Sat, 23 Feb 2013 19:26:49 EST
Although the first day of spring is still almost a month away, Iím clearly having a nasty and ongoing bout of spring fever. However I must admit due to our unusual winter this year with frequent spring-like temperatures, Iíve been having these bouts off and on since Christmas, but it has been an up and then down affair, with the downers being when the temperature plummeted. Of course the upside to these downers is the fact I might be able to use my snowplow equipped ATV that has been parked and neglected for the most part this winter. I do love to play in the snow even when it looks like Iím actually working hard.
I guess what has put me over the edge is the recent arrival of male red-winged blackbirds. Just last Saturday I thought I heard the trilling call they make, but it was very brief and I never saw any, so I thought I might be wishfully hearing things. Then Wednesday afternoon, a flock of several male red-wings descended upon our bird feeders, and of course I was excited. This is a bit early for these birds to be arriving, so maybe they sense things are going to occur earlier than normal.
Just the other day I saw a wild turkey gobbler that clearly looked like he was displaying, which is usually the prelude to the turkey breeding season, but that is real early for this behavior. I believe it might be wishful thinking on his part, and no doubt heís experiencing an early bout of spring fever just like me.
But of course this is Michigan and anything can happen at this time of year. Just a few hours after the male red-wings arrived, a snowstorm blew in. (Not enough though to get the snowplow out, yet, anyway).
Probably at the top on my springtime list of to doís, is canoeing the Cass River, with my favorite stretch being from Cass City to Caro. Generally speaking, this usually begins in early to mid-April according to typical winters, but I have canoed the Cass in early March, even with snow still remaining on the banks. The key is to know when typical ice-jams (that occur in sharp bends of the river) are thoroughly finished and the river is running freely. I miscued one spring and it was clear paddling until just mile or two from the landing site when my canoeing partner and I encountered an ice jam that went as far as the eye could see, which was quite a ways. Trying to drag the canoe over the extensive ice jam wasnít wise or safe option.
Due to a very strong current, trying to paddle back upstream was literally impossible, so we were left with no other recourse but to pull into shore and drag our canoe up a steep embankment, which was a feat in itself. Then there was the half mile carry across a muddy, plowed field to the nearest road with a canoe that seemed to get heavier every time we stumbled, which was frequent. We flipped a coin to see who stayed with the canoe on the roadside (and recuperated) and who hiked about three miles to retrieve our vehicle parked at the next bridge. I lost the coin-toss and have ever since been more patient in waiting long enough to be sure all the ice jams are gone.
Actually I believe Iíll be canoeing down the Cass River sooner than is normal, but Iíll prudently wait and see because as I stated earlier, ďitís MichiganĒ. Then there is the fast approaching spring turkey season.
By the look of things, the early spring (mid-April) season turkey hunters just might be hitting a great time period for calling efforts. Iíve always looked at the earliest seasons as being a feast or famine in regards to getting wild gobblers to respond to calling, due to Michiganís fickle spring weather conditions. If the weather cooperates, the gobblers are more eager for a date, any date, because the hens are just starting to show some interest, whereas during the later spring turkey seasons gobblers frequently already have dates, which is referred to as being Ďhenned-upĒ. Iíve found that henned-up gobblers when and if they respond to my calling efforts, often come in silent. Early season gobblers on the other hand can get as vocal as serenading Romeos, which is a thrill and a half to listen to, especially when you realize their responses are coming ever closer to your position.
A case in point is the last time I attempted turkey hunting during the earlier season. That opening morning dawned into a beautiful spring day with clear blue skies, almost balmy temperatures, and vocal wild turkey gobblers. In no time at all I had several ďJakesĒ (young male turkeys) preening, swooning and fanning all around my hen decoy (that is actually a rather ugly and beat-up looking foam rubber hen - but those Jakes didnít seem to care). I had plenty of opportunity to shoot one of the birds but I could hear the deeper base gobbles of a mature ďTomĒ that was coming in fast and obviously none too happy about the jakes flirting with a hen in his near vicinity (Iíve actually dropped gobblers and have had jakes nearby come in, despite my recent gunshot, and start thrashing the downed bird in an obvious vengeful manner which is no doubt payback for previous bullying).
This gobbler showed up and began displaying his fan and was a beautiful sight to behold in the sunlight as he began to strut into shotgun range. His head had to clear one small tree trunk and I was caressing the trigger. Thatís when I heard a twig snap directly beside me, and my right eyeball instinctively shifted from staring intently down the shotgun barrel to staring into the surprised face of a deer (actually it was a buck with velvety protrusions just beginning to poke up from his skull, and close enough I could see individual eye lashes). The deer automatically didnít like what it saw and especially smelled, right in front of its nose, and made a giant leap past me and nearly landed on the gobbler that was flushing up and away for his life. All the jakes were scrambling and flushing as well and the air was filled with turkey alarm ďputtsĒ while I sat there, gun still up to my shoulder and transfixed by all the sudden occurring drama. The only thing turkey-looking remaining in place out in front of me was my ugly hen decoy.
Well, I thought at that moment, thereís always tomorrow. That night a blizzard struck the Thumb and the remainder of my (short) turkey season entailed drifting snows, bitterly cold winds and turkey gobblers that were more interested in staying warm than responding to my calling efforts. I have ever since hunted the later general season that begins in early May (turkey licenses for that particular season are presently available over the counter). Sure, I might have to contend with mosquitoes and less vocal gobblers, but the weather tends to be more consistent, and sudden and long lasting blizzards seem to be more rare. But then again, itís Michigan.
As for my present bout of spring fever, Iím biding my time for just the right cure, and weather willing, it might be sooner than later.
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