The first noticeable gathering fruits were American elm twiglets covering roads and driveways.
Yard grass was also coated with maple fruits, some still double. Only the single seed in each part was missing. Gray squirrels do this to eat the tiny tree seeds, including oaks and a few other nut trees. Squirrels climb, cut the twig, allow them to fall to the ground and then feed after coming down from the tree. Some squirrels stay in the tree and eat, too. It seems easier with the flimsy twigs that can’t hold a pound or more of weight from this rodent.
Other wildlife were roaming, but didn’t seem to be hungry. Some black gray squirrels were playing about. A raccoon, hen turkey and a roaming deer - maybe looking for a place to give birth to a fawn or more - were all enjoying the cover of the giant green curtain that dropped recently.
Turkey vultures and bald eagles seem to be working in tandem when a roadkill happens. A large, dead raccoon attracted their attention, likely the vulture first and then the eagles. It seems the eagles would spot the carcass and sometimes they do, but just as likely during spring and summer the eagles recognize the circling and landing vultures. Here the eagle has the best of its eyes and uses over the olfactory system of the vulture.
One has to wonder what would bring a vulture to an hour-old skunk carcass, the skunky smell or the dead animal smell? If it were the skunk smell that attracts the vulture, it seems it would be attacking live skunks.
Raspberries and wild strawberries are flower budding, suggesting we’ll have those fruits well before Independence Day.
Morel gathering has reportedly been poor again, leaving morel markets to price their lots up to $60 per pound.
Many assume the morel mushroom season is about over.
“There just hasn’t been that many,” said Brent Drake, at Tall Tails in Boscobel. ”It must be something with the late start and the weather. Even the rattlesnakes are absent so far this spring.”
The late start and now a short season have those picking mushrooms scratching their heads. There’s plenty of blame, from the elm trees that die, to the mycelium that grows large the previous year, and the spring temperatures and moisture.
But with the fungus’ complex cycle, a partner plant, and spring fruiting, the slim season could be a combination of many factors from the tree the previous year, that fall weather and of course moisture. But to blame one factor is probably short-sighted.
As poor as the morel season has been, there have been a few bright spots, but often toward the end of a long day walking when all of a sudden an elm gives up 100 or more. Most pickers stop looking hours earlier.
“I agree,” said Doug Williams, at D W Sports Center in Portage. “The season was short and the weather unusual.”
It may take summer and fall weather and growth to break the bad luck and give the morels a chance to build reserves to fruit in May 2023.
Turkey hunters are anxious to see the registration numbers from all periods including Period F, which closes May 31.
Jeff Fredrick, of Mindoro, has been bouncing back and forth between Minnesota and Wisconsin and says the birds are reacting the way subordinate birds should that are timid about coming close. He had time to change a shell in his 20-gauge shotgun from the cheap, lighter load to a TSS shotshell when a bird hung up at 38 yards and then went right down after that single shot.
“These subordinate birds have been taught to stay away after fighting and losing to a dominate bird,” Fredrick said. “It’s often some exciting calling that gets a bird to move.”
Wayne Smith, of Blanchardville, continues to hunt later periods. Sometimes he gets a bird, other times not, but he stays with it. It wasn’t until shortly after 6 a.m., on Friday that he shot a bird during period E.
Don Martin, at Martin’s in Monroe, continues to sell bonus authorizations for the last hunting period.
“Some guys have shot several birds. Others haven’t seen one or heard a gobble. Morel picking seems to have gone the same way, and the season appears to be about over,” he said.
Martin is one of a few who sells bank pole licenses.
“There’s quite a list of regulations, so read carefully,” he said.
Looking ahead, Williams knows the next passionate outdoor attractions will be hiking, camping, catfishing and searching for something unusual, such as Wisconsin’s early native orchids, the yellow lady’s-slipper (pictured) and the dark blue showy orchis orchid.
“I’ve seen jack-in-the-pulpit blooming and a lot of Mayapples, too. Shooting stars are abundant in prairies.”
Fawning has begun with some old enough to follow mom for stretches. This week, either side of May 25, is the most likely birthing date.
This green curtain drop suddenly changed other things in the outdoors. Small baby birds are heard, but rarely seen. Other small animals are tunneling through tall grass, while alfalfa conceals hen turkeys and surely poults in a week or so. Trout anglers are beginning to struggle a bit walking along streams and weed growth is beginning to show in small lakes.
Some deer antlers are beginning to fork or branch. They’re “red” summer coats are becoming common.
Mosquitoes have joined ticks in the “watch out” category. And baby robins and bluebirds are beginning to fly.
This year’s Wisconsin DNR Ethical Hunter Award was presented to Mark Moersch, of Stevens Point last weekend at Vortex Optics headquarters in Barneveld.