DAVIS COLUMN: White-tailed deer changes dominate

DAVIS COLUMN: White-tailed deer changes dominate

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Even though Wisconsin deer developments are generally ongoing, spring is a special season for the state’s wildlife animal.

As warmth, liquid precipitation and the great green curtain falls, adult deer remove the old coats and grow ruddy hairs. Few coat stages are as sleek as these reddish ones, which continue throughout much of the summer on does and bucks. Even the darker hairs of fawns sport these tones.

Antler growth, while beginning small and slow, draws attention to the body part pulling most glances and gazes, whether it be velvety as now, distinctly boney later, or even absence. The velvet coverings, lasting until early September, transform bucks’ racks into structures looking greater than reality.

Some beams have begun to fork and branch, while others appear to belong to spiked bucks.

Fawning culminates this spectacular season of whitetail transformation. Cute is the word many use in describing an animal so camouflaged, even the predators may not give a second glance. We probably walk by more than we detect and have been known to stop our progress in mid-step to avoid putting a muddy footprint on a coat of white spots. Older fawns remain still until the last possible moment before bolting. Day-old deer rarely blink; they may just flick their nose.

The typical fawn position doesn’t seem to be reached until the day after birth, or at least after one feeding. Otherwise the hours-old animals appear to be more stretched and sprawled, sometimes even wet from the doe’s licking.

While we may not see most fawns, we know they are about from the tiny hoof prints left in fields and forests. For the most part fawns are silent.

The deer predator study, now in year five, was not able to take advantage of collaring up to 100 of this spring’s birthing due to CORVID-19.

By the way, COVID-19 is the particle’s real name and disease.

Because the virus is a particle, not a living organism, there is not, nor will there be, a species name.

Turkey hunting is ending on a bang. Mark Witecha, DNR upland game ecologist peeked at some preliminary registrations and pulled out a general increase of 12-15 percent compared to 2019.

“We had poor recruitment three of the last four years and hunting conditions, too, but things seem to have righted a bit this spring, even though there are still pockets with lower populations,” he said.

Wisconsin continues to grow as a destination location for nonresident turkey hunters, particularly from southern as well as Midwest states. Dan Goltz, DNR biologist in Vernon and Crawford counties and Witecha, both heard these hunters who generally come and hunt public land.

Wayne Smith, who takes advantage of additional authorizations in his Lafayette County area, also noticed numerous southern hunters trucking to Wisconsin seeking this large eastern wild turkey.

In general, Don Martin, at Martin’s Sporting Goods in Monroe, said locals, too, are taking advantage of more normal spring weather. “Many say they are having fun and happy to get out for some sun and fresh air even though they found few morels and missed a turkey or two,” Martin said. “Fishing has been good, we’re selling a lot of bait, there were high points including a 40-inch northern from the Pecatonica River, it went back, and 16 pounds of morels under a single tree.”

Jason Cotter, DNR biologist in Green and Rock counties, connected with a tom on a day off work, struck out on morels, and mentioned some biologists and hunters seeing and registering increased numbers of bearded hens, but not so much in his counties.

Birds, always in the news, are beginning to fledge, but more eaglets are still cautiously flapping the wings from the nest. Humming birds have been reported by many sitting quietly hunting turkeys. These nectar feeders have been hitting apple trees and some columbines.

The early May frost hit some trees more than first suspected. Some oaks lost buds, flowers and leaves half way up toward the crown. Some orchid clumps, too, lost flower buds. Trilliums, giant and nodding, are showing white. The prairie one remains purple.

Wild apples appear to be headed for a bumper crop, raspberry flower buds are about to open, Mayapple fruits are forming, shooting stars look good and compass plants are still sending up basal leaves. White-flowered trees, black locust and catalpa, are about to open.

Some produce outlets turned to selling pheasant back bracket mushrooms due to an absence of morels; about $12 a pound. Those trying them might come away saying the best part of this mushroom is they give a slight hint of watermelon.

New crops of corn, soybeans, oats and alfalfa are attracting wildlife, while garden radishes, onions, lettuce and asparagus are pulling gardeners.

Nature, with its many opportunities, is attracting novices and experienced gatherers. This might be a time to help youngsters ramble and sample the woods and streams, prairies and parks.

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

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