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Dick Ellis Blog:
3/25/2024
DICK ELLIS Click here for full PDF Version from the March/April Issue. Seeking Wolf PhotosOWO’s informal census continuesOn Wisconsin Outdoors’ informal wolf census continues. Please send your trail cam photos of wolves in Wisconsin to: wolves@onwisconsinoutdoors.com. List the county where the photos were taken, the date, and verify the number of wolves visible in each photo. Your name will not be published. OWO publishers do not b...
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Waukesha Truck Accessory store and service, truck bed covers, hitches, latter racks, truck caps

Waukesha Truck Accessory store and service, truck bed covers, hitches, latter racks, truck caps

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Waukesha Truck Accessory store and service, truck bed covers, hitches, latter racks, truck caps

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Spring is Mother Nature’s fresh start

By Bill Thornley

It started out as a scouting trip for the upcoming Wisconsin spring turkey season. I wanted to get out into the woods and see if I could hear some gobblers, maybe find out where they might be come opening day, and if they were out there at all.

Turns out they were. As I drove down the trail in the pre-dawn darkness, I was surprised to see two big toms step out of the underbrush and stand, almost defiantly, in front of my vehicle. They then slowly started to move off into the underbrush as I slowly shut off the vehicle and slid open the door, box call in hand.

I chirped at them again, trying to sound like the prettiest hen they could possibly imagine. They stopped instantly and did that neat thing that toms do, but hunters seldom get to see. At exactly the same time, both of them extended their necks and gobbled in unison. Then one of them puffed up and went into a full fan.

This went on for about five minutes until in the distance a real hen began chirping … that was it, they were done with the box call and off to meet the ladies.

This is the kind of magic that can be found in the Northwestern woods at this time of year if you are in the mood to rise well before dawn and go look for it. As winter retreats, the wonders of spring offer Mother Nature a fresh start.

The snow from our last storm disappeared in a matter of days, a victim of what seemed like instant summer with warmer temperatures, incredibly soaring into the 80s for a couple of days. Old Man Winter, an ill-tempered fellow on occasion, has limped away not to be seen again until early November. And if the truth be known, Old Man, you really didn’t deliver much of a kick this winter at all. Pretty mild most of the way.

Lakes throughout the area have opened up earlier than most can ever remember, and the sight of blue water is a welcome sight indeed. Mother Nature’s pulse is starting to beat faster.

The two big tom were the first, but not only signs of springtime encountered in the morning woods.

Pretty soon more turkeys were heard. Another gobbler cut loose nearby, and that seemed to prompt one farther away to get into the act. That, in turn, brought more clucking from nearby hens hidden back in the pines.

The chorus was joined by several sandhill cranes, and then by both Canada geese on the waters of a nearby creek and snow geese high overhead. Moments later the deep trumpet of a pair of glowing white swans was heard as they flew low over the tree tops. It was like Mother Nature had a symphony! The morning was waking, and the air was filled with music.

I became aware of a chatty red squirrel scolding me as he nibbled on a pinecone. Woodpeckers sounded a rattt-at-tattt-tattt as they searched for insects, and the rapid drumming of a ruffed grouse could be heard nearby. Somewhere in the distance a fox barked, and it wasn’t long before wild birds from chickadees to a chirping bald eagle literally filled the once-silent woods with sound.

And then through the fog came a sound I had been waiting for … ooooooo-a-ooo, ooooooo-a-ooo, ooooooo-a-ooo!

The loons had returned. Or at least one had. It was like hearing an old friend. The ghostly wails and long, drawn out whistles once again danced across the surface of the waters. It is a magical song too long removed from this area by winter, one I eagerly anticipate hearing each spring.

On kind of a chilly, gray, foggy morning, it instantly cheered things up.

There really is nothing like experiencing a new morning. Those few moments that exist from twilight to first light are nothing short of magical.

I decided to walk back to my deer stand to retrieve a large piece of burlap camo that I had wrapped it in the previous November to keep it from rotting away during the humid summer months. Might as well save it and use it again, I figured.

On the way back I took note of the various tracks I found on the damp trail. A fox, a couple of small deer, a raccoon, and small animals – perhaps mice. They had all passed, leaving their signatures in the soil.

When I saw the tree stand silhouetted against the morning sky, I wondered what had passed beneath it in the months since I had last walked out on a snowy November evening.

The remains of a small buck rested on a hillside, partially hidden by golden grasses. What had ended his life? Injuries from a vehicle collision? A hunter’s bullet? Wolves?

Deer Carcus

The receding winter snows reveal the fact that not everybody made it through the winter … this may have been the victim of a hunter’s bullet, a vehicle collision, wolves or disease. But with spring comes a new beginning in nature.

His death likely had helped other creatures make it through the lean winter months. The death of one creature is the life of another.

Across the landscape flowers and grasses are just starting to push their way through the soft soil, drawn to the life-giving rays of the sun. In coming weeks wildflowers, from violets to marsh marigolds, will again grow on the forest floor and wetlands.

It occurred to me that it was suddenly daylight and that the gobbling and chirping of turkeys could no longer be heard. They had either moved out of hearing distance or simply stopped making noise. The magical time had passed.

It was kind of a gloomy morning, and even the songbirds suddenly sounded subdued. It wasn’t the sunny morning I had anticipated, but it was a morning in the woods nonetheless, and it was a good one.

A light mist began to fall. It was time to move on. A few pancakes and a hot cup of coffee at the corner cafe sounded good. It wasn’t even 7 a.m. yet, but it seemed late.

It is time to shake off the cobwebs of winter and welcome spring.

Have you heard the song of a loon yet? Have you stopped for a moment to look to the sky as a flock of geese noisily fly just above the tree tops? Have you heard the growl of a lake as the ice melts and shifts and pops, like a giant awakening from a long slumber? Have you watched a turkey fan out and strut?

These are the sights and sounds of an early spring morning in the Northland.