Outdoors/Adventure

Spring is really here, but don’t fret: Winter will be back soon enough, along with all the fun that comes with it

Some folks say the first day of spring comes with the first trumpeter swan or the first robin. Reality is the first day of spring is when we get the first hint of green in the birches.

It is spring in Fairbanks. Spring has also arrived in Delta Junction. Our house south of Delta? Still mud. No leaves on the trees. Nearer to Paxson, some of us diehards can still snowmobile in the mornings.

Morning, of course, means from about 3 a.m. to 7 a.m.

We had new snow this week on the Denali Highway. Not exactly powder, but better than rain.

Porcupines are coming out of the woods to feed on the first green shoots along the asphalt. The few hares that survived the population crash are coming to the roadside for the same reason.

Use caution. There is no need to run over either of these critters. I know of people who shoot every porcupine they see, and I have never understood that mentality. Some folks like to hunt hares in the spring, and I understand that if you’re hungry. Otherwise you are also killing a batch of babies. You might do better to go catch a fish.

Fish are easy in the spring. If you are targeting rainbows or char, working the ice edges with anything that resembles a water beetle will yield dinner. Lake trout want something a bit flashier.

Lakes that have salmon fry washing in are usually excellent for trout. The inlets of both Summit Lake and Paxson Lake can be hot spots in the spring. A silver spoon or a wobbler such as a Super Duper work well. Most lures come with treble hooks, so switching the treble to a single hook will keep you square with regulations.

Bear season is open, as is the Denali Highway. The success rate for bears along the Denali is dismal, but what a great excuse to drive the highway. We generally do an evening drive to look for birds and animals, and last week these short excursions have yielded a lynx, a red fox, numerous moose and a few caribou.

Most of the migrating waterfowl have moved through our area. Local mallards, sandhill cranes and trumpeter swans are still in evidence. Notable birds this past week have been a great gray owl, an American kestrel and a lone common snipe. Many of the “tweetie” birds — birds that can’t be identified but are small and dive quickly into the brush — have arrived.

Great gray owls are sitting on eggs. They nest early so young owls can learn to hunt when the first of the small rodents are out. They take mostly voles, but you can see them with young squirrels and baby hares also.

Great horned owls may have already hatched their clutches. I know of one nest that has owlets poking their heads over the side of the nest. They will be hopping around on the ground by the first week in June. The young are flying and learning to hunt when the first of the young hares are moving.

Moose calves are a couple of weeks away from becoming a common sight. It’s wise to keep your dog on a leash from the end of May through June, at the very least. Loose dogs can bring a very angry cow moose back to you.

Caribou are beginning to cross the Richardson Highway near Sourdough on their way to the calving grounds in the Talkeetna Mountains. They aren’t in a rush as there is still snow in the hills.

Some of the flowers are in a hurry. Spring beauties have poked up in the snow-free areas near Delta and Paxson and moss campions are also blooming in favorable areas.

When I start seeing flowers blooming, I am ready to park the Ski-Doo. Put that machine in a shop if you have room or drive it up on a couple pallets. Block the back end up so the track hangs loose. Cover the machine with a light-colored tarp to save the seat. (Don’t use your good snowmobile cover. Why ruin something that costs money?)

Spring is here. Don’t worry; summer follows but it will be over before you know it and you can get back to the really fun stuff of winter. My littlest girl cries when the snow melts. I think she got that from my wife.


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