Spring-to-early summer is time of critical importance to the successful reproduction of most wildlife in our northern world. From birds to bugs, fish to fowl, now is when it must happen for most species. Several of these are of more than casual interest to those of us who hunt. These species, like nongame wildlife, are at a seasonal crossroads that will determine whether their numbers will be up or down as the time of rearing ends and young should be maturing into adults.
On election night in November of 2008, those who fish, hunt and value the out-of-doors had reason to rejoice. The long-sought goal of a constitutional amendment to fund conservation efforts had been approved by Minnesota voters. This constitutional amendment — officially called the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment — had to be approved by voters because it added 3/8 of one percent to the Minnesota state sales tax.
In late March, a Ramsey County, Minnesota judge made headlines with a ruling that should prompt us to ask a deceptively simple question: "Who owns our water?" The pronoun "our," in this case, means the planet's water; on the surface in a lake or pond, a creek or a river, or underground in the aquifers we tap for irrigation and for use in our homes.
I'm as ardent a believer in the democratic system of government as anyone. But sometimes you have to admit it has its weak points. Winston Churchill, one of the most important world leaders of my parents' generation, put it well when he said that "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." Meaning, of course, that while democracy has its failings, other forms of government are worse.
The human olfactory sense — our sense of smell — is not always fully appreciated for its power. Some say it's the most powerful of our senses when it comes to generating emotions and memories. The scent of marsh muck, wet dog hair or Hoppe's No. 9 gun cleaning solvent can unleash a tide of memories, and transport us momentarily back to a duck blind or a deer stand. Or, when our nose catches the aroma trail from a restaurant kitchen, we hunger for a ribeye steak or a juicy 'burger. Scent carries an undeniable emotional punch.
It's been little more than two months since the end of the regular Minnesota deer hunting season, with archery hunting ending on the last day of December. Interest in whitetails at this time of year is most often focused on their surviving the winter. The major worry is deep snow that can restrict access to food when they are at their most stressed and vulnerable. Late winter snows duel with thawing temperatures in a contest to determine when the threats winter poses to our deer will be past.
The records and wisdoms of history can be found in all sorts of places; from fragile scrolls stored in clay pots in a Middle Eastern cave, to inscriptions on a mummy case in a long-forgotten tomb or something as modern as tape recorded archives of a presidency. The social fabric, politics and current events of a time are among the things that come to light in such discoveries.
When it comes to attracting birds to your backyard, it's hard to beat an ornamental crabapple tree. Not the kind that a youngster would pilfer sour-tasting fruit from, but tiny crabapples less than an inch or so across that turn a deep red as they wither in late fall, and which many birds feed on as eagerly as we'd dig into an apple pie.
Last weekend my wife and I and our Labrador retriever took a walk to enjoy what was predicted to be the warmer and sunnier of the weekend days, that being Saturday. We left the car in a boat launch parking lot at the end of a lake that's the site of the family cabin. Here the road is close to the lake, and you can walk its perimeter without trespassing. It's a lot quieter at this time of year, though there's a certain amount of traffic to and from a restaurant and pub just across from the boat landing.
I saw a picture of a proud deer hunter in a newspaper last weekend. Nothing unusual about that at this time of year, as the main firearms deer season was winding down and we were entering Minnesota's late muzzleloader deer hunt.