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June 2, 2020

3/25/2020 11:10:00 AM
The outdoors, a get away from indoor viruses

Ron Kuecker
Outdoors Columnist

No problem here for coming up with something to write about this week. But instead of zeroing in on a subject or two, maybe a bit about many is the way to go.
It's been two weeks since my last column and what a two weeks. We've all learned about our public health services - some good, some bad. They certainly can bring life to a halt. Their preventing spread of a virus has been pretty good. Yet, failure to produce a good test, early, was a failure. That two to three week delay can be pinned on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention before turning it over to both private and public labs.
Many did not know a zoonotic disease was one spread from animals to people two weeks ago. Think, horseshoe bats and pangolins in China and the many strains of coronavirus they carry.
Few realized what goes on in wet markets in a huge city of Wuhan, China. They kill animals in front of you and sell them raw and in many cases to be eaten the same way. That's why they are called wet markets.
We have the zoonoses of Lyme disease, West Nile virus and rabies as our more common wild animal to human spread to be concerned with. Now we can add COVID-19 to our list of global diseases such as MERS (camels), SARS (civet cats) and Ebola (apes) that seem to have originated from animals.
Myself, I've been mostly staying near home, worrying about the small- to medium-sized businesses of our area as they are impacted by both the virus and rules and regulations. They need to have the ability to operate in a manner that is as safe as possible, yet allows them to maintain a cash flow. That would enable them to still be in business when the pandemic is over.
Let's not kill what we are trying to save. When worries become heightened and you need a "safe place"; do what many like me do, go to the outdoors to get away from indoor viruses and daily pressures.
The migration
For some migrating birds, a sudden snow squall, like the one we had last weekend, will stop their progress north. Such is the case of big flocks of white-fronted geese, some call them 'specklebellies', in our area.
They have increased in numbers quite drastically the last decade. Many more move through our area in spring than fall. If in the fall and you get a chance to down one, do it. They are considered the best eating of all the wild geese.
The big Canadian geese are now sitting paired up on muskrat houses and defending their nesting territory.
Ducks are much slower to arrive. A few wood ducks have been seen (not by me). A nice flock of "ringbills" (or maybe more correctly, ringnecks) have found the gravel pit just across the road south of the gun club to be comforting. They have been joined by a dozen canvasbacks; seven males, five females. That is a much better ratio of males to females than the usual three-to-one that has held back their population for decades.
Pheasant hunters and population managers should take heed and realize the same male to female ratio is happening to their favorite bird.
Hunting forum
The Cottonwood County Game and Fish League's 25th Annual Spring Hunting Forum for this week has been cancelled, of course. No place to hold it, crowd too big and South Dakota speaker not allowed to travel out of state.
As I talked to Keith Fisk of the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks he told me their spring nesting predator control program has been extended. Two members of their board opposed extension with one saying bounties not needed, trappers are doing very well without them. Where do these uninformed people come from and how do they end up on influential boards? Fur prices: raccoon, $5; muskrats, $2; beaver, $10; mink, $5; and coyotes dropping rapidly from $50 to $20.
Try to pay for gas, even at $2 a gallon, with fur prices at those levels!
Turkeys and pheasants
Those nice, big, beautiful game birds are more alike than we sometimes realize. They both have males that like to strut around in spring and gobble or crow in the evening or dawn. They both try to raise a brood in wet spring weather.
And, both have really been challenged to hatch or raise a brood the last two, very wet years. I have seen a few roosters out displaying their beauty but no gobblers.
The turkey numbers are down quite a bit in our area but may be more concentrated in good wintering areas so far this spring. Many don't realize the value of good food plots (mostly corn), for turkeys as well as pheasants.
Windom dog park
At the recent Windom city council meeting an off-leash dog park was approved. That was a culmination of a lot of work and consideration by both the Cottonwood County Animal Rescue group and the Windom Park and Recreation board.
The chosen site is a quiet spot on the north side of Island Park. The fence, gating, cement pad at the entrance and signage will all be funded by donations.
The Cottonwood County Game and Fish League recently donated $2,000 to the project. It sounds like a full-fledged fundraiser will wait for the current virus scare to abate.

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