Out and About with Bob

Bob Lamb

Early Tuesday morning brought about memories of my good and bad times turkey hunting.
Walking out to retrieve our morning newspaper from the mailbox, I noticed three turkey hens feeding in the frosty alfalfa field bordering our condo in the valley. They didn’t see me.
High above on the hill was a huge gobbler strutting his stuff in the early morning sun. He didn’t see me either. What I did know from years of unsuccessful and successful hunts is that tom turkeys often find the highest point in a field to show off the radiance of their feathers in the rising sun.
The gobbler created a sparkling display as he slowly turned around in a circle. The “girls” were unfazed by his passionate strutting and continued foraging among the alfalfa shoots.
I walked ever so slowly to the house, grabbed a box call from the garage and sneaked back out where I could see all four turkeys.
Hiding behind bushes, I began calling to the tall tom. Just as I suspected, he gobbled, then displayed again, watching the hens ever so closely.
A few more soft yelps from my call and the hens moved several yards closer to me. The gobbler, as usual, followed the hens toward me. I made a few more soft, intermittent yelps. The hens moved closer, then veered off and with heads down and walked away. The gobbler wasn’t far behind them.
As I watched all four birds disappear behind the hill, I couldn’t help but think I could have called all of them in close enough for a shot at the gobbler. Then I chuckled and remembered all the times it failed even when I was in full camouflage and actually hunting.
Regardless, it was a great way to greet another morning.
Meanwhile, across the Mississippi River, Minnesota DNR conservation officer Tyler Ramaker, in La Crescent, checked turkey hunters, some of whom were having success in the middle of the season. Multiple urban wildlife calls were handled. Morel mushrooms are making their first appearance but so is poison ivy, so be careful!
Mitch Boyum, a DNR conservation officer stationed in Rushford, reports morel mushroom gatherers are out in force. Many folks took to the woods looking for the mushroom. Most were successful. Trespass calls were down. Trout anglers have been doing well. Turkey hunters have been having a tough go of it, with reports of toms not responding to calls or decoys and not much gobbling.
DNR conservation officer Tom Hemker, in Winona, reports calls about fawns in unusual locations have started. He checked anglers on the river and turkey hunters around the area. There were also people out finding mushrooms.
Remember to take a kid hunting or fishing. It will be the best thing you ever did.
Until we meet, have a great day outdoors.

Jerry Davis

From Southern Wisconsin

Most everything turns green in spring, but late frosts may necessitate re-growing or even replanting. 
Recruitment within populations, animals or plants, is not perfect, either.
Putting all measures of success on one event can lead to failure and discontent.
Morel mushroom gathering and wild turkey hunting have not been favorable to all participants this spring, but adding another element or two to these treks may alleviate frustration or disappointment.
If morels fail to produce motherlodes, as was the case last year, too, take time to notice orchids flowering, asparagus shooting and turkey poults calling to mom when on a field or forest foray.
Fewer mature tom gobblers answering can be offset by noticing the start of deer antlers on a buck’s head, a male ruby-throated hummingbird doing its arc-positioned mating flight, or finding an ahead-of-schedule fawn.
“We may be an outlier,” said Doug Williams, at D W Sports Center in Portage.  “The mushrooms are just starting and there is a good number of turkeys in some areas. Hunters should remember turkeys are going to be where the food is, not where we always hunt them.”
Williams says to watch when we have some normal, warmer weather, a few days in a row, and then hit the woods for morels and gardens or roadsides for asparagus.
So far, morel picking has been only a bit better than 2020, when hunters and buyers dubbed the season as the “worst year ever.”
Don’t give up on morels just yet, but reduce expectations. If they don’t get their start soon, they may not respond to favorable conditions arriving late.
There have been more than the usual difficulties seeing what few mushrooms there are.
One mushroom tried to emerge through a crack in spent elm tree bark. Another morel was wrapped as though inside an oak leaf tortellini. One picker described feeling them in tall grass because they could not be seen after a recent spurt of grass growth.
Still, the Muscoda Morel Festival is on again after skipping 2020. The village is split between Grant County (mostly), with a few residents claiming Iowa County as the village’s location.
There are a few other edible fungi species if identification confidence is sound. Sulphur fungi are likely to appear as early as Memorial Day and last until October.
Turkey hunters registered 17,287 birds during periods A and B this spring. For the same hunting periods during 2020, 20,049 birds were “phoned” in. Youth hunters killed more birds in 2021 (3,207) than in 2020 (2,881).
Often-occurring bad luck accounts for turkeys walking or flying out of range.
Wayne Smith, in Lafayette County, had several things go wrong during period C. A bird came in behind him, he turned only to see another bird come in and chase the responding gobbler away. 
“Most times when something goes wrong, it’s usually in the turkey’s favor,” he chuckled.
Not all was bad news though because more than 17,000 birds were taken during the first two periods.
Also, some hunters have reported hunts-of-lifetimes. Hunters have heard turkey chicks and hen turkeys making assembly sounds, even though the young are too small to see over vegetation.
Numerous orchids are in bud stage or have opening flowers, including yellow lady’s slipper and showy orchis. Less showy, but just as interesting, are the prairie shooting-star (pictured) and Jack-in-the-pulpit.
Wild asparagus is amassing stalks, albeit slowly. Roadside grass is over-topping the edible “grass” though.
Some small ponds in Green County near Monticello are producing great panfishing action, according to Don Martin in Monroe. Stinkbait is attracting nice catches of “cats” on the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers, according to John Borzick, at Tall Tails in Boscobel.
Kelly Maguire, at the Poynette Game Farm, was excited to announce the facility is well on its way toward raising 75,000 pheasants, up from 50,000 released last fall on public lands.
Maguire said the day-old-chick program is on hold for a second year due to staffing and COVID-19 protocols, but will be back in 2022.
Conifers are developing seed and pollen cones. Pines are producing “candles,” new stems with latent needles yet to shoot out.
Fox and gray squirrels have found an early “nut” to substitute for many forms of hard mast. Early soft maple fruits, each with one soft seed, are being fed upon for hours at a time. That’s what all the leaf litter beneath maples and elms, is all about.
Martin reported, without explanation that a customer found 20 turkey carcasses in Green County.
When relying on a wild meal for a change in menu, involve some planning and scouting to confirm locations fit for an endeavor. Very few of nature’s items are spread evenly.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 608-924-1112

Wild Birds Unlimited

Karen Perry from Wild Birds Unlimited

May has arrived and the hummingbirds and orioles are back to everyone’s delight!
Let’s remember to keep our nectar fresh (no coloring please, it’s simply not necessary). Make sure you keep the jelly out as well.
The oranges will only be devoured at the beginning of the orioles arrival. After that they lose interest so you can stop putting them out, or keep it up as other birds such as house finches will enjoy the oranges as well as other fruit-eating birds.
Also, keep in mind if you are not seeing orioles at your feeders as often, they are beginning to mate and make their nest for all the beautiful babies they will be having. Don’t worry. They will still stop at your feeder(s) now and then, but also eat a lot of insects during the nesting period.
Lots of nesting activity still going on as well as fledglings that are on the ground learning the ropes from mom and pop! I’ve seen baby house finches, red-wing blackbirds and a few baby robins as well around my feeders and baths.
Here are some interesting Nature Happenings in our area for the month of May:
• Hummingbirds and orioles return at the beginning of the month.
• Warbler migration peaks early in May. Nearly 30 species will migrate through the region.
• Peak of warbler migration is early to mid-month.
• Rose-breasted grosbeaks, nighthawks, wood thrushes, veerys and chimney swifts return.
• It’s the peak of bird courtship. Listen for the morning chorus.
• Nesting materials are being collected.
• Chickadees and titmice become scarce at feeders as they nest and raise their young.
• Mosquitoes can begin to be a problem late in the month.
• International Migratory Bird Day is mid-May.
Stop in and see us at Wild Birds Unlimited. We just got some cute “Hummer Rings” that you can purchase to put nectar in and train one or more of your hummers to come to your finger and get a drink of nectar. They are fun for children and seniors as well!
Happy Birding!
Karen Perry,
Wild Birds Unlimited, Onalaska, 608-781-5088, or www.wbu.com/onalaska