Foggy morning = fine flower photo

COOL things happen to anyone who takes the time and effort to examine the natural world. For this author, last Wednesday morning at zero-dark thirty, I left my house for a short drive to a turkey hunting site. Before I walked out the door, FOG was everywhere. No problem, I know the way to get where I’m going in the dark as I began my trek into the forest. Once all settled in, all I had to do was wait for the sunrise and listen for wild turkey gobbles. That is what I thought would happen. Here is what really happened.

First, a nice clear sky and a brilliant sunrise were 100 percent obscured by dense fog. This fog was almost so thick you could cut it with a knife. So there was no brilliant sunrise, just a slow and methodical light value increase to a grayish-white atmosphere everywhere I looked. The forest was still and quiet. Even the wind was nearly calm.

Second. I was anticipating hearing gobbles of roosted tom turkeys break the silence, to tell me where they were, and perhaps allow me to silently get a bit closer before I nestled into a comfortable spot at the base of a big tree. That was my plan. That was not Mother Nature’s plan. She forgot to tell the Tom turkeys to gobble … so they didn’t. There were zero gobbles to be heard, near or far away. This is how people plans and nature’s plans are not always on the same page, at least on this morning.

Thirdly, plan B needed to be initiated. What was my plan B? Well, to be honest, I just waited for things to happen. In the past it has been a case of right-place, right-time if I was just patient enough to endure a long term sitting position.I remained at my observation point and kept watching the forest landscape for tell tale movements of wild turkeys cruising along while they snapped insects off of the vegetation. Mother Nature’s idea of my plan B was not in agreement. I saw no turkeys and heard no turkeys.

She gave me a lot of consolation prizes for my effort. They included several pair of wood ducks flashing past me in a split second. It is amazing how this species of duck can fly at top speed through a forest, dodging and missing every tree trunk and limb to avoid collisions. For the wood duck, it is normal everyday work for them. And the next pass of the woodies left only one flying while the hen went headlong into a tree cavity opening. She undoubtedly has a nest in that tree, lot of eggs to keep warm, and in a few more days, a new generation of wood ducks to introduce to the big wide world.

Another consolation prize were Columbine flowers. Lots of them. I found them while making a big circle hike in the forest later that morning. It was an opportunity too good to pass. My camera was pulled from the backpack and a series of images were obtained. The light was nice and even, not a harsh sunlight deep shadow situation. In fact the foggy conditions made for soft light, perfect for what I was seeing. And perfect for the chance to take the picture of this woodland beauty.

While making my camera setup and composing the frame for each picture, I heard a bumble bee, or so I thought. I looked for it near the ground and did not see the bee. Still the buzzing was near, very near. And then I saw it, right in front of me near the Columbine flowers, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird male. It was his wing movements that were “buzzing” near my head. It was his wing beats of 60 time per second that caused air vibrations to fool me into thinking it was a bee. If I was careful, just maybe I could get a photo of the flowers and the hummingbird together from my up close and personal vantage point. It didn’t happen. I have the image in my brain and memory. I do not have the image in my camera. Mother Nature gave me a little gift but not the whole package.

What happened last Wednesday was a gift, all wrapped up in small packages, free for the effort of getting there and being prepared to accept on its terms what nature had to offer. This is an enduring and re-occurring theme every time I go hunting. It is a bonus prize for being outside, doing what I like to do, and adapting to the circumstances. That is how one very foggy morning in the forest turned out to be a very cool thing.

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A DEER BIOLOGY lesson fits the next category. Put this information in your bonnet and keep it handy for a fact versus fiction discussion should that ever arise. It is spring and from now until mid June, white-tailed deer will give birth to fawns. You may encounter a fawn lying motionless in the grasses or tall vegetation of a forest. If you do, just observe from a distance, and then be on your way. Do not, repeat do not, think the fawn is abandoned. It isn’t. Its mother is close by and quite aware of her fawn’s location.

Now back to our biology lesson. When do fawns get weaned off mother’s milk and transition to plant foliage? Sooner than you think. Most fawns are born between mid-May and mid-June in northern latitudes. Births at this time allow adequate time for the fawn to grow up and be able to survive the rigors of next winter. Being born now during a flush of new plant growth is a Mother Nature perfect timing example. For the doe deer, this new plant life is a source of high energy food, just what she needs to help her body to adjust to the last trimester of her 7 month long gestation. When birth happens, the doe deer and her fawn will be healthy. The mother deer will also have what she needs for milk production.

A fawn at birth will weigh about 4-8 pounds, 6-7 being average. A fawn will double is weight in two weeks eating only milk from its mother. After two weeks of life, the fawn’s rumination system (four stomachs) will begin to function and it will begin to eat a bit of plant food in addition to milk it drinks. Two weeks later, at one month of age, the fawn will have tripled its weight. Weaning is a long process of taking less milk and more plants into its gut. Fawns can be completely weaned and survive without milk when 10 weeks old. However, typically weaning is complete between 12-16 weeks of age. Attempts to nurse beyond this time frame are more bonding behavior than actual need for milk. Plant life eaten has allowed a host of intestinal good bacteria to become established inside the stomach system. From this point on and for the rest of the fawn’s life into adulthood, plant life is what will sustain its health.

Another fact to take to the bank is this. Did you know that fawns initially lack the ability to urinate or defecate? While nursing, the doe will lick the fawn’s rectal and genital regions to stimulate them to release wastes. The doe will then consume her fawn’s droppings or urine so the odor is not present to be an attractant to predators. The doe will do this for at least three weeks from birth time. It is a survival strategy.

A fawn’s spotted coat coloring is also a survival adaptation ploy. While hidden in tall forest vegetation, sunlight creates shadows and highlights. A fawn’s coloration blends into this background perfectly. White-tail fawns are hiders. Once they have nursed, they go off to hide in a place away from the mother. The doe deer will always be able to relocate her baby. She will make soft calls to her fawn at night time to bring the two together. In contrast, baby moose are followers of their mothers. Baby black bears are climbers to escape danger.

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ARCHERY can lead to a college scholarship. Just ask Nick Wright of Spencer. He will graduate from high school on May 22. Then at the end of summer, he will be off to Union College in Barbourville, Ky. where he will also be an archery team member. And it all started during his elementary and middle school days of participating in NASP, the National Archery in the Schools Program. He signed his letter of intent on March 12 and will travel to Kentucky in June for orientation. In August he will be on campus to begin his freshman year. At college, there will be more scheduled competitions of indoor, outdoor and 3-D challenges.

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SHOTGUNS and high school athletic clay bird tournament competitions are also on tap for 3,400 Iowa students during the remainder of May and into June. They have already competed in more than 500 league events including American single trap, Doubles Trap, Handicap Trap, American Skeet and sporting clays. Ages of the kids partaking range from fourth grade through college. One of the big events will be June 9-12 where the Iowa State Trapshooting Association Competition for high schoolers will take place.

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HUNTER SAFETY CLASS for Marshalltown area youth ages 12 or older will be next week, May 19 from 6-9 p.m. and the following Saturday, May 21 from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Attendance at both sessions is required. Sign-ups and registration for the class is done on-line only via this web address: www.iowadnr.gov/huntered. This hunter education class is held at the Izaak Walton League grounds located two miles south of Iowa Avenue on Smith Avenue. Volunteer instructors will be available for hands-on demonstrations, and one-on-one mentoring of live fire of shotguns at clay birds and .22 rifles at paper targets. Classroom instruction cover a host of interesting conservation topics with an emphasis on safety at all times. At this time a June 16 and 20 class is proposed. The last hunter safety class for Marshall County in 2016 will be Aug. 18 and 20

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“Achieving success is a challenge, but so is struggling, so you may as well choose success.”

– Rob Liano,

writer and consultant

Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.