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DAVIS COLUMN: Tree pollen production imperative

DAVIS COLUMN: Tree pollen production imperative

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Outdoors enthusiasts are the first to notice trees flowering, but not by blooms with pollen spilling out. Instead, these outdoors folks likely detect the grains produced by wind-pollinated plants with their noses and subsequent allergy-caused discomfort.

In spite of tree flowers being vital to squirrel, turkey, and deer populations, hunters and wildlife watchers may not recognize a maple, elm, or hazelnut flower until it’s too late or when the fruit has developed.

Later these Midwest animals, and many others, depend on acorns and other tree flower products when summer and fall roll in.

All fruit — nuts, berries, pods, even cottonwood fluff — production is pollen-initiated becoming acorns, pumpkins, apples, pole bean pods, and even corn, oats and soybeans. Instead of waiting until acorns or hickory nuts are dropping, why not examine the trees’ catkins to determine if there was any late frost damage, or any crop failure that will change our gathering strategy?

Last year many regions had minuscule acorn crops. This spring, turkeys are finding none to feed on in those areas and may not spend as much time in the woods where hunters are playing tunes on boxes and slates.

Wind-pollinated plants generally exhibit tiny, parts-lacking, fragile flowers. But before flowers wither, they do the job of sexual reproduction leading to an embryo and then a seed.

We, and the other animals, should be thankful and cognizant of what’s going on; pollination can forecast crops. Squirrels are watching and sometimes jumping the gun. Even before maple flower buds open, they eat buds, then the flowers themselves, turning then to developing, winged fruits, and later the drying seeds.

Hazelnut flowers put out pollen and the other type bloom that develops a nut fruit. This green “berry” becomes fair game for turkeys, squirrels and chipmunks. Almost never are there mature seeds for our collecting and cracking. The earliest animal gets the nut.

What is it then, if not a large, showy bloom that gets our attention suggesting the time is right to think trout fishing, turkey scouting, morel hiking and bird watching?

“Watch the roadside grasses and when they begin growing think about morels, asparagus and turkeys, which are still rafted up this week,” said Doug Williams, at D W Sports Center in Portage. “The male turkeys begin fighting one another, deer are roadside eating the grass, too, so watch out. You’re on your own when it comes to trout fishing; no one’s telling much.”

Walleye anglers, however, bankers and boaters, are doing very, very well with hair jigs and minnows, Williams added.

“One of the first things I think about, look for and usually see when waiting for a gobbler is a deer tick,” he claims. “But it’s the birds singing that bring one out of partial dozing and to listen for a gobbler. It’s a happy song the birds sing this time of the year.”

The announcement of the statewide DNR annual ethical hunter award is about to be announced from nearly 20 completed nominations. The presentation is planned for mid-May, with naming being published well prior to a gathering at Vortex Optics in Barneveld, the corporate sponsor, who, by the way has an impressive line of camouflage turkey hunting caps.

John Borzick, at Boscobel’s Tall Tails and Spirits, says Lynxville, Ferryville and other locations on the Mississippi River are now the place to be for perch, walleyes and saugers.

“What gets my attention when in the turkey woods scouting or hunting or guiding a youngster is the lime greens, the fresh color of new leaves coming out on the trees,” Brozick said. “The birds, too, make the journey worthy.”

Wayne Smith, in Lafayette County, is always out during most turkey hunting periods and well before the sun lights up the fields and forests.

“The birds singing do it for me, too, and I know to be wide awake, listen carefully, and more likely than not, that’s the start of gobbling. You don’t need to make a gobbler shock gobble this time of day,” he said.

Seeing actual turkeys has excited turkey fanatics in Green County, says Don Martin, at Martin’s in Monroe. Interest there is going to a .410 gauge single shot gun, if they can be had, using a special three-inch shotshell with No. 9 pellets are said to do the job at 40 yards.

There’s still time to apply, with $10, for a Wisconsin elk hunting permit. Generally, five bull permits are available through the general lottery.

Rhubarb and chives edible shoots are poking out. Others, asparagus and morels, depending on the daily high temperatures, will follow shortly.

Every day, more and more spring things are helping to make someone’s day.

Contact Jerry Davis, a freelance writer, at or 608-924-1112.


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