interestingly the only mammal to show up was a very wary Coyote. He never ate from the carcass. Was my scent still on the carcass from dragging it in?
Somehow the eagles knew we weren’t around and fed at will. But never more than one, though I know up to three have been in the area at one time. Nine Ravens can be seen in one photo!

Advertisements