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4/5/2022
Please connect with this link to read all of On Wisconsin Outdoors reporting on the wolf issue over 2021/22.  We will continue our work and our commitment to bring you nothing but the truth to the best of our ability. To have a PDF of our work e-mailed directly to you, please e-mail us at ellis@onwisconsinoutdoors.com. You are welcome to share this link or our PDF with anyone concerned with wolf management in Wisconsin or the future of ...
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Winter Country

By John Luthens

The winter sky mirrors the winter country. Bands of hidden dawn wash from Lake Superior and reflect the snow-capped towers of the pines. Colorless clouds come heavy on a northern wind, killing any sign of a warming sun, dropping white dust and lifting whirlwinds of powder upward through the frozen forests of the Brule River State Forest in northwestern Wisconsin’s Douglas County.

Jays call nervously as I push out of the cabin. A red squirrel scampers in the white shadows of first light, bounding effortlessly across the banks and up onto the bird feeder. Five-foot high drifts of snow are scattered with corn and suet. The top of the feeder looks like an oversized ice-cream come. I leave the birds and squirrels fighting over the seeds and trek into the wintered-over land.

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A deer peers curiously from the edge of the frozen forest, hesitant to bound far in the heavy snow, conserving energy in this harshest season of the north country. She looks healthy enough, doubtless surviving alongside the other wildlife from the feeders in the yard.

 I follow as she paces away on a runway into the snow-covered trees. There are precious few tracks deviating from it. Hares have stripped the bark from the top every sapling straggling through the crust alongside, but despite with the built-in snowshoes on their feet, even they seem loathe to wander far from the packed luxury of the broken deer trail. I hear the whir of chickadees in the balsams, but other than that, the entire world is a soundproof chamber of white.

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It’s snowing again, but it’s impossible to judge exactly when it started. Feathers of white have been coming down nonstop from the pines with every breath of breeze. Stooping beneath tunnels of brush, full-blown avalanches have been sliding onto my head and down my back at every turn. I’m looking look like a snowman when I startle a pair of grouse from their buried den in a tangled grove of aspens. Clouds fly upward and downward as they erupt. It’s like being in a hurled snow globe with no concept of top and bottom.

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Forging for a short-cut back to the cabin, I push down into an exposed valley through snow as deep as my waist. Wade for a minute, then rest. It’s snowing harder in the open, and when I finally stumble up the far ridge and into the shadows of the red pine forest surrounding my winter camp, my jacket is open, and I’m sweating and unsteady on my feet.

 It’s warm and dark beneath the roosted pines. The feeders out front are alive with turkeys scratching in yard for anything the squirrels and blue jays may have missed. They sense that I am there but are too intent on packing away calories for the next round of snow and cold to pay me much mind.

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The turkeys are as much a part of this winter country as the deer and the sky and the endless horizon of white. They refuse to give in and scatter as I make my way to the cabin to start a fire in the hearth.

John Luthens is a freelance writer and outdoor photographer from Grafton, Wisconsin. His first novel, Taconite Creek, is available on Amazon or at www.cablepublishing.com, or by contacting the author at Luthens@hotmail.com  

 

On Wisconsin Outdoors