Winter’s here!

December 9, 2009

Faith Outdoors

We knew it was going to come sooner or later, but the first snowstorm of the year was still a shock when it descended upon us last night. After a balmy November, I think many people — myself included — thought that perhaps Old Man Winter might go easy on us this year.

But, this morning’s white landscape and blowing snow clearly told us that the party’s over. So, too, perhaps, is my jogging for the winter. I’ve been wondering lately how I’m going to handle my walking/running program once the snow flies.

I’m still not sure, but I didn’t go out this morning. I felt uneasy about trying to run or walk under these conditions. A good portion of my route is on sidewalks and I figured that a good chunk of the sidewalks would not be cleared of snow. Another problem is that there are no sidewalks in some of the places I go, which means running on the streets. And, I knew some of the streets would still be unplowed this morning.

So, the safest thing was to hold off for today. As for tomorrow, I’m not sure. Most likely, I will try walking. I’m hoping for cleared streets and sidewalks. I’m also hoping there are no slippery spots. The good news is we did not have any rain or freezing rain before the snow started. That can be a major problem. I’m glad this storm was all snow.

The snowfall also got me to thinking about the wildlife across the state and how the animals are faring. I remember what a longtime wildlife biologist told me about turkeys (I think the same applies to deer as well) — as long as they can find food, they’ll be fine. Cold won’t hurt them.

There’s probably more standing corn than usual, so that will be a great help for the critters. What’s nice about standing corn is that it is still accessible when there is snow on the ground, even lots of it. So, this winter should be a good one for wildlife. I just hope all of those mature gobblers survive and stay healthy until the spring, when I will go after them once again. I submitted my entry into the Wisconsin spring turkey lottery the other day, as the deadline is coming up tomorrow, Dec. 10. Minnesota’s lottery doesn’t close until Friday, Jan. 8. But, just to be safe, I submitted my application online today.

In recent years, I have become more passionate about spring turkey hunting (not that I wasn’t already) to the point that I now hunt in both Minnesota and Wisconsin every year. For a number of years, Wisconsin was ahead in terms of the quality of hunting and the number of birds.

But, our state has been catching up fast. Last year, not only did I fill my tag with a nice longbeard, I had five different gobblers responding to my calls on the second afternoon of my hunt. It was very exciting, with three of those birds coming into shotgun range. The first slipped in behind me and I didn’t know it was there until I moved and heard the dreaded alarm putt as he trotted off. I turned quickly to try and take a shot as he was moving away, but I was too late.

Fortunately, two more birds came in from my right just minutes later and I put my gun on the one in front without either of them spotting me. Interestingly, the second one stayed put after the shot, which is a phenomenon I have witnessed on a number of occasions. I have had birds stay put for several minutes, even after I stand up and start walking toward the downed bird. Amazing!

Seeing multiple toms on a hunt is becoming a more common experience for me and many other hunters. That indicates a healthy bird population. Based on what the DNR is saying, the state’s turkey flock is doing better than ever. Can’t wait for spring to arrive!

About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

View all posts by Dave Hrbacek