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October 1, 2020

7/29/2020 2:23:00 PM
Origin of full moon names is interesting

Ron Kuecker
Outdoors Columnist

He came out of the cornfield as I drove near. His rack of antlers were below the tops of the corn tassels. They looked pretty big but as I got closer I realized the reason for that; they were covered with thick velvet.
Velvet on antlers is the nutritional source of their growth. It is filled with blood vessels that bring nutrients to the horny development. Antlers are epithelial tissue, not part of the skeletal tissue as a true horn is.
This is usually the time of the year to best see bucks in the early evening. They get up from their shady beds, begin foraging early to provide the nourishment necessary to grow big antlers that they can show off to potential mates.
They are also a method of scaring away lesser bucks in the fall. I once saw a big buck square off with a lesser buck. Although some does and their spring fawns gathered around to watch, no fight materialized. The youngster wisely walked away, maybe thinking, I'll see you in another year or two.
I'm sure we all have seen bucks with their antlers locked in battle. Most of them found dead. All of those scenarios I have seen have always been big bucks of equal size.
Little bucks do not tangle up with big bucks.
Back to the buck that came walking out of this year's tall corn. He's the only one seen by me this year because of the early, perfectly watered crop. Normally I see three or four per year with their velvet rack just above the green leaves. Nice sight.
Because of this annual appearance of buck deer in July, the full moon of July is referred to most commonly as the Buck Moon in our country. It was picked up from the early human inhabitants of our country mostly the Assiniboines.
Another name for the July full moon is Thunder Moon. Of course, we know where that came from, our frequent thunderstorms in July versus the rolling thunder in the clouds earlier in the year.
But that thunder thing will be a subject for another column later this summer. For now let's just enjoy the Buck Moon and maybe you will get lucky and see a set of velvet-covered antlers above the soybeans some evening.
You gotta look for them.
Sturgeon Moon
The full moon of August, coming up soon, is called the Sturgeon Moon. Not having sturgeon fish around our area it is hard for us to understand that naming.
I guess it is from the time of year when rivers drop and sturgeon became more available to tribes that lived off the land. Big sturgeon are much more common to our north and so that name for the August moon was probably more common there.
A group of us went fishing on the Churchill River midway to the Arctic Circle. We loaded our boats on a train, traveled another 90 miles north then unloaded them at the icehouse. The day before we arrived an Indian had caught a 90-pound sturgeon on hook and line.
It was butchered and put in the icehouse for probable smoking later. Wish we could have seen it. I'm thinking those big fish must have been a big part of their food source and deserve to have a moon in their name.
Wild turkey
Our winters of 2017-18 were nasty. Cold and heavy snows with ice storms mixed in took their toll on our pheasants. Then two very wet summers were the final blow to our favorite game birds. They quite simply were just barely able to hold onto a breeding population.
We commonly forget about that same impact on our wild turkey population here on the very changed prairie of Southwest Minnesota. Although, many had noticed that young clutches were seldom seen last year.
Will this year be different in a very reproductive friendly spring and summer?
Maybe so, if what Les Schaeffer saw in his farmyard west of Windom is any indication. Looking out from his machine shed one day he was surprised to see a flock of young turkey picking something on the ground as they slowly proceeded across the farmyard. Sticking out above those poults were two larger, very dark, nearly black turkeys. They were obviously the hens of the youngsters taking them out for a feeding that morning.
Les estimated them to be about the size of a so-called spring chicken, that was the term used for the two- to three-pound chickens that everyone on the farms of that era raised from chicks. And, believe both me and others of those times, there was nothing better. Raised on the range, corn fed and mostly of leghorn ancestry, you can't find that type of bird in a supermarket.
If you do, give me a call before they are all gone.

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