Outdoors

'Wacky' spring has produced some strange happenings

Wildside: From crazy robin to lack of mushrooms

Deer frolic near turkey decoys on April 14 during Iowa's first spring turkey season. (Orlan Love/correspondent)
Deer frolic near turkey decoys on April 14 during Iowa’s first spring turkey season. (Orlan Love/correspondent)
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Even apart from the pandemic, it’s been a strange spring, symbolized for me by the wacky robin who won’t quit hurling himself at his own reflection in my basement windows.

Coincident with the arrival of spring — and the virus — he started doing it in mid-March, repeatedly flying into the window and rebounding without ever landing on the ground.

Like the esteemed poet Edgar Allan Poe, I initially dismissed his rapid collisions as “someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.”

Once we discovered the actual source, we presumed he thinks he’s defending his territory from a perceived rival and that, like other window-banging birds of our experience, he would soon wise up.

But now, almost two months after the onset, “Thumper” still bangs on the basement windows several times a day.

Erratic bird behavior also characterized my spring turkey hunt, which forced me to recognize I am not a good enough caller to fool a wise old grandfather gobbler.

Despite unseasonable cold, windy weather, I opted to hunt the first season, April 13-16, in the belief an as yet unhunted bird would be less suspicious and more susceptible to my questionable wiles.

I had gobblers in play in each of the season’s first three days, but they were all tall, long-bearded survivors who, with each step, raised their periscopes for a 180-degree look at their surroundings. None gobbled or came closer than 80 yards. The occasional half-hearted fanning of tail feathers was the only sign that any of them even noticed my decoys or calling.

It hurt to be ignored, but I took solace that the gobblers had not made me, which I inferred from the sweet time they took passing through my field of vision. My relative invisibility was confirmed by deer frequently frolicking in my decoys and the male cardinal that landed on my head, apparently mistaking me for a stump.

On the fourth and final day of the season, as I watched yet another senior gobbler ignore my blandishments from a distance of 80 yards, I noticed movement out of the corner of my right eye.

My substandard calling, which had failed to excite the elder in front of me, had attracted three short-spurred 2-year-olds eager to participate in adult turkey behavior.

I scratched my clucker, positioned my shotgun and felt that long-anticipated feeling as they puffed themselves up and raced for my decoys, the first arrival saving me from eating a $28.50 turkey tag.

Now I am hoping for a similar dramatic reversal to a morel season that has so far lacked luster. When it has not been too cold or too dry, it has been too cold and too dry.

Arthur Clark of Quasqueton, my longtime morel hunting companion, and I did not find our first morel of the season until May 2 — our latest first find in more than 50 years of hunting.

We have since had a couple of semi-productive hunts including one on May 9 that yielded about a pound apiece of fresh 3-inch specimens.

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As I write this on Wednesday, with a forecast calling for warm, wet, mushroom-friendly weather, I hope we might yet come upon a strike big enough to test our commitment to social distancing.

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