JERRY DAVIS For Lee Sports Wisconsin
“Never curse the rain” was one farmer’s advice decades ago to his son and others. Some years later, the farmer’s son, Jerry Apps, now 87, wrote a book, Never Curse the Rain: A Farmer’s Reflections on Water.
June (4.05 inches), July (3.93 inches), and August (4.33 inches) are Wisconsin’s wettest months. That rain is good, even for outdoor enthusiasts and their summer activities.
Where would pheasant hunting, ginseng digging, berry picking, canoeing, and fly fishing be without those rains?
Unless flooded by too much rain, catfish bite and sometimes move upstream in summer in the Yellowstone and Pecatonica rivers, according to Wayne Smith, near Fayette.
Wally Banfi, of Wilderness Fish and Game in Sauk City, and a 30-year fishing guide on the Wisconsin River, said a cold rain isn’t good, but a warm rain generally makes fish more active. Fishing during a rain shower often results in anglers spending more time watching wildlife, eagles, pelicans, and listening to owls and turkeys talking to each other. Slowing down, even while fishing, can sometimes be a good thing.
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The rain, or its lack, is always noticeable. Today, the brambles in the forest are between 3 and 4 feet. Deer have selectively eaten some of that lush vegetation. The old flowers and seed pods of the shooting stars at the edge of the forest have been cut off; some ginseng plants have lost a leaf or two to deer, perhaps fawns.
Young acorns are displayed on the oak trees, making the reading of the fall nut harvest possible. Raspberries and blackberries are formed, one before the other. There are also walnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, and some walnuts. Evaluate these crops for squirrel, turkey, deer and grouse hunting and harvest these fruits as natural food for squirrels and birds when they are ripe, unless drought comes first.
During some periods of rain, Brent Drake, at Tall Tails in Boscobel, said fishing baits, night crawlers and glitters, are usually sold to anglers looking for catfish because they bite in anticipation of rain and storms.
“It also messes up my grilling at night,” he said, “but all I do is open the garage door and sit there looking at the grill and having a picnic from inside my shelter.”
Sometimes the impacts of rain fall well before an outdoor activity. Kelly Maguire, manager of Poynette Game Farm, explained that rains have both positive and negative impacts on pheasant chicks reaching outside pens.
“The hot and then cold spells last spring ruined some of the breeders and layers,” he said. “Still, we were able to get enough eggs to hatch chicks for some 75,000 birds to be released later this year, and 16,000 day old chicks for 13 conservation clubs.”
The rains need to come at the right time so that Kelly can plant the corn and grass in the screened-in pens so that the plant growth is sufficient for the corn to be at least as tall as the birds on the catwalks. The crew has adapted tractors to hold and move the nets so that the tillage can be done with less labor.
“But we have to acclimate the young birds for at least a day outside before it rains or there is bound to be trouble,” he said. “The rain that falls can also delay the release of the birds, because their tails get tangled in the cages. All the summer rain helps the vegetation cover to develop.”
Native and released pheasants are likely to walk out of wet grass onto a path or path, making it easy to explore and view without getting observers wet. Turkeys and grouse are less likely to be seen along a road during or immediately after a rain.
“Just stay out of the rain during a storm, thunder and lightning,” says Doug Williams, at the DW Sports Center in Portage. “Other safety precautions, rain or shine, are for cyclists and hikers to wear bright colors, particularly those who are biking on an incline. Also carry a can of pepper spray for sick or troubled animals.”
Another way to predict the ripening times of June berries, blackberries and black raspberries is to watch raccoons and even look at their droppings, which show berry seeds soon after if the animals are eating the fruit.
Many shooting ranges have covered rest areas to protect shooters from light rain. Practice lightly with limited ammo, even now. It is not necessary to interrupt the collection of wild berries with light rain.
Plant growth and fungal growth generally require normal rainfall in the summer months. April rains are necessary for May flowers, so June, July and August rains are essential for berry and nut development.
Just as clouds, even intermittent shows, can be the perfect weather for wedding photographers (yes it is), so too are summer clouds and rain showers for wildlife viewing and photography. It’s all about light intensity and avoiding shadows.
Wildlife viewing and rural tours are great on rainy days. Turkeys, eagles and vultures are commonly seen “eagle spread” to dry their feathers. Vultures do this most mornings, rain or shine.
Some photographs use mist bottles to make flowers look wet and sports participants sweat. The rain does that naturally.
The fruiting bodies of the mushrooms are beginning to show, in part due to abundant rains this spring. Chickens of the woods and some other edible mushrooms are appearing. More will follow.
What could be more attractive than a fawn photographed with water dripping from its face or a hummingbird guarding its nest, as drops collect on its beak and back?
Every day that the rain delays the alfalfa cutting, another day the fawn grows and possibly a fawn is saved.
Nature cannot exist without a weekly dose of moisture. Live with the rains, don’t curse them. Work and recreation around you. Appreciate them for what they do.
Jerry Davis is a freelance writer for Lee Sports Wisconsin. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-924-1112. Opinions are the author’s.