Few things are worse for wildlife than prolonged ice covering the habitat. Deer especially slip and slide and fall on the ice and cannot get to food such as leftover grapes and acorns that are now encased.
This is why winter food availability is always measured by how much browse is available. But when the landscape is covered by ice they slip and fall trying to get to what they can find. There will no doubt be winter losses of deer due to broken legs and pelvises sustained while trying to navigate ice.
I took a bad fall myself on the ice last week and lay there for over five minutes before help came along because I could not get any purchase to get myself up. I was not hurt beyond a couple of bruises, but knowing that deer are so greatly impacted by ice makes me glad that much of it is gone.
Grouse often fly into a snow bank to insulate themselves from the cold. If it rains and freezes while they are in their snowy nest, sometimes they cannot get out and they expire in their burrow. Turkeys do better on ice because of their talons on their feet but they too slip and slide.
Last week's thaw was a welcome sign that spring actually is on the way. When March rolls around we all get a "spring" in our step. There is much to look forward to now.
Usually March snowstorms do not last long. So, all the new mouth calls that I got at the Altoona Mirror Hunting and Fishing Outdoor Show last week are on my kitchen counter and I'm having a ball breaking them all in.
Last week I mentioned in this column about the young junior, Hunter Wallis from Greenfield Township who won the junior championship at the Eastern Outdoor Show in Harrisburg.
Well, I can tell you now that he went on to win the Grand National Junior title held last weekend in Nashville. This is a young man with a bright future in the outdoors.
However, while calling well is an important part of being a successful hunter, woodsmanship and being savvy about tactics is really the biggest part of success. All these facets work together to frame a great spring gobbler hunt. A tad of luck doesn't hurt either.
Those who attended my seminars were quite impressed with the pop-up, one-man blind I was showing. I think it to be the best piece of gear I've gotten hold of in years. It is lightweight and portable, so much so that I can carry it around in the woods. It is comfortable so that if I am in a situation where I think it advantageous to sit in one place for awhile, I can do it comfortably.
The blind masks small movements I might need to make and wildlife seems never to notice it. My buddy, Walt Young, uses his blind for photography and you have seen in his column the great shots he is able to get. I harvested a couple of deer last season while in the blind so if you haven't guessed already, I recommend it highly.
There is a new wrinkle for deer season, which will make it easier for those who hunt in four-point areas, as I do. Because hunters complained so much that trying to see brow points is so difficult, it is going to be allowed started this upcoming season that if a hunter can see 3 points straight up on one side, he may shoot.
I have to wonder, then, how long it will take for those in three-point areas to register the same complaint about being able to see brow points. My hunting buddy, Dick Ryan of Altoona, saw a buck several times during the week from his stand but could only detect three points on each side because from a distance he couldn't spot the brow tines.
When he radioed me about noon on the first Saturday that he was leaving the stand to go home, I decided on impulse to get in his stand for a couple hours. I wasn't there five minutes when a deer squirted out of the fence line beside the stand. It walked within a few feet of the stand and because I was looking down at it I clearly saw all the points, brow tines and all. Persistence along with luck got me that buck. It often is small things that made a big difference while hunting.
I hunt deer in a four-point area so this relaxation of the rules will make a difference. It seems to me that if this stipulation of the law is going to be relaxed in one Management Unit, it should be relaxed in them all.