While some contemplate hunting deer north, others are selecting and cutting Christmas trees. Both have cause to pause and review Wisconsin’s evergreens.
Wisconsin has three native pines, all evergreens, but it’s often balsam and the state’s red and white cedars that conceal a prize hunters pursue.
Somewhere along the way pine and evergreen became synonymous. If a tree is winter green, then it’s a pine, some would proclaim. But there is much more to evergreens than red, white and jack pines. All three have needles, a name for long-lived leaves, in bundles. Reds and jacks’ needles are two to a bundle; while whites’ groups are always fives. Jacks’ twos are twisted and short, while reds’ are much longer needles.
White pines are the one evergreen that sounds as though it is talking to us on a windy day, as the air knits through the needled boughs. Once having learned that sound, any hunter can hear a white pine singing during morning’s dim light.
Christmas tree shoppers may be parting the boughs of pines, too, but more likely eyeing balsams and other firs.
It seems easy to pass all evergreens off as pines, because all pines are evergreens, but not all needled evergreen trees are pines. In addition there are clubmosses, some ferns, weedy garlic mustard, grasses under snow and watercress that shows green most of the winter.
Hunters quickly realize white cedars and white pines are candy to whitetails. The other pine species are usually avoided, along with spruces.
Knowing more about Wisconsin’s evergreens could make hunting easier and more entertaining. The same goes for decorating with evergreens. Spruces drop their needles a few weeks after coming indoors, while Fraser and balsam firs can easily last until after New Year’s Day.
In less than two weeks, the nine-day season will commence.
Bow hunters have been recording bucks-in-possession and antlerless deer at a fast pace, with 38,900 reported as of last week. About 19,535 were antlerless, while 19,365 were bucks. Crossbowers have taken 1,200 more bucks than traditional archers. A report continues to be posted at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wildlifehabitat/harvest/deerharvest.html.
Summer’s fine growing season helped vegetation to put on record height, which now provides excellent cover for pheasants on public lands. This means that some birds make it more than a few hours or days after being released twice weekly.
Woodland visibility in deciduous forests is quite the opposite, and deer, while brown, are easily seen when looking for spots of white about a deer’s head, neck and belly. A few even have white GPS collars, adding to us noticing a legal, standing deer.
Squirrel hunters may have expected to be run over with gray and fox squirrels but such is not the case, in part due to losses because of food shortages last winter and spring. Squirrel populations will leap with the abundant food this winter.
Ruffed grouse continue to paint a bleak picture this fall, except in some of the best habit. Even more perplexing than the dismal population is the long-range impact it will have on the 10-year cycle.
Birds of all sorts, including the stately snowy owl, are coming to southern Wisconsin. Back yard bird feeding is now in full swing, with some bow hunters giving up chunks of suet from their venison to share the bounty of their hunts.
Winter’s coming continues to be filled with outdoors opportunities. Gathering chances abound for hunters, anglers, firewood collectors, nut meat pickers and consumers of food now in freezers and pantries.