Berry picking, fillet freezing, assessing future hard mast crops, and eating fresh vegetables and fruits begin the first of many wild-picking expeditions during July.
Wild fruits, while overlooked by many, could be a complement to meatier trips later in the summer for venison, squirrels, wild turkeys, grouse, pheasants and rabbits.
Picking berries will identify a dying elm, a probable sulfur fungus, a black cherry log, and abundant nuts on shagbark and black walnut trees. Do you feel that it is too tedious to crack nuts? Fill a bag to use as squirrel food when the snow gets really heavy, or make a messy crack and put it out as bird food.
“Rabbit hunting is going to be great in a lot of parts, based on what I’ve seen,” suggests Doug Williams of the DW Sports Center in Portage. “Now would be a good time to think about a beagle puppy.
“It can be an interesting jaunt to northern Wisconsin to watch bears and berries and maybe see a grouse on a logging road. It’s pretty easy to tell if she has a litter of chicks based on her mannerisms,” said Stan Ferrell, a northern Wisconsin fancier who farms in Lafayette County. The yellow puffers follow her to the other side.”
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The Department of Natural Resources has yet to write or release its annual outgrown grouse drum count indicating what game bird numbers suggest hunters and leaf-gazers are likely to incur after the 17-17 bird opener. September.
Deb Farrell, Stan’s wife who picks berries and makes jams, doesn’t give the current blackcap (black raspberry) season the best score.
“The berries continue to ripen and the size will very much depend on the rains over the next week or two,” said Deb.
That goes double for blackberries, which follow raspberries as one of Wisconsin’s best wild fruits for jams, jellies and pies. Blackberries, which are now picked, are a distant third.
See a dying American elm or older stump or log that might stand out for searches for morels next spring or this fall’s sulfur mushroom or hen-of-the-woods foreys. The ginseng flowers, while tiny, can be a real eye-opener, second only to the crimson berries in August.
Blue jays and red-headed woodpeckers congregate in the oak trees. This means that Japanese beetles are showing up and time should be allotted to collect Japanese beetle beetles, a task that is done twice a day. Colorado potato bugs and tobacco hornworms on tomatoes may not tolerate being submerged in a mixture of soap, water, and bleach, but it’s better than eating the fruits of these plants covered in insecticide dust.
In many cases, hand-picking these insects from a small garden, particularly before they multiply, works just as well as spraying or dusting.
For those fish fillets, Don Martin at Martin’s in Monroe recommends red worms, leaf worms, and wax worms for bluegills at one of Madison’s lakes.
“A customer brought me a plate of ground fish patties, seasoned and they fit nicely on a bun,” he said.
Martin is reminding people of last fall’s shell shortage and it hasn’t gotten any better, he says. “But be warned: I sold a box to a man for $37.95, who wanted a second box. He just spent $60 for the same thing earlier in the day.”
Those who buy and resell are trying to make money. Don’t help them at your expense.
For those walks through the berries, Doug Williams recommends long pants and some bug spray, but don’t apply it unless you have to.
Wayne Smith carries his bug spray with him because “you often need to freshen up the spray while you’re out in the field.”
The fruits Smith has seen have not always been impressive in size, either.
The fishing is good, according to Wally Banfi, at Wilderness Fish and Game in Sauk City, and he suggests the Madison Chain of Lakes, where musk, walleye and bluegill are caught. Trout also come from some state park lakes.
The rivers are low and we could use some heavy rain for fishing, especially trout fishing. Fishing supplies, to the tip of the line, have gone up in price a bit, about 20%.
Timber rattlesnakes, in their habitat along the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers and surrounding farmland, will mate in the next month and that’s when the males start moving.
“Right now, they’re within a mile of their dens, usually in rocky and woody areas, so keep an eye out for snakes in these places,” says WDNR’s Armund Bartz. “If you have a rattlesnake problem, call the DNR for advice instead of destroying this protected wildlife.”
One of the wood’s favorite foods is small rodents, often found near piles of brush and rocks.
Wisconsin’s deciduous forests and a light breeze provide near-perfect relief from hot July days before returning in abundance.
Jerry Davis is a freelance writer for Lee Sports Wisconsin. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-924-1112. Opinions are those of the writer.