Writing an outdoor column can be easy or difficult, depending on the timeliness of the potential subject material and how often you have to produce a column. A weekly column is the easiest one for pacing. There's always at least one burning controversy on the public stage and it usually has enough legs and depth so you can devote an entire column to it. And you don't get time to be lazy; you have to produce every week.
The bi-weekly schedule means you don't always have to be thinking about your next offering, but picking an issue too early risks it losing its steam and it might be yesterday's news by publication date. Happens all the time. I do this column on Tuesday evening, take it to the newspaper on Wednesday, and it comes out in Friday's Daily Freeman-Journal. By the time you're reading this, I'm already working on next week's column.
On the other hand, if your the least bit of a procrastinator, the deadline has a way of catching up with you, leaving little time to develop an issue. Then there are the times when you have so many subjects, any one of which could be a full book - you just don't quite know where to start. So let's start here:
For openers, I just got back from five days of hunting wild pigs down in Arkansas, followed by two days of crow shooting in Missouri. Both events were great. But I've got to tell you folks, some of the best - and strangest - things happened right here at home.
Rarest of the rare
Let's talk about the rarest of the rare first: Don Prew, a local driver of a commercial vehicle recently received the surprise of his life several days ago when a great snowy owl flew into his truck. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources confirmed the incident. Snowy owls are big really big only slight smaller by comparison than a bald eagle. Too, the snowy owl is truly a bird of the far north, one that lives in the Arctic tundra region, is somewhat cyclic and rarely - very rarely - winters as far south as Iowa, and then only during irruption years. This winter is one of those years. You'd know if you saw it. The snowy owl is all white and large.
And with Roger Balsley (you're going to like this): Roger cornered me in the Hy-Vee Deli the other morning. I've heard about this and read about this but I've never witnessed it up close and personal. Roger did. He was looking out his picture window overlooking the Boone River when he observed two mature bald eagles "lock horns" high over the Bank Street bridge. The two eagles flew into each other, locked their feet together and plummeted downward, cartwheeling end-over-end until they were just a few feet above the bridge then they each released their grasp on each other and parted company each going their own separate ways. Neat, huh?
And from Darrel Weaver comes the answer to a riddle I've been trying to solve. If it hasn't rained these last four months; it we haven't had any measurable snow accumulation; and if the farm tiles aren't running then where is that tiny trickle of current water in the Boone River coming from. Darrel told me - as it turns out - that Martin Marietta Aggregates north of Webster City is pumping water out of their quarry into the Boone full bore from a large pipe. That's a lifesaver for the Boone River. Were it not for this, the Boone would probably be very close to becoming a dry, waterless creek bed.
And did I tell you no, I don't think I did I savored a cup of McDonald's coffee the other morning whilst being privileged to look at some terrific photos of snow geese, road runners, deer and sand hill cranes taken by local outdoor photographer Gloria Johnston. Gloria just got back from the famous and much heralded Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.
Sunday morning when I was out scouring the countryside, looking for outdoor "stuff," Arlin Dickinson stopped me in the middle of the Boone River bridge on White Fox Road to tell me where I could find not only a sizable herd of deer, but a number of bald eagles. And by and large, most of those remaining bald eagles are still with us. I'm still seeing them perched in the trees up and down the Boone River.
Ron Hooker told me about this: For the second time in less than a year, a bobcat has been caught in a trap in our immediate area. Derek Lonnenab who runs a trap line with his dad, Natural Resource Conservation Officer Ken Lonnenab, caught a 30-pound male bobcat in a snare trap in a dry creek bed between Garner and Klemme in Hancock County (just north of us a few miles). While trapping for raccoon and coyote, the last thing he expected was a bobcat. Vince Evelsizer, DNR wildlife biologist from Clear Lake, assisted in the live release of the bobcat. Until this happened, the closest confirmed sighting of the bobcat was here in Hamilton County and that was a bobcat trapped by Paul Whitmore and Dave Root.
And now have a good weekend.