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Predators, prey, react weather
Squirrel in tree

Clear, sunny days can be challenging for predators and prey.  Some activities are enhanced, however.

Trout can see fly-fishers.  Turkeys notice silhouetted hunters.  

Old bird nests and hornet homes stand out, as do talkative gray squirrels and open flower buds showing catkins.

Bluebird days, when skies match this bird’s back, are usually not an outside photographer’s dream.

Add a shortage of moisture, above normal high temperatures, limited runoff and leafless deciduous trees may make outings unproductive.

“Fly-fishing started great for January,” said Bret Schultz, of Black Earth, Wisconsin, whose fulltime position, come May, will be finding trout, watching them follow flies, and hearing the fish cut the surface while being freed. 

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill cranes have returned and begun doing the mating dances.
“The streams measured up with good water but low moisture, limited precipitations and runoff now has trout seeing us from 15-20 feet away.  Even being careful we’re still spooking fish.  There’s a lack of bugs to distract them and draw them out from behind rocks, logs and banks,” Schultz said.  

Still one part of March may be a touch sooner with a few tiny mayflies being seen already.  All this may help but more moisture is critical.  Some cloudy days will tip the scale toward the angler, however.

“A few fly-fishers are venturing out at night to use a technique called mousing, splatting a mouse fly pattern on the water to imitate a mouse falling in and swimming toward shore.  It’s big in New Zealand; it works some of the time, but not always, When a fish strikes it’ll be a big brown trout, maybe the biggest fish of the year, and will sound like a bowling ball hitting the stream,” Schutz said.

Speaking for mice, auto mechanics have had the worst (best?) year in the last 20 splicing and replacing vehicle wiring having been cut short by mice.  One mouse teaser is Grandpa Gus’s mouse repellent pouches of cinnamon and peppermint oil placed in car and truck glove boxes, trunks, and under hoods.

Yard moles are out early this year, too.  Get after them while they’re making long, straight tunnels to and fro in yards and gardens.

Sturgeon spearing in the Lake Winnebago of eastern Wisconsin area lasted the entire season with 432 fish taken, about 1,000 fewer than recent years.  Participation due to poor ice was one primary factor that led to marked lower participation.

Reading Bald Eagle nesting can be improved by knowing an incubating or brooding adult is almost out of sight in a nest bowl with a white softball-like head sticks up when eggs are turned and eaglet feeding occurs.

Turkey rafts are beginning to split up.  Gobbling is picking up and can be best heard at first light with or without sounding a loud noise.  Try cupped hand clapping, which simulates a slow ruffed grouse drum and requires no tool.

Flowers on numerous trees and shrubs are beginning to open on maples, aspens and others.  Don’t look for petals but catkins containing the business parts of flowers.

Greens are showing up as chives, skunk cabbage, watercress, grass shoots, garlic mustard and some bulb leaves.  Rhubarb will follow.  It’ll be a while before wild asparagus and anything resembling a mushroom show up.

One woman inquired about training dogs to hunt morels.  Why not?  Dogs are used to find drugs, antlers and truffles. 

Gary Howards, of Oregon, Wisconsin, celebrated hunting squirrels on February 29, the first time that was possible, aside from landowners’ year-round season.  He’s noticed abundant ticks, squirrels eating seeds from developing white pine cones, munching maple buds and boxelder bark, and licking maple sap.  

An avid hunter plans to participate in what he calls “burn for the right to hunt,” by volunteering to help landowners burn their prairies.