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DAVIS COLUMN: Summer 'hibernation' may change gathering activity

DAVIS COLUMN: Summer 'hibernation' may change gathering activity

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Some animals and plants struggle during summer’s heat, just as others do during winter’s cold.

Deer, for example, are even more crepuscular in summer than winter, so expect to see them becoming more active during dawn and dusk hours.

Pursuing and gathering, whether it’s catching and releasing a trout, finding and photographing a fawn, or climbing a dead elm to get golden oyster mushrooms may require changing tactics, and being more crepuscular ourselves. In some cases we may avoid seeking an objective entirely, for fear of putting undo stress on an animal or plant.

Most Wisconsin animals do not estivate, that is completely avoid the summer heat as hibernating animals do in winter to avoid cold and food scarcity. Many simply move more during low light and cooler times.

Picking and gathering plants and fungi may be more productive during low light and lower temperature. We’d never pick garden lettuce at noon for fear of wilting, but snipping leaves nearer sundown and then quickly cooling them in a water bath is ideal. Bean pods (fruits) are best be picked when dew and rain drops have dried.

Trout anglers carry a water thermometer and when water temperature approaches 70 degrees, it’s time to look for a cooler time to play a fish so the trout is not overly stressed or given a death sentence when catch and release is valued. Trout often rest under a hanging bank during hot times.

It would be unwise to pick decorating flowers at noon, or take their picture, and the picker’s portrait, when the sky is solid blue. Rainy, cloudy wedding days are perfect.

Some blooms are bashful, closing for the part of the day, including evening primrose and blue roadside chicory (blue sailors).

It may take a special person to seek a glimpse of a timber rattlesnake, but for those few who need that fix know the reptile will emerge as the sun is rising higher by midmorning. Even then thermoregulation is ongoing and the reptile may use a leaf to shade a hot spot. That, with natural camouflage, should spell “watch out time.” Shadows are part of this snake’s camouflage, too.

Our own thermoregulation might find reading a book under the shade of a farm yard silver maple is better than picking the last of the black raspberries this week. Wait for the blackberries.

“Simplify: How to Stay Sane in a World Going Mad,” by Bob Hillary or “At the Crossroads with Chickens,” by Tory McCagg, are worth a look.

Simply’s Chapter 5 suggests try Eating like an Earth warrior; Drinking spring water, and Growing your own. McCagg’s book, among other things, reminds us of being nature just out the door.

Even heat-loving corn with hot weather physiology has probably seen enough of the 90s by now. Plants can wilt, but that’s like shutting down the air conditioning for them. This July should leave no one in doubt as to why there are no black plants. The hot spell didn’t help pollination and it will show in the price-per-ear, beginning this week.

It’s not so much the heat but COVID-19 that kept a crew from Missouri DNR home saying “not now” to the third and final year of trapping 100 of Wisconsin’s ruffed grouse to take southwest. “We’ll try again during 2021,” they said.

Wisconsin hunters will be barred from the fields for another year in northeast Wisconsin if foraging for sharptails.

Ruffed grouse hunters now have a permanent early January closure, along with ring-necked pheasant and fall wild turkeys hunter in Zones 1-5.

A few grouse and turkey coveys have been reported, according to Mark Witecha, upland gamebird ecologist, who is leaving the DNR later this month for a position in the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection.

Don Martin, in Monroe, says he’s still selling bait in spite of a warm July, but rarely hears back on the anglers’ successes. “The water down here is about was muddy as it gets,” he said. He accepted an assist of black raspberries from a customer, so he avoided the heat, at someone else’s expense.

With ample rain, some of the summer mushrooms continue to appear now and then, including golden oyster mushrooms on dead elm trees. Sulphur shelf mushrooms have been seen only occasionally, but a find is usually fruitful and easy to detect with contrasting among the all-green woods. Others have found this chicken of the woods using slow country drives from a vehicles’ air.

With the good, comes the dangerous, and worse. An amanita commonly called panther mushroom is pretty, but pretty deadly, too.

Still, there are inklings of cooler days and longer nights ahead. Due in part to the heat, some plants are shedding. Woodbine is one of the first to discard a red leaflet. Black walnut does the same, but in yellow and due to a mild disease each year.

An old timer shared his secret of taking a bowl of fresh wild raspberries, cream or ice cream added, onto the back porch. Neither heat, nor humidity nor mosquitoes were about, he said.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at sivadjam@mhtc.net or 608-924-1112.

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