10/28/2020 10:08:00 AM Hunters and farmers did their own forecasting
Ron Kuecker Outdoors Columnist
We are quite fortunate today to have our National Weather Service. There was a time when even short-term weather forecasting was difficult and now three-day predictions are quite accurate. Farmers, especially, needed to know what was ahead. Hay cutting needed to be done with usually a good three-day drying period. You couldn't turn on the morning TV and get a satellite image of future weather patterns. I remember quite well how my dad predicted the weather. It was mostly based on wind direction and perceived humidity. If the wind was from the southeast, rain would come in a few days. If from the southwest a dry period was ahead. Northwest winds usually brought sunshine and cold breezes. Northeast was considering a storm coming, especially in fall and early winter. We usually cut alfalfa hay during a southwest or northwest wind. I liked the northwest wind. It usually meant cooler weather and as a bale handler for both our own farm and several neighbors, that was appreciated. If you weren't a farm kid but loved to hunt you had another reason to be a weather analyst and predictor. Wildlife movements are heavily impacted by weather conditions, whether (that's why English is tough) the wind blows or not may be the biggest. Wildlife hate to be out and about during windy conditions for many reasons. It affects their hearing the most because they can't detect strange noises that could be a hunter or predator. Wind also affects wildlife by determining where they may be. Deer will always bed deeper into cover on windy days. They choose the down wind side of a hill, a ravine or tall trees. They like to also be down wind from predator approach areas so they can smell them and escape early. That includes hunters. Pheasants are much more subject to wind direction as a place to be than most hunters realize. It is something I always consider when I hunt them, especially when hunting with a good dog. Sure when you "line" hunt it probably doesn't make much difference. But if you take your dog out and just follow them in out of wind places some success will follow, even in these ongoing declining years for pheasant hunting. Weather and migrators There are probably no more wildlife affected by weather patterns than migrators. Birds move with the wind whenever possible. Nothing points this out more than the hawks at a ridge on the west side of Lake Superior near Duluth. When the wind is in from the south, the hawks who always avoid flying over the biggest of the Great Lakes, build up to the north. Then they move out en masse, not so much in a flock like blackbirds, but as individuals feeling the urge. Duck hunters that understand weather patterns, either off the computer or their own knowledge, do the best. They, along with the ducks themselves, know when it is time to be moving, usually right in front of the low-pressure area. Want to know where the low is? Turn your back to the wind, point your left arm straight out, point your finger to the low. Someone once asked me why not face the wind and point to the right? Well okay if you want to face a cold northwest wind. Armistice Day blizzard On Nov. 11, 1940, the weather really surprised most hunters. That was back when our "Weather Bureau" was located in Chicago. They had poor communication to their west and it struck so quickly many were caught out in it. Most notably duck hunters who woke that morning to temperatures in the mid 50s, got surprised by the rapid change. Dressed in light hunting clothes they headed out that federal holiday and lost 49 of their fellows hunting to cold wind, heavy snow and lost directions. It was most notable in the Mississippi Valley in southeastern Minnesota. The ducks were pouring into that area for shelter and hunters, experiencing duck hunting like they've never seen before, stayed too long. Some were not found until long after the storm left 20-foot high snowbanks in some areas. Last week's weather Last week's weather pattern wasn't that different from the "Big Blizzard" of 1940. It wasn't nearly as large or as severe but evolved somewhat similar. This is the time of year when moist southern and western winds meet cold air from the north. Our first indication was the yellow, nearly lime green at times, clouds. It was from the many forest fires from Colorado, even some from Utah and California. That smoke had left those areas as being warm and high. Higher, colder air then forced it down and it left a path across southern Minnesota into Wisconsin. Don't eat yellow snow found a new meaning! La Nina In my opinion this cold, snowy weather pattern we have had for the last week is part of this year's La Nina. Compared to El Nino, it brings more cold weather and snow to our state. Let's hope our weekend forecast for warmer weather defies long-range forecasts for this winter. Gun show Each year at Windom's gun show I look for the most expensive gun and the most unusual. The most expensive was an 1886 Winchester in 45-70 caliber. One of Teddy Roosevelt's favorites. It was listed at $7,500.00. The most unusual was an eight-gauge shotgun with a 48-inch barrel.