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   The first week of April has been true to form over most of the state, dominated by clouds and showers that, we hope, will bring May flowers. If my emerging daffodils and irises are any indication there will be plenty of blooms to brighten the landscape in the weeks and months to come.
    I had thought about doing some early yard work (before the spring trout and turkey seasons got underway) but my good intentions didn’t get me very far. While the leaves piled and scattered around the yard looked dry enough they were still frozen to the ground underneath. I managed to get some of them carted off to the mulch pile but, at least in my yard, it’s not quite spring as of yet.
    Of course, that kind of thinking can be dangerous. I normally leave my bird feeders and suet cages outside at night just so they are ready and waiting for the early-morning brigade of turkeys, nuthatches, doves and blue jays. Not anymore! In the last few days the midnight raiders have returned, and just this morning I had to go out and find the remnants left behind by the raccoons and skunks that had feasted on them during the night. So, for the next several months I’ll have to bring all that stuff in at sunset. Every single time I forget to do it the raccoons remind me of my slovenly ways.
    On the bright side, one morning I was up before the sun and decided to have my first cup of coffee on the back deck. As soon as I opened the door I heard robins and cardinals singing. In the background were the usual crows and jays, and for a few brief seconds a raven landed in the big oak near the wood shed and uttered a few deep-throated squawks before flapping off into the distance. Ravens are all around me and I hear them at a distance all day long, but it’s extremely rare to see one sitting on its perch right outside my window.
    For the record I heard the first Canada geese of the season on March 30, pretty much right on time for this area. I’ve already had scads of bluebirds and robins in the yard, but they spend the winter here and reappear in open areas as soon as the grass starts showing. For many years everyone thought that these two traditional harbingers of spring migrated south for the winter but that is no longer the common belief. I’ve seen them all winter, both species working the suet feeders with gusto on the stormiest of days, so I know they are year-round neighbors.
    My herd of deer has grown to about 25 animals with a good mix of bucks, does and fawns. I put out more cracked corn and sunflower seeds these days than I did all winter, nearly doubling the dose, and they eat every bit of it by morning. They first fawns and does start coming in about 4:30 p.m. and the parade continues through the night. I have seen them in the yard picking over the remnants of the pile as late as 9:30 a.m. I suspect that they come and go through the night as noises, wind and roaming raccoons dictate, but by daylight there’s little more than corn dust left on the ground.
    By the way, despite all the free provender I’ve noticed a lot of in-fighting among the deer as they come in to feed. The bucks push all the others away till they are done, but the family groups of does and fawns are none too friendly, either. I see a lot of jumping, kicking and pushing as they maneuver their way into the seed piles. I try to scatter the food around the yard so more critters will be able to partake, but the most aggressive deer will chase another 20 yards or more. You don’t see that on the Disney channel!
    My fishing buddy has already been pestering me about going out for trout (the season officially opened April 1) but I have my own way of determining when the fishing will be at its best. I hate to bring it up, but I’ve found that when the black flies just start biting (not swarming, but ferociously biting) the stream fishing seems to be at its peak. I go anyway just for the fun of it but I find that the trout bite best when the black flies are doing the same.
    Also, while scratching around in the yard I like to check for worms in the garden. Just a few days ago there was only a couple of inches of loose soil on top of solid ice, so it may be a while before the best fishing worms start to show up. When I can turn over a pitchfork full of earth and find worms hanging out all over the pile I know it’s time to go fishing.
    Of course, right around that time is when all spring breaks loose and there are suddenly dozens of important yard jobs to attend to  – painting, hauling, cleaning, window washing, potting . . . all that “spring cleaning” stuff, but hey, the worms are out and the fishing is at its best – who’s got time for chores?
    I try to manage my work load by doing the less glamorous jobs around midday or on days when the weather is less than glorious. If a day begins with a bright sunrise I’m more than likely to go fishing or scouting for turkeys, leaving the work for later in the day, or maybe tomorrow or next week. It can wait.
    I never feel guilty about trout fishing or chasing turkeys because a good morning in the woods invariably makes me feel more motivated about doing chores in the afternoon.  Besides, I’ve been this way for my entire life – why start being responsible now?

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