It’s fall. So why are there still leaves on some trees? This phenomenon, called marcescence, typically occurs in some oaks and their genetic cousins the beeches. It is usually noted on younger trees or the juvenile parts (lower branches) of older trees. Deciduous trees develop an abscission layer (essentially, a clot) at the point where a leaf stem emerges from the branch. This area dries out and weakens enough that the leaf separates from the branch. In marcescent trees the layer does not fully develop. Scientists are unsure about the ecological benefit of marcescence. Some speculate that winter browsing deer may be reluctant to munch on dry leaves, thus sparing next spring’s buds. The leaf cover may also protect the buds from frosts. In addition, the leaves trap and then slowly release snow. That increases the moisture reservoir at the base of the tree. When spring arrives the new generation of leaves will “push” the old leaves off as they unfurl from their buds. Go to www.sarett.org to view our new Feeding Winter Birds video and check out our birdseed, feeders, and birdhouses available on our online store! Purchase online and pickup at the Nature Center. Sign up for our Virtual Trivia Night being held Saturday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.; call the Nature Center at (269) 927-4832 to reserve a space.
Fishing The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported that with most of the statewide creel clerks done working for the year, updates for their weekly report are very limited. Few anglers have been out, as strong, gusty winds coupled with rain and snow over the last week kept anglers off the big waters and most of the inland lakes as well. Water levels were low and clear, making it much harder for those targeting steelhead in some rivers. Warm and sunny weather this past weekend was great for fishing, but will change up fishing conditions once again. Ellinee Bait & Tackle on Paw Paw Lake by Coloma reported that fishing was very slow. Few anglers were going out, but those going out with patience were catching crappie and bluegills. The Paw Paw River has seen some steelhead action, but not a lot. South Haven and St. Joseph have been relatively quiet as winds and dangerous wave action have kept boats out of Lake Michigan and anglers off the dangerous piers. Boat and shore anglers should continue to find a fair number of steelhead in the lower St. Joseph River and up near the Berrien Springs Dam. The DNR fishing tip this week is float fishing for steelhead. When float fishing for steelhead, particularly in winter, the smallest hesitation or tic of your float could be a bite. Don’t be afraid to set that hook! Make sure the inland lake or stream is open for steelhead by checking the regulations in the Fishing Guide. To find more information and tips, check out the steelhead page on the DNR website.
Hunting Firearm Deer Season opens this Sunday, Nov. 15. Hunters are ready to hit the woods; however, it’s important to honor the five-day “quiet period” Nov. 10-14, giving the woods a chance to calm down before the Sunday opener. During those days, it is unlawful to transport or possess a rifle or shotgun with buckshot, slug load, ball load or cut shell in an area frequented by deer. Unloaded firearms securely encased or carried in the trunk of a vehicle however, may be transported to or from a hunting camp. Refer to page 21 of the Hunting Digest for more information. Before the hunt, everyone should review current deer hunting regulations, found in the 2020 Hunting Digest. Changes to antler point restrictions made this year can be found on pages 42-43 and 48-49. Deer check station procedures and hours of operation will be different this year for the safety of hunters and staff. At check stations, hunters are required to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines. At many locations, hunters will be required to stay in their vehicles. There are also changes to the chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing this year. Deer heads from southern Jackson, southern Isabella and western Gratiot counties, and the core CWD surveillance area in the Upper Peninsula, will be accepted for CWD testing through January 4. Deer heads from Clinton, Dickinson, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent and Montcalm counties will be accepted for testing November 15-18 only. If interested in submitting a deer for CWD testing outside the above listed areas/time frames, you can submit samples to a U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved lab for testing. Hunters will be charged a fee to have their deer heads tested. Visit the “For Hunters” section at Michigan.gov/CWD for information about outside labs offering testing. More than 540,000 hunters participated in Michigan’s 2019 deer hunting season, and as many or more hunters are expected to head out for this year’s November 15 firearm opener. Overall, DNR officials say conditions are looking excellent for the 2020 deer seasons, and hunters can expect conditions that meet or exceed 2019. See the 2020 deer hunting preview for regional forecasts, an overview of regulation changes, tips on preparing for the season and other useful information at Michigan.gov/Deer. Safety is the key to every successful hunt, Lt. Tom Wanless, head of the DNR’s recreational safety programs said. All hunters should treat every firearm as if it is loaded. Be aware of their surroundings – know the target and what is beyond it. Unload firearms when crossing obstacles and/or getting in or out of a tree stand. Obey “no trespassing” signs; they are there for a reason. Obtain landowner permission to retrieve game if it wandered onto private property. And wear as much hunter orange as possible to increase visibility to other hunters. Tips for processing deer: Whether this is someone’s first deer hunting season or their 41st, it’s important they have a plan for processing their deer. Whether a hunter has a professional processor do the work or choose to process the deer them self, preparation is the key to keep meat fresh and tasty. The DNR has some great resources to help plan. The DNR video “walking you through quartering a deer” is a good place to start. Several videos available on YouTube can help someone get precise cuts of meat from the deer’s shoulder and hindquarters. These have been found to be especially helpful. If any of this seems a bit too complicated and a professional would be preferred, check out the DNR list of wild game processors in Michigan at the DNR website. As DNR conservation officers gear up for the 2020 firearm deer season, they prepared a list of the 10 most common hunting violations that they encounter every firearm season – most of which easily can be avoided with a little research and planning. The ten violations are: Using the wrong tag or improperly filling out a tag; not wearing orange; being unfamiliar with a firearm and how it functions; committing safety zone violations; trespassing; staking claims to public land hunting blinds; littering; baiting/attracting deer; hunting out of hours or off-season; harassing hunters. Anyone who feels targeted by hunter harassment or witnesses a natural resource violation should immediately call or text the Report All Poaching Hotline at 800-292-7800.