Indiana, PA - Indiana County

ZEKE WILSON: Wildlife continue to struggle

by on March 26, 2013 10:30 AM

It is hard to believe, but just a few short days ago I was cursing myself for not having the time to pursue a bold groundhog that was out exploring. Chances are that he is now back in his den, although the forecast for the weekend holds promise of much better weather.

Though it is now officially spring, the struggle for wildlife continues, and it will continue for at least a few more days. As humans we have grown tired of winter by this point, and we have the convenience of the grocery store and permanent shelters. Food supplies are at an all-time low in the woods, and most animals’ fat reserves are severely depleted. However, when quality habitat is available, it can allow for a chance of survival.

With this knowledge I have made an effort to create cover on my property, primarily for the cottontail rabbit. This winter three rabbits were struck on a state route that borders the property for perhaps 200 yards.

Sunday, as I slid open the machine shed door, a cat darted wildly away from my skid steer. After getting over the initial scare, I discovered a freshly killed rabbit with the head and front shoulders already consumed.

Cats and cars are an unnatural variable to a host of wildlife, with both estimates of their damage and long-term impact difficult to accurately assess. As a rabbit hunter, I realize that they are a renewable resource that can incur high mortalities; however, I watched a hunter’s limit die this year with nothing gained in the circle of life.

While an opossum might have discovered one of the road kills or a coyote could eat the cat, neither is likely; nor is that the way the cycle of life was intended to continue. Unfortunately, it seems that poor driving and free-range cats continue to be popular in today’s society.

Two large rodents will be going out on March 31 as the seasons on beaver and porcupine close.

Crow season will go out on April 7, and with only Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to hunt, the best part of season is slipping away fast.

With nesting under way, crows are as territorial as they get. Slipping into their core area and using a distress or rally call should receive a flyover within the minute.

The trick to crow calling is to kill the first one and then more will come. Depending on how smart the scout is will dictate how high it is, and on uneducated birds the gunning will be at treetop level. Obviously it is ideal to make it a one-shot affair on the first arrival, although a volley of shots might further pique the flock’s interest.

In my experience, if you do not kill that first crow, the chances of another crow coming to the call are slim. The only real chance of having more action after the miss is if your call site is on the edge or fringe of another flock.

Experiencing crow hunting when they want to commit suicide does not happen often, but when it does there is little comparison for aerial action.

Freshly fallen snowfall should allow for some cold-water temperatures on the opening day of the early trout season in the eastern part of the state.

Years like this are why thecurrent April opener has been established as it takes a couple more weeks before the angling can be done in some comfort and success. Even in the second week of April the conditions can be brutal, and cold hands and soft bites are common when snow is present.

Zeke Wilson is an outdoors writer for The Indiana Gazette. His columns appear Tuesday on the Outdoors page and in the Indiana County Area Sports section on The Indiana Gazette Online.
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