A late spring has its advantages for wildlife, including deer, rabbits, bobcats, most hen birds, foxes and coyotes.
Those few species that change coats with the weather, like weasels, deer and hares are nearly invisible now. A rabbit at dawn blends in after it has nibbled tulip leaves. Deer are shedding winter coats and can again blend invisible in many drab habitats. The closer we are, the more difficult to pick them from the twigs, brush and few remaining leaves of last summer.
Squirrels, coyotes and gray fox become part of the habitat unless they move. A rooster pheasant awakens our eyes, but the hen standing next to him is nowhere to be seen.
Spring, real spring, changes all that, and critters will have to be more careful, be more crepuscular, creeping more at dawn and dusk.
The almost-never-seen mole has “come alive” and is tunneling in all the wrong places, across lawns, through gardens and across perennial beds. Now they move predominantly in straight lines to get to food and this becomes a perfect time to trap them with a scissors trap. No digging, no bait, just step the trap into the tunnel area and check daily. Flag the location for easy retrieval and avoidance.
Turkey vultures are telling everyone where death has occurred, finding carrion by sight and smell. Kettles of birds seem to circle before landing to feed. At dawn they committee up and spread to dry their wing feathers. Bird watchers call numerous birds feeding on the same roadkill a wake. That group name makes more sense than kettle and committee as the vultures gather to pay the dead critter condolences.
Moving the youth and regular turkey seasons a week later seems to have backfired weather-wise this year, but then there are seven days in every period, beginning Wednesday, April 18. Hunters carrying out a heavy load can get right on a phone to register and follow getting a confirmation number by purchasing another harvest authorization, permits of old.
Forgot one of the many locator calls (shock-gobble initiators)? Want those gobblers to sound off in the woods? listen to their reactions to pileated woodpeckers, owls and coyotes. Or applaud them with your hands, not with flat, but a cupped clap to make more of a popping sound. It often works.
Deer transformations have begun, not only coat changes, but antler buds and obviously pregnant does are easily determined to be in a family way. This exciting event will begin in about a month.
Fish, including walleyes, perch and some trout are excited about spring, too. Walleyes, muskies and lake sturgeon are beginning to move, comparing favorably to great salmon runs of the west. Fishing will improve when water warms more and recedes from recent rain and snow.
In spite of awful weather for the two-day youth turkey hunt, those who stuck it out in a covered blind may have seen numerous gobblers and jakes fighting among one another, enough of a scene to forget the game and marvel that either gobbler lives to gobble another day.
Ken Szabo, of North Ridgeville, Ohio, has been compiling ruffed grouse hunting statistics from more than five states - Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin since 1975.
With the drop in birds flushed and killed in many states last fall, Szabo suspects the main culprit in poor hunting is West Nile Virus. Some states have confirmed Szabo’s presumption with virus testing.
Here in Wisconsin, and elsewhere, the spring (2017) drumming counts suggested an increase in bird population later in 2017. That did not materialize in many areas for most hunters.
For example, 45 Wisconsin hunters responding to Szabo’s inquiry killed 148 birds. That compares to 244 the previous fall and a high of 379 kills in 2009.
It is difficult to predict what Wisconsin’s grouse population and recruitment will be in 2018, in spite of the point in the 10-year-cycle. Usually, the cycle peaks in years ending in 9, 0 or 1 and has a low point about five years later.
As green grass and other vegetation materialize, look for wildlife to become more obvious, giving a truer picture of the numbers having survived winter.