T.R. Michels

T.R. Michels is a professional guide who specializes in trophy whitetail, turkey and bear hunts in Minnesota. He has guided in the Rocky Mountains for elk and mule deer, too. He publishes the Trinity Mountain Outdoors website at www.TRMichels.com.

Identifying Geese, Conservation Issues, Turkey Hunting

Posted by: T.R. Michels under Environment, Recreation, Birding Updated: March 16, 2012 - 5:53 AM

Thoughts in General

Identifying Geese

As I and several others were watching the waterfowl at Lake Byllesby last weekend several people asked how to tell if approaching geese where dark colored blue phase snow geese or white-fronted geese (speckle bellies to some hunters). As a long time hunter I explained that you will rarely see an entire flock of dark bellied geese (over 10 in number) that are snow geese, because there will almost always be some white colored geese with them. Interestingly, the blue phase of the snow goose is predominant, and generally speaking, there are more blue phase geese from east to west within the lesser snow goose’s range. Another way to distinguish between species of geese is that Canada Geese have a low-pitched honk, or a two syllable "her–onk as a "social contact" call, Cackling geese use a higher pitch. Snow geese and Ross’s goose often sound like cow… cow; with Ross’s geese having a highter pitch. White-fronted geese generally string three individual notes together, in a cow cow cow… cow cow cow.

Conservation

With spring arriving, and these warm temperatures,, and the arrival of migrant birds and the appearance of wildflowers, comes the urge to get outside and enjoy nature, even if it only to take a walk. I know that conservation is not a hot topic among outdoor lovers, nonetheless the average person, but it should be. All you have to do if you are an outdoor lover is look around, almost anywhere, even the backcountry to see the impact of humane on the environment. There are roads where there didn’t used o be any - and developments along with them – which means the habitat was disturbed, if not destroyed.

It doesn’t take much of a disturbance to impact an ecosystem. A path or road can change the course of water runoff. Which may lead o erosion, and soil, along with possibly insecticides and herbicides, draining into watersheds where it never used to. The resultant pollution can affect the flora and fauna of an entire ecosystem, from the bottom up. From algae to microorganisms, which in turn can affect invertebrates and plant life that is eaten by larger animals, on up the food chain to birds and small animals, and eventually to raptors and predators; even humans.

I’ll get into more conservation issues as time goes on – in the hope that some people actually read about it, and do something about it, and care. You can help by asking your friends to check in here from time to time, to discuss conservation issues - because we really need to.

Pet Peeve

On an off note, trails and roads often lead to more human travel, which leads to more disturbance and erosion, and trash. It seems some people cannot go anywhere without leaving their unwanted trash behind them, I know that there really is not an outdoor lover who likes to see trash or any kind, from cigarette butts to food wrappers and styrofoam. So – every time you take a walk or even a car ride, why not take along a couple of easily transportable plastic bags, and pick up any trash you see along the way.

What can we do? First of all. Join an active conservation organization, that is involved in ecosystem preservation and wildlife and wild flora conservation, When it comes to walking or hiking try to stay on existing trails and roads as much as possible, so there is not more disturbance of the topsoil, which may be the only thing that keeps runoff from occurring. And remember – if you can pack it in, you can pack it out. Please do not leave trash behind you.

Turkey Behavior & Turkey Hunting

With turkey season fast approaching, I have a few pointers for turkey hunters. Toms will be gobbling now, so you can start early morning scouting to locate calling birds. Look or listen for them at known roosting sites and feeding / strutting areas. Usually I would warn against scouting too far in advance of the hunting season, because turkeys often migrate between winter and spring home ranges – due to forage availability and the need to find cover enough to protect them from cold and strong winds. So, when there is snow on the ground, in March, and you hunt in April, you may find the birds in one area in March, and a completely different are in April. But, that probably will not be true this year, because the snow has been gone for several weeks, and the birds may already be on their spring breeding ranges.

Personally I would start scouting now, and locate as many flocks as I can – so I have more than one tom or groups of tom to hunt when it comes time to hunt. If you have enough time, scout several days in a row, because if you are able to watch the birds, you may be able to discern their semi-regular daily patterns. Generally you will find that they have several preferred roosting and early morning feeding / strutting sites. And you might find the when they use a particular roosting sites, they generally have one or two feeding areas they go to within a a half hour of sunrise, where the toms will often show up after the hens,

Toms generally begin gobbling on the roost, to try and locate any hens in the area, and generally fly down after the hens, and gobble infrequently as they go to the hens or a feeding /strutting area. Once they are in sight of the hens, toms often stop gobbling and begin strutting and use a spit (a loud exhale of air form the air sacks in their chest) and boom (it is not drumming per se) as they let out air from their air sacks, creating a boom like a prairie chicken, which they are related too. If and when the hens leave the first feeding area, the toms may follow if the hens leave in mass, (often early in the season). If the hens leave individually to go off to nest, (later in the breeding season, often after mid April) the toms may stay at the feeding area and gobble for up to a half hour, before leaving to go to another feeding area, gobbling infrequently as they go. Once they are at the second feeding area, they will often gobble frequently at first, hoping a few hens show up, and gobble less frequently as time goes on. They generally stop after 20-30 minutes, and go to yet another feeding area, or begin to feed or groom themselves, or head of into the woods. You should locate as many of these morning feeding areas as you can, so you hve a chance to hunt all morning long, if you are not successful early.

 

If you areinterested inh a birding / nature tour of any kind, or outdoor photography trip, in MN,SD.ND Wi or CO, contact TRMichels@yahoo.com.  

Enjoy God's Great Outdoors

God bless,

T.R. Michels

 

 

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