Outdoors enthusiasts were in a quandary how to enjoy winter staples when a polar vortex was followed by freezing rain, sleet, snow and wind earlier this month.
Most people didn’t go so far as to blame Jimmy or Phil, the honorary spring prognosticating groundhogs.
Some found nature’s winter artwork pleasing enough to move admiring and photographing frost, frozen projections, and field snow dunes up a few places in their enjoyment bracket. There is another nature to see, users found, something rarely seen other winters. Ice-coated limbs talked back to the wind.
When the sun rises, everything shimmers as though summer rains have fallen. Skinny objects tripled their diameters, encased in icy tombs, only to lose weight after reaching beyond a breaking point or when the sun hastens sublimation.
There are advantages during these chancy times. When else can we see every limb, twig, dried leaf, evergreen needle and stem prickle coated and decorated as though it was their final hurrah? Sometimes they are just that.
Marcescent oaks, mostly reds and a few white oaks, hang onto their leaves well into winter. Here frost and freezing rain cling to rounded or spiny margins. These freeze-dried packages of tissue are useful as tender parcels of energy for white-tailed deer who do not have to dig through snow to find the food. The problem is digestion requires valuable energy to warm the material to make it fit to fuel the micro-organisms in stomach’s four compartments (not four stomachs).
Coping with winter came in several ways for wildlife.
Deer, with their hollow hairs, walked about with snow coats, not melting, because the deer’s body heat mostly remained inside.
Few trout anglers were willing to wet a line, while panfishanglers were some of the first to crack ice.
Sturgeon spearing in the Winnebago System opened last Saturday and early estimates project close to a full season on the main lake and shorter on the upper lakes. First-day tallies did little to change those projections.
Unlike deer and turkey takers, spearers must immediately validate tags and their catch must be openly exposed while transporting to a check station. Outdoors enthusiasts, who like to spend most days close to a warm location, might look to a drive and walk through the registration areas. This can be an adventure for spearers and spectators. It still behooves some why deer management doesn’t take advantage of these same opportunities to “sell” the season similarly.
Guesses and sometimes assessments are filling volumes as to the impacts this winter will have on next spring’s wildlife, pests and vegetation.
Fungal scientist, Tom Volk, La Crosse, calmed the world by saying morel season will be, to a large part, dependent on April’s weather, not February’s. However, morels do much of their growing during the previous autumn.
Don’t be discomfited by taking time to enjoy the niceties of winter, even it means being outside for a few brief looks, smells and touches.