Spring is my favorite season, and although it is only March, it appears that Spring has sprung earlier in Michigan than usual. After a long winter’s nap, I’m ready for warmer weather, green grass, and all of the seasonal awakenings that Springtime brings to us every year.
Turkey season is right around the corner and it’s no secret, that turkey hunting is my favorite outdoor activity. Yes I’ll admit it. I’m a die-hard turkey hunting addict. I look forward to this time of year, all year!
One of the reasons I enjoy turkey season so much, is because it takes place in the Spring, when everything comes back to life again. The songbirds become a choir early in the morning, the trees begin to show early buds of green and early wildflowers begin to poke up everywhere in the woods. The thrill of hearing a tom turkey gobble from the roost, first thing in the morning, still gives me goosebumps and makes my heart pound like a race horse!
In the animal kingdom, Spring is a time for mating rituals and new birth. There is much to hear and see in the woods this time of year, whether you are a hiker or hunter.
It is also the time of year when the Michigan Department of Natural Resources issues their annual press release reminding folks to “Leave Wildlife in the Wild”.
The MI DNR reminds the public to resist the instinct to try to help baby animals that may appear to be abandoned. In nearly every case a parent is nearby and the baby animal is not alone. Many baby animals will die if removed from their natural environment, and some have diseases or parasites that can be passed on to humans or pets.
“The truth is, the animal doesn’t need help – for example, even if a fawn appears to be abandoned, its mother is almost always nearby,” said DNR wildlife ecologist Sherry MacKinnon. “We appreciate the good intentions of those who want to help, but the animals are better off left alone than removed from the wild.”
MacKinnon said it’s not uncommon for does to leave their young unattended for up to eight hours at a time; an anti-predator strategy that minimizes scent left around the newborn animals. “The same holds true for rabbits, ground-dwelling birds and other wildlife,” she said.
A few years ago, I was turkey hunting on Mother’s Day. I had a tom gobbling enthusiastically at my soft yelps, but he suddenly went silent on me. I’ve learned that either one of two things has taken place when this happens; either he is coming in silently, or something spooked him and he’s gone. So I’ve learned to sit still for a while and wait, before I pick up and move. As I sat quietly and motionless against a tree, I heard the sound of “something” walking and rustling the leaves behind me. My adrenaline kicked in, as it usually does when I think a longbeard is about to appear! I stretched my eyeballs to the left as far as I could, and picked up some movement. A few seconds later, a tiny, wobbly legged fawn appeared so close that I could have reached out and touched it! It nearly came across my lap! Although it was hard to resist reaching out and petting this delightful, beautiful little creature, I knew it was more important to let my sense of sight take over, rather than touch. Several minutes went by while I sat watching the little one, wondering where it came from. Sure enough, more sound behind me indicated mother was coming along. I must have sat there watching the mother doe with her baby for at least 15 minutes or so, before they slowly went on their way, and out of my sight.
I was amazed at what I had just witnessed and also surprised that the doe did not scent me sitting there, so close by. This is the reason I always use non-scented soap and shampoo and avoid anything with smell before heading out to the turkey woods. If that deer had scented me and spooked, it most likely would have alarmed the big ol’ tom that came cruising in behind her not more than a half-hour later!
Springtime is truly an amazing time of year to head out to the woods, whether you are a turkey hunter with a tag, or a hiker with a camera. There is always a pretty good chance you will get to see God’s creatures up close and personal.
But remember . . . if you do come across an abandoned animal, it is best to leave it alone. “If you come across a deer or other animal that you are certain has been orphaned – for example, if a doe is dead nearby – please call your local DNR office. They can refer you to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator,” said MacKinnon.
Michigan licensed wildlife rehabilitators are also listed on the DNR website at http://www.michigandnr.com/dir/
I’ll never forget that Mother’s Day for the rest of my life. Not only did I tag a nice tom that day, but I witnessed first-hand, nature celebrating spring, and motherhood as well.
Happy Outdoors – Sue