Outdoor Notebook: Harsh weather impacts bird hunting season
If you are one who does not like the weather in northern Wisconsin, just wait a few hours or minutes and most likely it will change. That statement accurately describes the weather that many turkey hunters experienced this spring. Just about two weeks ago, we drove to Osseo to hunt turkeys with my frequent hunting and fishing partner, Tom Twesme.
As we were putting hunting equipment in the pick-up, we heard the forecast, which said we would be heading into rain, sleet and snow. We hit the rainstorm as we traveled west of Wausau on Hwy. 29 and the sleet/snow mix intensified. When we arrived at the Twesme home, Tom was shoveling wet snow off the driveway. It was sleeting and raining as we unpacked our gear.
We were planning on heading out to an area farm to see if we could find where the big birds were roosting. That plan was re-worked and we decided to wait until morning. Friday morning, it was still raining and snowing, and the snow in the yard measured just over five inches.
The decision was made to go to a sport shop in Eau Claire to purchase a couple of the small pop-up camouflage blinds. Later, we headed out to the farm and set up our tents and decoys. We had our tents set up under some large evergreens and began to call, hoping that a gobbler would hear us. After sitting for nearly an hour, the wind began to blow out of the north and clumps of wet snow would come loose from the pine tree and hit the blinds over our heads. It took a while to get accustomed to the noise of the wet snow hitting the tightly stretched canvas.
Tom stepped out of the blind to get a better look around the area where we had limited visibility. Just as he stepped out of the blind, a hen turkey made the alarm call and ran away from our location. That hen was the only turkey we saw on Friday.
Saturday morning dawned with more wind and thick clouds. We were joined by our son, Craig, and his 14-year-old son, Jack. We sat in our blinds as well as several other places where we could be hidden. After perhaps an hour, we heard several toms gobble on three sides of our location, but none of them left the heavy cover to give us a shot.
After noon, we headed for one of the several trout streams in the area. Much to our disappointment, the streams were out of their banks which made it impossible to fish the streams. That was not a unique experience but a repeat of three of the past four years. With all the precipitation they had received, that was not really a surprise.
The next morning dawned with warm temperatures, light winds and clear skies. It was simply a beautiful morning to be in the woods. We were able to hear toms gobbling on all sides of us. As if hearing the gobblers was not enough of a treat, we could hear grouse drumming on two sides of our location. From my little tent, I was also able to watch a small pond where several geese and ducks were swimming.
I must admit that it would have been easy to fall asleep with the sun shining on the blind. All of a sudden, we heard a shot from the direction where Tom was sitting. When we got together, Tom showed us a 26-1/2 pound turkey that he shot on a very steep hillside. The hill was covered with oak trees and there were several turkeys picking up acorns below the oaks. The sun was what the turkeys needed to be active.
Each day that we hunted, we watched geese and deer as they fed in a picked cornfield.
Several area deer hunters have expressed concerns for the health of our deer herd after winter-like weather hung on so late into May. Many factors may influence a fawn’s prospects for survival. The mother’s level of nutrition during her last trimester of pregnancy is the most important factor governing the newborn fawn’s survival. In the north, few undersized fawns survive a tough winter.
Fawns born to a malnourished mother might weigh as little as two pounds at birth. Contrast that with fawns born to healthy does that may weigh as much as 12 pounds at birth. Few fawns weighing less than five pounds will survive more than a few days.
If you see a fawn that appears to be alone, please do not handle it. Most likely the mother is nearby and will come back to her fawn to feed it. Several area residents have seen bears in their yards eating birdseed. If you live near wooded areas, you may be well advised to take your bird feeders in at night.
Longtime Northwoods outdoors personality Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.