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Posts Tagged ‘Woods’

And I will try to prove that out this year.

Duck hunting has always been an endeavor that everyone thinks you need to get up hours before dawn to do. Well, in most cases that is right, but a few of us know that you don’t HAVE to be out on the marsh early. Good hunting can be had later in the day, after 99% of duck hunters have headed home to watch their football games. I’ll hit the woods and streams, thank you!

I will admit, though, that “later-in-the-day” duck hunting is slower than morning hunts, mostly. It’s perfect for this duck hunter, as I like to do other things while I’m out wandering. I have to make time to experience the trees and waters. Have a seat now and then and meditate a bit. I usually end up meditating more than hunting. But I believe this communing, which is more important to me, is what helps me be successful. I wish I could teach you how to commune with the outdoors, but that is done by every person differently, as it should be. It’s personal.

Trapper watching a fox squirrel on the muddy bank across the creek

Sunday, Trapper and I slipped into a spot along a creek that still has a log next to an elm tree I set there last year. Floods didn’t wash it away, thankfully.

This entry into the woods happened after the noon of the day, and I wasn’t expecting any action soon. Usually by then, ducks have found their refuge and will rest as much as they can before getting active again closer to sunset. But, like I said, I’m a communer. I sit and listen, and watch. And ask.

Bores my kids thoroughly. And Trapper.

But I need to make the time to watch and feel the clouds thicken to a darker shade of gray, threatening rain. See the gusts of wind touch the glassy surface of the slow stream, rippling with the skies reflection. Listen to birch and maple leaves and acorns tumble down the treetops to land on the ground, or plop into the water. I need to see the small carp that leaps from the water and splashes down with a slap, and the painted turtle that pops his head out of the water, slowly floating by, keeping an eye on Trapper and me.

And if I have done things right, and it pleases the spirits, I may be gifted with a duck or two flying by or floating in. This day, a flock of six wood ducks streaked across the stream above the treetops, leaving me with no chance of even trying to raise my gun. On alert, I listen for the sound of their wings and their return, or a splashdown in the backwaters behind us. Nothing.

We pack it in at about 6 p.m. and start walking out to the open marsh, hoping for a shot out there before heading home. I decide to check on a small pond about 100 yards to the east of the creek on our way out. And there they are. The six woodies that flew over us an hour before, most likely. Two drakes had their heads held high, looking out for trouble while the others were lazing about. Using tree trunks and high grass, my stalk was successful. I made my presence known and they got up, the drakes one behind the other and they both fell with my first shot. A hen in front of them acted like she had taken shot in her backside, so I followed through on her, spilling her on my third and final shot.

I looked at the time. 6:10 p.m. Got my limit of wood ducks in the last hour of legal shooting. It can be done. You don’t HAVE to get out there early.

We took the fox squirrel while walking into our spot along the creek, about 5 hours earlier

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I have come across a bit of information, supplied by the latest issue of Iowa Outdoors magazine, that presents some outstanding stewardship in Countryside Round me. Several conservation groups, government agencies and landowners who care about the environment have worked together to create a turnaround that is an absolute marvel.

Notice how bad the environment had been for trout and trout fishing in northeast Iowa, compared to where it is now. From the magazine –

Bill Kalishek, a DNR fisheries biologist, explains, “Trout require clean water and by 1980 only six Iowa streams were free enough of sediment and pollutants to sustain trout. The good news is the streams today are much cleaner because of habitat improvement and, especially, landowners working with agencies on watershed projects.”

At the Decorah State Fish Hatchery, manager Brian Malaise confirms the turnaround. “Thirty-two northeast Iowa trout streams now have naturally reproducing populations,” he says, “and we stock seventeen others.”

With this in mind, I had to take to the nearest stream and get a sampling of this awesome news. And the news is reflected in these few photos with the absolutely gorgeous landscape, streams with water as clean as the water that issues forth from Brigid’s Well, and some of the most colorful freshwater fish and stream bottoms that nature has to offer.

Which brings up the thought, among the many thousands of subjects that seemed to stream through this pea-brain during my hike this morning (which isn’t good if you’re the writing type), that I wonder if the outdoor blogging community is hurting it’s own cause. How I got to this, I don’t know because I forgot to bring along my journal. But with putting all this information out there, and doing it as enthusiastically as we do, are we doing it for the right reasons? And what are those reasons? Can we bring too much attention to the parts of life that we truly love and can’t seem to live without?

I don’t want to show off the Countryside Round’s trout fishing to have some idiot come in and exploit it, or ruin it. Or introduce people to duck hunting and have them end up being poachers.

But then again, I want to show the part of the world that doesn’t understand where I’m coming from, why I feel the way I do. Because nature and the outdoor pursuits should be shared in some form or another.

I may be thinking too selfishly. Most of this thought stream probably comes from my solitary side. I don’t want to run into another person when I’m involved in something out in the “wilds.”

I just hope we as outdoor bloggers/writers are doing the right thing.

Does this tree look like it’s singing in a woodland opera? Anyway, here is a picture or two of other things I must have liked on the 3.5 miles of grassy/stony path today. Please enjoy. And if hiking is something you don’t like to do, please reconsider it. It’s damn good for you. But you writers clean a good part of your mind out beforehand. It will make the hike more enjoyable.

Until I can write again – peace and take care.

Your friend –

Casey

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A Night Walk and A New Squirrel Pocket.

I don't know why I put my camera through this, but can you make out the deer?

It has been a long week, my friends, and thought that I might get some reprieve from life’s responsibilities by going for a little night walk, letting the light of the nearly full Thunder Moon and the faint luminesce of the Milky Way impart their gifts into me through the pores of my skin – if it could make it past the Deep Woods Off, that is. And I truly hope it did. I really cannot wait for the end of mosquito season, even with the knowledge that the little bloodsuckers need their time to do whatever it is they are supposed to do. They seem very out of control this year.

Critters have been scrathing at the top of this bolete.

But before I was enveloped in darkness, surrounded by the sounds of a summer night – the chirping of various things; crickets, cicadas and tree frogs – a walk under the trees was made along game trails, hoping to find mushrooms I have never found before – chantrelles and king boletes. There was no luck to be had on that front (the mushroom pictured was not a king bolete in my opinion – the stem was not bulbous), yet there is time before late fall sets in. So there is still a chance of finding a specimen or two. That is if I have a mind to concentrate on mushrooms instead of the hunting seasons fast approaching. The soon-to-be Hunting Moon brings with it squirrel season, and an early duck season. Then the deer bow season starts, followed by the rest of the duck season. Then trapping starts. In between all of this, the brown trout will be spawning, giving me a good shot at netting a larger one – my personal best only being 16-17 inches long! One of my favorite critters that Nature has devised.

I guess my pack will be stuffed to capacity real soon!

This wasn't the only clump of shagbark hickories on this hillside.

In the fading daylight, I found a real nice pocket for squirrel hunting, most of the squirrels I saw were greys. This hillside has a generous share of hickory, oak, and locust. Just a ton of mast. And some very playful chickadees! Squeaking and flitting from oak twig to oak twig, raining small acorns down on this intruder. Thank goodness their territory didn’t include the stands of shagbark hickories I found! This hillside is very easy to get to, and should be a great spot to walk my kids into during the darkness just before dawn. This makes five good pockets I can use for putting squirrels in the freezer. I should start stocking up on barbeque sauce.

A critter crossroads.

Also, though it’s too soon to tell, I may have found a decent stand for this late muzzleloader deer season. That is if I can come by a rifle this year like I did last, thanks to a very good friend. It is kind of hard to describe this spot. It seems to be a crossroads of well worn paths that come and go between features that deer visit. A field to the north, a stream to the east, a stand of cedars to bed under to the south, and mast trees all round. Looks good to me anyway, but I’ll have to keep tabs on it as the year progresses. And who’s to say I will make it out come deer season? I cannot make that promise to myself or to you. But I do have the squirrels and ducks and trout covered, so there, at least, is the making of an awesome fall already.

Until I can write again (which will be soon – I have most of next week off and plan on going trout fishing at least once) –

Take care –

Casey

P.S. The pics I have been taking lately have not turned out well, but I did get a good BEER shot this past Monday. And it is highly recommended by this beer drinker. Also, Oktoberfest will be here soon, and Sam Adams made a high quality one last year. So I’m recommending that already, too.

A guzzler, I assure you.

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The trail I walked in the Countryside Round, marked in red.

A couple of hours were available to me yesterday morning, so I was up with the sun and on a trail just as the sun crested the hills to the east. Four or five miles (I haven’t put a string to it) were walked up and down hills, through woods and fields, and along waterways. Along with the excersize, I wanted to see how the woods had fared through the Heat Moon, as the Thunder Moon starts tomorrow.

A young maple showing the signs of enduring a rough year.

And it does look like the Heat Moon, in cohorts with all of the rain the woods have received this year, has taken a bit of a toll. The top of the forest canopy still looks pretty healthy, as does the forest floor, which is still flush with green. But the mid-story level of the woods is showing signs of fatigue. Rust is appearing on the leaves of the smaller trees, some of the staghorn sumac leaves are turning red, and the walnut tree leaves are fading to a pale yellow and falling in quantity when a stronger gust of wind finds them. Of course, being a human, I can witness all this “life is fading in the woods” and try to put a dramatic tone to it. But I’m sure the woods, after all these millenia, is quite expecting this fading, and really couldn’t do without it.

Sure has me thinking of fall and the hunting seasons! Squirrel season starts in less than a month, and an early duck season starts a few weeks after that…That will be some life and death drama – literally.

What used to be a road provided part of the trail.

But back to the walking! And a question!

Have you a piece of the land that you consider “adopted” by you? By this I mean do you have an area that you know like the back of your hand, and know intimately? Where the stands of birches and cottonwoods are, where each oak or hickory tree is located, what kinds of wild fruit trees and berry bushes provide for the critters and possibly yourself, where the sources of water run, and where the major animal trails lead from and to and why, what woodland wildflowers show themselves in the early springtime?

Some of the road is a bit more overgrown, and part of the trail is not road at all, so it wasn't all this easy!

This area has all the makings of an “El Dorado” for this particular walker. I love the trails and the land surrounding and between them. Provisions of the best sort could be had here. From game meat (deer, squirrel, turkey, rabbit, raccoon, and groundhog sign were all present this day) to fruit and vegetable foodstuffs (wild plums, blackberries, sumac shoots, mast trees, and I remember a wild apple tree that a friend and I found morel mushrooms under two years ago, right off this trail!). Very tempting, yes….And a lake to provide fish is not far away.

That is really all I can write to you for now, as two pieces of less than good news are affecting lives of this family for the next few days, weeks and months, and my mind is sure to be a little discombobulated for a bit. But – I’m sure it will all make me take to the trails more than usual to help work it all out, so at least that is something.

Until I can write again, peace and take care!

Your friend,

Casey

P.S. Here are a couple more photos taken during my walk. I hope you enjoy them!

One of the last flowering weeds before fall - goldenrod.

The greens are not so green anymore.

Sumac red - bring it on!

Ripened wild plums. And something has been enjoying them. See that matted-down grass below them?

A stand of cottonwoods and birches. These are my favorite trees, as their leaves seem to be waving Hello! to you in the slightest of breezes.

Small puffball mushrooms in the trail.

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You can click this to enlarge it. Hope the writing is legible enough.

I made a small exploration in the Countryside Round this past Sunday afternoon, which served two purposes really. One, to provide inexpensive yet thoroughly engaging entertainment (that being the feeling you get when you discover new-to-you things), and the second, to provide in the future another chance at some more involved recreation. That future recreation being a day or two spent outdoors during the coming Hunting Moon (September), when squirrels will be legally hunt-able, the crawdads will be large enough to fill a nice portion of my plate after being boiled and dipped in melted butter, and if I time it right, maybe a shot at a duck or two during the early season for them.

Home to many things. Hopefully a home for me for a couple of days this coming Hunting Moon.

I may have found a spot that can do all that, if given some patience. It is at an intersection of three environmental features. An old trail that is no longer maintained dead-ends at a point where a river meets the side of a hill. Where the river and the hill meet is a fairly nice hole that may hold a smallmouth bass or two in the fall. Just upstream the water is smoother and seems slower, where a wood duck may try to take refuge. At the spot marked “1” on the map are two shallow riffles and rock bars whose rocks hold crayfish, and the river can be crossed here fairly easy late in the year, I’m sure. And northeast up the hill, a maple and hackberry tree dominated hillside. But a look up into the canopy revealed oak and walnut branches, which led me to the trees and some mast laying on the forest floor. This area looked good enough even if I had not seen two fox squirrels hopping up the hill away from me! I hope they multiplied well this spring. If anything, the scenery is going to be fantastic!

Here are more photos I took during this short outing. I hope you enjoy them.

Horsemint (Bee Balm)

The riffles.

Under the hillside canopy.

The overgrown trail, with Queen Anne's Lace, Yarrow, Pale Coneflower, and Bee Balm.

Pale Coneflower

Hummingbird. I almost got a photo of it as it was sipping nectar, but a gnat flew under my glasses and then under an eyelid! Damn!

Strange name for this butterfly. This species is called Question Mark.

So until the next time I have an explore in the Countryside Round – Slainte! – Tight lines! – Bring a towel and extra socks! – And I hope your scouting pays off this fall.

Peace – Casey

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