Have You Ever Had A bad Relationship...With Poison Ivy ?
This irritating plant can ruin a summer. When I look down and realize I am standing in a Poison Ivy patch, I freeze. my mind races as I ponder my next move. Fortunately waders are the best deterrent. Hands held high I slip into the river and submerge the parts of my waders than have had contact.
Getting in and out of the river is your most vulnerable time. Sliding in you put your hands down on the river bank... Getting out you grab a hand full of foliage.....look first! This is the time of the year when if you are exposed ...it is hard to get rid of. Hot and humid weather make it almost impossible to beat. If exposed to bare skin, rinse off those affected areas and visit a church on the way home !
Spending time along the river in remote areas you must always be conscious of the environment. Bees, Deer flies, Mosquitoes, Black flies and Poison Ivy can be more of a problem than a bear. Your knowledge of Mother nature, simple alertness and preparation will give you a fruitful outing. You are here to fish...not itch .
If you haven't eaten Ruffed Grouse on a bed of wild rice and morel sauce with a Woodcock pate ....you haven't lived! This gelatinous bird has been my love since the 1960's. I do not have the physical capabilities of hunting it today, but I still dream of those warm October afternoons with Ole Max my German Short Hair pointer who enjoyed it as much as I did.
Fly-fishing gets me close to this bird. He thrives along the river edge eating the catkins. You might see one fly across the river, but you are more likely to hear him drum. It is his territorial claim and is done on a " drumming Log ", the sound is made by the pumping of his wings that creates a noise that starts slow, increases in speed ...then slows down again.
The sound resembles some one trying to start a chainsaw or lawn mower that...won't start ! pum-pum-pum-pum-pum-pum-pum. You will hear it and because it is very similar to a sound one would hear in the city you ignore it. Listen closely it is northern Michigan's most respected indigenous game bird.
There are two color phases Grey or Red ...the picture shows the red phase. They are about the size of a Cornish game hen. You will bump them out of the river cover as you walk to the stream. It is loud fluttering sound that will startle you. When I flush one, I pull up my fly rod like it was my old Browning A-5 shot gun...and the memories go on.
The Muskrat...A predator's friend...For all the wrong reasons !
This cute 2-3 pound mammal is to a predator what Ham on Rye is to us. The Muskrat is not destructive. It is not dangerous. It is out traveling the river in the day time for sustenance. You will see them often as they swim along the bank of the river, whipping their tail in an undulating manor for propulsion. The Muskrat is somewhat alert and will go below the surface if it sees you.
Their appearance and behavior is similar to the beaver, but it is a fraction of the size. Muskrats tunnel under the bank of the river to nest and seek shelter, or build mounds of grass in ponds like a small beaver lodge. They eat roots, tubers and grasses. They are less harmless than a back yard squirrel. He just travels past you minding his own business. You will see them coming, they rarely surprise you.
Flat out...they are cuter than a cartoon character.
The only problem is they get bad P.R. With a name like "Muskrat" and a tail to match it is never going to get the positive coverage or love of a child's cuddly "Pound Puppy"; "Pound Muskrat". I don't think so. Muskrats are cute, well behaved, and like that quiet girl in the back of your 9th grade History class...nice to look at!
In Russia, Europe and Asia an Elk is a Moose? So let's use the Shawnee Indian name "Wapiti" meaning "White Rump". Michigan has the only wild herd east of the Mississippi. It makes it's home in the Pigeon River Country. You can see it when fly-fishing the Black, Pigeon or Sturgeon rivers. Males are called "Bulls" Females are "Cows" and their offspring is a "Calf". Bulls can weight over a 1100 pounds, best only by the Upper Peninsula Moose.
The Bull Wapiti has some characteristics of the White tail deer and of the Moose . It eats and browses like the Whitetail yet wallows like the Moose. The Wapiti's one unique behavior pattern is referred to as
"Bugling" . The best description of bugling is it sounds like trying to slowly open a rusty old screen door on the cabin. A long, high pitched, squeaky sound interrupted by hic-ups!
The bulls bugle in September. Easy to hear on a cold, calm morning . The call is to challenge a rival bull or announce his dominance over a harem. It is a majestic sound that reverberates through the forest as all other animals stand down. It is during this period that the Wapiti is easy to locate.
The herd is closely managed by the MIDNR but their size can create problems. The Wapiti has been known to wander into Emmet county, crossing I-75, and creating a very dangerous situation. The cows and their young travel together, while the bulls in velvet (covering of their adult antlers) hang out in what are called "Bachelor Groups". When the cooler weather of fall arrives the large Bulls shed their velvet and become solitary and aggressive.
The Elk herd has fared well these last 80 years in Michigan. I hope man's encroachment will not endanger their presence as they are a wilderness wonder.
Emmet county is the land of the Odawa, the Native American Indians who once ruled this land. Their belief is the beaver is the center of all life. His dams would create an environment that would draw wildlife, create good cover for grouse, deer and deep holes for trout. A beaver kill ( flooded out area ) was a good place to hunt and fish.
Brook trout thrive in these back waters and being the only indigenous river trout left ( the Grayling is extinct ), can grow to 15 inches or more in size. When you fish these areas you will have contact with the resident beaver. This 30-40 pound mammal has the distinction of supplying me with the biggest scares of my woodland career. When I hike into these remote areas in the evening, my eye sight fades with the last light of the day. The beaver will be traveling down the river mostly submerged. Undetected he will run in to me and tail slap to warn his family. It is a loud noise similar to a hard clap of the hands. It is enough to make you get your waders wet on the inside...it is a scare you will never forget.
The beaver is active in the evening and is quiet in his work. The only noise he makes is the felling of large Aspen trees. His moats along the river are made to gather mud for the dam and to float branches to his construction site. These canals become trails to the river used by animals to access the stream to drink. The Beaver is very harmless, but creates problems with his dams for people living along the river. He regenerates the land without a forest fire and brings healthy growth to the flora. The beaver is beneficial to nature, but his life has always been in conflict with man, be it his fur or his dams.
The desire of man to be by the water has pushed the beaver deep into the wilderness. When I sit in the middle of the river on a working beaver dam, in an unequivocal silence...I am as far away from the bustle of city life as one can be...and very content.
Sweet Is The Lore That Nature Brings