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Taking advantage of deciduous trees
Bird in water
Some song sparrows overwinter here, while others go south into Illinois and beyond. This bird seems not to be fond of wading into algae-infested water.

The deciduous state of oaks, maples, elms, hickories, and yes lilac, ninebark and red-osier dogwood shrubs evolved this strategy for a reason, some say.

Botanists and horticulturists describe deciduous as shedding leaves, usually all during a particular season.  The tree ends up bare in November, for example.

Broad leaves are too flimsy to survive winter, holding too much snow, and sometimes rain, to survive.  The drop, fall, abscission, or whatever one calls it, is giving up six months of photosynthesis, absorbing carbon dioxide, and releasing oxygen for animals’ own chemical respiration.

Evergreens develop a different way, with needles on most, which stay all winter shedding snow to prevent breaking the tree apart.  If the day is warm and sunny evergreen trees may photosynthesize a little but the chemical process is temperature dependent, too.  

Characteristics may be more easily revealed when trees are leafless.  We usually see the flowers before new leaves.  Many tree flowers are tiny, not very showy unless up close but these flowers are masters at producing pollen, loads and loads some folks understand all too well (allergies).

Pollination works best when the trees are deciduous because broad leaves get in the way of wind carrying pollen.  Leafless trees allow wind, and the pollen it carries, to paint the flowers with more pollen than they need.

Look now to see the blooms; notice if they are harmed by late cold snaps killing any chance of a walnut, acorn or elm fruit forming.  Inside these fruits are the next generation, or instead nutrients for turkeys, deer, Blue Jays, and squirrels.

Without leaves on the trees, the bark is more visible so the tree can be identified as a bur oak with corky ridges, a hackberry with knobby projections or a shagbark hickory not being a bitternut hickory.

But beware turkey hunters, deer watchers, and warbler photographers, these animals can see us better, too when the trees are bare.  But then again we can see them, but usually not soon enough to get a shot, photograph, or even identify the bird species.

On some trees, the tiny flowers, most without petals, are clustered in catkins we recognize on willow, walnut, hazelnut, and white oak.

Scouting wildlife, especially wild turkeys, can occur as soon as the purchase of extra, over the counter, authorizations has been completed.  Being licensed to hunt turkeys is not necessary to scout, photograph, or just listen to them gobble.  In fact, when the trees are bare is an excellent time to scout, and so are rainy days if one doesn’t mind getting a bit wet.  Road scouting might be useful to a point.

Jeff Fredrick, a wild turkey guru in Mindoro, Wisconsin, hunts, calls, makes calls and feather decoys and turkey art of many sorts, said the of purchasing extra authorizations that it is one the most stressful turkey hunting experiences.

“I want a good number in line to purchase a third  Period, C, because this year the entire family received Period A, so if I can purchase C, then D, E, and F are a sure thing with all the extra permits,” he said.

Once that first buying day is over, Fredrick can relax and scout new areas, get the lay of the land, look for good calling and decoying locations.

“Where you see gobblers now is not necessarily where they will be April 17, when season opens for those with a stamp, license and authorization for Period A,” he said.

Hilly areas, like La Crosse’s Coulee Country, can be tricky; calls echo and the turkeys may not want to come in from certain locations, Fredrick has learned.  

Don’t be too timid about scouting this far ahead of the season,” he said.  “I’m out shed hunting and getting to know an area and don’t think too much about spooking turkeys.  Four days before the season is another thing, however.”

Fredrick lives a few miles from the Mississippi River so hunting another state during Wisconsin’s spring season is really analogous to hunting a different farm, field, or favorite spot.

Last year there were 32 fatal ATV/UTV incidents, all of which were preventable, according to Lt. Warden Jacob Holsclaw, WDNR Off-Highway Vehicle Administrator.  “UTV riders need to wear a helmet and seatbelt, drive responsibly, and choose not to drink alcohol before or during a ride.”

Recent rain put a noticeable smile on trout anglers’ faces because they saw water levels raise a touch, but more spring rains will be welcomed to bring up what are record low trout stream waters.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at or 608.924.1112.