Babes in the Woods

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When driving on a back road, I met this fawn standing in the road. It attempted to run away, but could not climb the steep bank next to the road so it lay down in the shadows to hide. I took a quick photo and drove past. When I was a ways away, mom came of of the brush and lead the fawn to safety.

As I was driving home last week, two Canadian geese with a bunch of goslings attempted to cross the road twixt my car and an on-coming pick up truck. Both drivers saw the geese scramble out of the ditch and head across the road, so we stopped and gave the geese plenty of room. That didn’t stop the adults from excitedly honking and flapping their wings while herding the goslings across the road. One gosling slipped on the edge of the black top and flipped head over webbed feet. The fuzzy yellow bird which was nearly the size of a crow ended up on its back. Both the goslings’ webbed feet and undersized wings were flailing madly in the air as it righted itself and then proceeded in a hurried waddle across the road.
This comical incident is a reminder that many species have recently given birth. Creatures from deer to rabbits to possums to birds to bears have young ones that need to be protected, raised and taught the ways of survival. Each species has a repertoire of tricks to ensure the survival of enough newborns to ensure the survival of the species.
Camouflage is one method adult animals protect their young. I tend to despise yard work and lawn mowing in particular so I delay mowing as long a possible in the spring. Hence the grass gets a bit long sometimes. One spring day, I noticed our dog Izzy running back and forth from her dog house to a single spot in the long grass. I investigated and discovered that Izzy had found a nest of baby bunnies and that she was carrying them in her mouth, unharmed, to her dog house. The nest was within five feet of where we park the car and was invisible until one had knelt down and parted the grass. We distracted Izzy long enough to put her back on her chain and then place the bunnies back in their nest. By the next morning, the mother had moved the bunnies to a safer location.
Many newly born animals are scent free, which makes it easier for them to hide from predators. Fawns are one of the critters that are scent free for at least a few days. Fawns rely on being scent free and on hiding to survive. The spots on a fawn serve as camouflage and the fawn instinctively knows from birth to remain motionless for long periods of time. The fawns remain in one location for several weeks while the doe wanders off to eat and ruminate. The doe only approaches the fawn when it is feeding time for the fawn. If the doe has multiple fawns, she will hide each fawn in a different location. This strategy increases the odds that a least one of the fawns will survive – even if the others become dinner for a hungry bobcat or coyote. As deer have become more prevalent in urban and suburban areas, hiding fawns are found more frequently by well intentioned but biologically misinformed people. They see the “cute little Bambi” all by itself and assume the deer has been abandoned by its parent. Then they scoop up the deer and head to the DNR office or to a wildlife rehabilitator. Since the fawn and parent are pursuing a time proven survival strategy, the best course of action is to take a picture or two, from a long distance, and leave the fawn in its spot.
Producing prodigious numbers of offspring is another survival strategy. Rabbits, squirrels and many birds have adopted this strategy. The idea is simple: produce more offspring than will die before they reproduce. Robins are the masters of producing multiple broods of young in a year. Robins pull off at least two broods every summer and maybe another one in the winter. I can observe the prolific nature of robins every spring because a robin always builds a nest on the front porch light. So many nests have been built there over the years the siding on the house is permanently stained. Yet, it is highly doubtful that the same robin builds the nest from year after year since robins have an 80 percent mortality rate. That the robin population remains so large while 8 out of 10 robins die annually makes it apparent just how many robins must be born each year. Distraction is how birds like killdeer and waterfowl protect their young. When I lived in Southeastern Ohio, I walked home everyday across a park. A killdeer had a nest in the corner of the park and like clockwork, the killdeer presented me with the “broken wing” pose at the same spot every day. The killdeer would trill loudly and flap its ‘broken wing” all the while leading me away from the nest. After leading me for about 50 yards the bird would fly away. Most hen ducks will also exhibit this behavior on the water. Many times I have surprised a hen and her ducklings while canoeing; the ducklings will beat a hasty retreat to the nearest cover, while the mother begins to quack loudly and beat her wings against the water while swimming away. The duck will lead the canoe around two or three bends in the river before taking flight back to her offspring.
Aggressive behavior towards threats is another means of ensuring the survival of young. The old adage of never getting between a mother bear and her cubs has been proven statically true. Most bear attacks on humans do involve a mother with cubs. Other animals with young can also become aggressive. One spring, I was hiking and camping in the Jones Spring wilderness area in the Nicolet National Forest. Suddenly an animal burst out of the weeds along side the trail and headlined towards me. I had a brief thought of a bear attacking as I stumbled back. Then I realized the whir of motion and sound of furry was actually a mother grouse. I also saw her poults scampering off in the opposite direction. My brother and I once attempted to fish a small remote lake in Northern Minnesota, but found it impossible because a pair of loons were using the lake to raise their little loonie (not sure what you call a baby loon). The two adult loons repeatedly dive bombed the canoe. Sometimes they swooped as low as our heads when they passed over the canoe. We decided there were other lakes in the area that had better fishing and left.
Critters with young become less mobile during the rearing season. Thus animals like bears, foxes and coyotes, which normally roam a large territory, hunker down near the den or limit travel to a small area until the offspring can travel large distances. The dilemma the animals face is eating while remaining in one place. Hence any good food source will be utilized repeatedly. This causes issues in populated areas as bears and other large critters raid feeders, garbage cans, fledgling gardens, and any other food source. The best method of dealing with feeding animals in the spring is to remove easy food sources like feeders. If an animal like a fox is suddenly present repeatedly in a yard or area, be aware that there is most likely a den nearby. Give the den as much space as possible and use the opportunity for some wildlife photography.
Wild critters, both feathered and furred, have many means of ensuring the survival of their young and the species. We humans can best help the animals pursue raising their offspring by doing no more than observing the process.

Hook, Line, and Sinker.

Catching fish depends on many variables: weather, water temperature, wind, fish movement, all of which are beyond the control of anglers. One variable that anglers do have control over is how to rig their lines. There are many options for tying a hook to a line. Each method has both strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes how the bait is presented makes all the difference in catching fish or going home skunked

Before one can become adept at rigging tackle, an angler must first know how to tie a few knots. The two most commonly used knots are the improved cinch knot and the Palomar knot (illustration 1). The improved cinch knot is the most commonly used knot since it can be tied on in any situation. The Palomar knot is a bit quicker to tie than the improved cinch, but it can not be used in all situations.

One other knot trick is to leave the knot loose rather than cinching it tight upon the lure. This allows the lure to move in more directions and hence to have more action. This trick is particularly effective with ice fishing jigs.

The simplest rigging is a jig (Rig A) . Jigs have the benefit of being relatively cheap, but are still effective. Jigs can also be fished with live bait like leeches, minnows or worms, or they can be used with plastic tails. Jigs can be fished vertically, cast and retrieved or trolled.

A hook and sinker is another simple and effective rig. The hook is tied on the end of the line and a sinker is placed somewhere on the line. The placement of the sinker depends on the presentation the angler wants. If a float is added to the rig the bait can be suspended and the bait becomes more visible.

A three way rig (Rig C), sometimes called a Carolina or Wolf River rig consists of a three way swivel with one swivel tied to the rod and reel, one with an appropriately sized sinker, and the third with a floating jig or hook with live bait. Often, the line with the sinker is a lighter weight line than the other lines so that if the sinker becomes snagged that is all that is lost. The rig is very effective when fishing rocky bottoms for walleyes. It gets the bait off the bottom so the fish can see it and helps to prevent snags. I like to fish this rig on the Chippewa River where the rocks and trees make fishing the bottom tough. The two main drawbacks to this rig are that it takes time to tie it up and the number of knots needed. Each knot is a weak point so limiting the number knots keeps the line stronger.

The drop shot rig (Rig F) is currently considered the hottest thing since sliced bread for bass fishing. The hook is tied on first but it is not tied on at the end of the line it is tied one to two feet from the end of the line with a Palomar knot. After the knot is completed, the line is run again through the hook eye and a sinker is tied on the end of the line. If done right, the hook is perpendicular to the line. The bait is the placed on the hook. It is attached at the very end of the worm. This rig works ok for walleyes but really does not out-fish other rigs.

The bobber is another addition to rigs. There are two types of bobber—clip on (Rig E) and slip (Rig D). The clip on bobber attaches to the line through a spring loaded catch. Clip bobbers are either ball-shaped or an elongated float. The round bobbers are generally made of plastic and the longer floats are usually balsa wood or plastic and Styrofoam. Plastic bobbers are the cheapest and the floats are more sensitive. The trick to using the floats when fishing light-biting fish is to have the line weighted so the float rests on its side. When the fish starts to bite the bobber will pop upright. The clip on bobbers work if one is not fishing in water deeper than the length of the fishing rod.

To use a slip bobber, a stop is put on the line at the desired depth. The tie on stops are best because they do not abrade the line. Then the line is threaded through the bobber. Finally the hook is tied on and the sinker attached to the hook The weight of the sinker is critical when bobber fishing. It must not be too heavy or the bobber will sink, but must be heavy enough so that the bobber sinks easily when the fish strikes or the fish may reject the bait. Anglers can also fish a jig below a bobber. Jigs are multicolored and on some days the color may trigger fish to strike that otherwise would just swim on by.

The Lindy rig (Rig B) uses a specialized sinker that is shaped like an old telephone receiver. It has a hole in the small end. The sinker is threaded on the line and then a snap swivel is tied on. A lead with a hook or a jig or a lure is then tied at the end of the leader. The rig was developed by Al Linder, (hence Lindy Rig) for catching walleyes. The idea was to reduce the resistance the sinker.

A floating jig or a hook with a float ((Rig B) can be tied on to get the bait off the bottom. Personally, I like to use floating jigs. Not only do I catch more fish, but I catch more game fish and fewer rough fish, especially when working the rivers.

No matter what kind of rig an angler is using, using 4 to 8 lbs test line is generally the most effective. 6 or 8 pound line will work in most situations. Line that is heavier than 8 lbs reduces the action of the lure. It also makes it more likely that the fish will feel the line when striking and spit out the bait. Lighter line also casts better than heavier. The only reason to use 10 lbs or heavier line is if one is fishing for big fish like muskies or big northerns. Also anglers should use the smallest hook and sinker combination possible for the given conditions. Finally, when tying a knot wet the line with saliva or water before cinching the knot tight. The lube allows the knot to chinch tighter and help to avoid abrasion. When I was fishing the Mississippi River from the Alma Float, a 3 ounce sinker was as light as it got. But for a river like the Chippewa or Red Cedar a 1/4 or 3/8 ounce sinker will do. When fishing some brook trout streams a sinker is not even necessary. Give these different rigs a try, and the next time you are fishing you may also be catching.

Apple Pie

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Ingredients
6 cups peeled and sliced apples
1 cup sugar (I use a sweeter apple and go light on the sugar)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash ground nutmeg
1 table spoon butter- cut into quarters.
Pastry for a double crust pie
Directions
Place bottom crust in pie plate and fill with apples. Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Then sprinkle mixture over apples. Add butter pieces, Place top crust on pie and seal and flute edges. Place pie in Dutch oven on trivet or corner irons. Place coals on top of Dutch oven. Suspend oven over more coals. The heat on top should be greater than on the bottom. Do not over heat. Check frequently. Pie should be done in about an hour.

A Few Spring Wild Edibles

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When the marsh marigolds are in bloom, it is time to head to the woods with a pack basket to gather some wild foods. There are some delicious wild foods that pop almost as soon as the snow melts. I’ll describe four of my favorite spring wild foods below.
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Ramps, or wild onions, are one of the most famous wild plants in Wisconsin’s woods. This plant, which looks a bit like a tulip without the flower, is a very tasty treat. The entire ramp plant can be dug up and eaten. To prep ramps for eating, just wash off the dirt and trim the roots. The flavor is a cross between onion and garlic. Ramps go great in omelets and with venison. Ramps can be picked and hung to dry for future use. Ramps can be found in hardwoods with a damp soil. Ramps are vulnerable to over harvest so the entire clump of ramps should never be taken. I always leave one or two ramps from every clump.
a patch of wild onions

Watercress is another plant that is prime for harvesting in the spring. If you can find a cold clear spring in the spring, it may hold lots of watercress. It has a slight radish flavor that is great in salads and soups. I spray watercress with vinegar and rinse before eating to reduce the probability I am eating stuff like giardia.

watercress

Wild ginger is also in its prime in the spring. Ginger can be harvested from spring until late fall, but I think the flavor is best in the spring while it is flowering. Wild ginger is slung low to the ground and the roots are just under the surface of the soil. In the spring ginger has a small red flower. The root is the edible part of the plant. It can be used fresh, dried or ground up. It works great in pumpkin pie.

wild ginger

Late spring is the time to harvest the famous morel mushroom. This is probably the most commonly harvested mushroom and when it is in season, many people will be in the woods looking for dead elms and morels. Lesser known but equally delicious is the oyster mushroom, which also blooms in the late spring. These pearly white mushrooms prefer dead stumps and trees and grow in clumps. As always, when gathering wild mushrooms, make 200% certain you know what mushroom you are eating.IMG_20150512_172203

I’ll be publishing some ramp recipes under the Cook Shack page later.

Hook, Line, and Sinker: Rigging the fishing line

Catching fish depends on many variables: weather, water temperature, wind, fish movement, all of which are beyond the control of anglers. One variable that anglers do have control over is how to rig their lines. There are many options for tying a hook to a line. Each method has both strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes how the bait is presented makes all the difference in catching fish or going home skunked
Before one can become adept at rigging tackle, an angler must first know how to tie a few knots. The two most commonly used knots are the Improved Cinch knot (Illustration 1) and the Palomar knot (Illustration 2). The improved cinch knot is the most commonly used knot since it can be tied on in any situation. The Palomar knot is a bit quicker to tie than the improved cinch, but it can not be used in all situations.

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To tie the Improved Clinch knot, pass the line through the hook eye and wrap the short end around the line at least 3 times. then pass it through the loop and back through the just formed loop. Pull it tight and trip the lose end.

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To tie the Palomar knot, push the line through the hook eye and double it back through for a loop. Tie an overhand knot (i.e. like tieing shoe laces) with the loop and long end of the string. Then slide the loop over the hook and pull tight.
One other knot trick is to leave the knot loose rather than cinching it tight upon the lure. This allows the lure to move in more directions and hence to have more action. This trick is particularly effective with ice fishing jigs.

rigs 006 There are several types of terminal fishing rigs. Each will be described below.

The simplest rigging is a jig (Rig A) . Jigs have the benefit of being relatively cheap, but are still effective. Jigs can also be fished with live bait like leeches, minnows or worms, or they can be used with plastic tails. Jigs can be fished vertically, cast and retrieved or trolled. Jigs are me primary rig. They are versatile and fairly cheap so you don’t mind losing them when fishing snag infested waters like the lower Chippewa River.
A hook and sinker is another simple and effective rig. The hook is tied on the end of the line and a sinker is placed somewhere on the line. The placement of the sinker depends on the presentation the angler wants. If a float is added to the rig the bait can be suspended and the bait becomes more visible.
A three way rig (Rig C), sometimes called a Carolina or Wolf River rig consists of a three way swivel with one swivel tied to the rod and reel, one with an appropriately sized sinker, and the third with a floating jig or hook with live bait. Often, the line with the sinker is a lighter weight line than the other lines so that if the sinker becomes snagged that is all that is lost. The rig is very effective when fishing rocky bottoms for walleyes. It gets the bait off the bottom so the fish can see it and helps to prevent snags. I like to fish this rig on the Chippewa River where the rocks and trees make fishing the bottom tough. The two main drawbacks to this rig are that it takes time to tie it up and the number of knots needed. Each knot is a weak point so limiting the number of knots keeps the line stronger.
The drop shot rig (Rig F) is currently considered the hottest thing since sliced bread for bass fishing. The hook is tied on first but it is not tied on at the end of the line it is tied one to two feet from the end of the line with a Palomar knot. After the knot is completed, the line is run again through the hook eye and a sinker is tied on the end of the line. If done right, the hook is perpendicular to the line. The bait is then placed on the hook. It is attached at the very end of the worm. This rig works okay for walleyes but really does not out-fish other rigs.
The bobber is another addition to rigs. There are two types of bobber—clip on (Rig E) and slip (Rig D). The clip on the bobber attaches to the line through a spring loaded catch. Clip bobbers are either ball-shaped or an elongated float. The round bobbers are generally made of plastic and the longer floats are usually balsa wood or plastic and Styrofoam. Plastic bobbers are the cheapest and the floats are more sensitive. The trick to using the floats when fishing light-biting fish is to have the line weighted so the float rests on its side. When the fish starts to bite the bobber, it will pop upright. The clip on bobbers work if one is not fishing in water deeper than the length of the fishing rod.
To use a slip bobber, a stop is put on the line at the desired depth. The tie on stops are best because they do not abrade the line. Then the line is threaded through the bobber. Finally, the hook is tied on and the sinker attached to the hook The weight of the sinker is critical when bobber fishing. It must not be too heavy or the bobber will sink, but must be heavy enough so that the bobber sinks easily when the fish strikes or the fish may reject the bait. Anglers can also fish a jig below a bobber. Jigs are multicolored and on some days the color may trigger fish to strike that otherwise would just swim on by.
The Lindy rig (Rig B) uses a specialized sinker that is shaped like an old telephone receiver. It has a hole in the small end. The sinker is threaded on the line and then a snap swivel is tied on. A lead with a hook or a jig or a lure is then tied at the end of the leader. The rig was developed by Al Linder, (hence Lindy Rig) for catching walleyes. The idea was to reduce the resistance the sinker.
A floating jig or a hook with a float ((Rig B) can be tied on to get the bait off the bottom. Personally, I like to use floating jigs. Not only do I catch more fish, but I catch more game fish and fewer rough fish, especially when working the rivers.
No matter what kind of rig an angler is using, using 4 to 8 lbs test line is generally the most effective. 6 or 8 pound line will work in most situations. Line that is heavier than 8 lbs reduces the action of the lure. It also makes it more likely that the fish will feel the line when striking and spit out the bait. Lighter line also casts better than heavier. The only reason to use 10 lbs or heavier line is if one is fishing for big fish like muskies or big northerns. Also anglers should use the smallest hook and sinker combination possible for the given conditions. Finally, when tying a knot, wet the line with saliva or water before cinching the knot tight. The lube allows the knot to cinch tighter and help to avoid abrasion. When I was fishing the Mississippi River from the Alma Float, a 3 ounce sinker was as light as it got. But for a river like the Chippewa or Red Cedar a 1/4 or 3/8 ounce sinker will do. When fishing some brook trout streams a sinker is not even necessary. Give these different rigs a try, and the next time you are fishing you may also be catching.

Beer Bread

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Beer bread is an easy and simple way to make a delicious loaf of bread without working very hard. Any type of beer can be used. Each different beer will impart a different favor to the bread. This recipe can be a simple two ingredient bread if self-rising flour is used, or the bread can be made from scratch by adding a few simple ingredients. This bread is also a good excuse for testing out one cold beer while using another beer to make the bread.

Ingredients

1 12 oz. can or bottle of beer
3 cups of self-rising flour sifted.
Or
3 cups all-purpose flour sifted
2 table spoons baking soda
1 table spoon salt.

Directions

Mix the dry ingredients together. Add beer, stir gently until the dry ingredients are wet. Place into a greased bread pan. Bake in a 375° for 1 hour