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Saturday, February 17, 2018

More Young Forests Needed in Virginia's National Forests (Blog 379)

This weekend, I am going hiking in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest with Wayne Thacker, chair of the Virginia Wildlife Habitat Coalition. This is a group from such Virginia  entities as the Bear Hunters Association, the Bowhunters Association, the Deer Hunters Association, the Hunting Dog Alliance, the State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation State Leadership Team, the State Advisory Council of the Quality Deer Management Association, and representatives from two Virginia Ruffed Grouse Chapters. 

We will be talking about the need for the creation of more young forests on the GWJNF as part of a Virginia Wildlife magazine story I am working on. Many people, both hunters and non-hunters, do not realize the importance of young forests and early succession habitat for many species of game and non-game wildlife.

A good publication on this is Talking about Young Forests, A Communication Handbook. For more information, contact Thacker at

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Signs of Spring in Virginia (Blog 378)

It's not even mid-February yet, but I noticed an early sign of spring this week - a male cardinal singing in a lusty manner. Of course, cardinals are a year-round resident in Southwest Virginia, and they do sing year-round, which is unlike most songbirds.

Nevertheless, the duration of this particular bird's song was what made it different.  The cardinal, at dawn, launched into a full-throated outburst and kept up the music for quite some time. In a week or so, I wager, our local Carolina wren will begin doing the same, and I also expect to hear mourning doves singing soon as they are one of the first birds to build nests, around here usually in March.

I also expect the two turkey gobblers that have been roosting behind our house to become "restless" by early March. Then I will know for sure that spring is here.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Letting Our Heritage Rhode Island Reds Forage (Blog 377)

Today is bitterly cold and with snow in the forecast for Sunday, Elaine and I decided to let our heritage Rhode Island Reds forage in our backyard while I cleaned out their henhouse. After our chickens had been in the yard for a while, I noticed that Elaine had followed our flock into the surrounding woodlot.

"There's just nothing green for them to eat in the yard," said Elaine, and she was right. It is now February and the depth of winter, and the yard is as gray as the sky on an overcast day. Perhaps our chickens found a few random green tidbits among the forest duff, but chances are that, too, had been picked over by songbirds, squirrels, and rabbits. It's winter and times are hard for wildlife and wandering chickens.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Heading Out into the Virginia Turkey Woods (Blog 376)

It's 5:39 A.M. as I write this and in about 20 minutes my son-in-law David Reynolds will be by to pick me up for us to go turkey hunting on the last day of Virginia's winter turkey season. I have killed my two-bird limit, so I won't be carrying a gun, but I am still really excited to be going.

So excited that I had trouble sleeping last night. Just the thought of entering the woods to pursue turkeys, whether it is fall, winter, or spring, is incredible pleasurable and stimulating to me. The challenge of matching up against a bird whose sight and hearing is far superior to mine and whose instincts are so raw and pure. It's one of the many great things about hunting turkeys.

Who knows whether David will kill a bird or not or whether we will even find a flock. That story will be written in the woods this morning.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Homebound in the Virginia Mountains (Blog 375)

The weather continues to be bitterly cold here in Southwest Virginia, and school is closed once again, so I can't start Of Mice and Men again today with my tenth graders or help my freshmen with their PowerPoints on the 1930s.

Our two flocks of heritage Rhode Island Reds are refusing to come out of their respective henhouses, except for brief forays to the feeder. And Elaine has beaten me three straight games of Scrabble. We were half way through the game last night, and she was already ahead of me by some 150 points. It was then that I did the only thing I could - overturn the board and concede defeat. I used to overturn the board when she was ahead and claim that it was an accident.  That gambit has never worked, however.

Warmer days are hopefully ahead.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Rhode Island Red Pullets Start Laying (Blog 374)

Life is full of small success stories. Last April, Elaine and I watched one of our heritage Rhode Island Red hens, Mary, hatch three chicks on her first try as a mother. Although we had hatched other eggs in an incubator, there is no comparison to seeing a hen actually do what genetically she is programmed to do.

This week, Mary's two pullets began laying eggs.  Elaine has named them Thelma and Louise as my wife is in charge of naming the hens while I give the cockerels their appellations. The first egg appeared on Wednesday and the second on Thursday, though the two young hens have not yet grasped the concept of depositing their eggs in a nesting box.  Nevertheless, it is exciting times in the Ingram household.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Deer Hunting in the Cold (Blog 373)

Today is the last day of deer season, and I am doubtful if I will be able to summon up enough courage to go afield. Monday, New Year's Day, my son-in-law David Reynolds and I went to a Botetourt County, Virginia cattle farm, arriving on our respective stands around 3:15.

The temperature with the wind chill was 4 degrees, and neither one of us made it to the end of shooting light at 5:35. In fact, we ran into each other leaving the woods at 5:15. Neither one of us had seen a deer. David summed up our respective thoughts when he said, "I knew it was time to get up when I realized I was too cold to shoot a deer if one did come by."

We talked earlier in the week about going today in late afternoon when the temperature will be around 0 with the wind chill. I have a feeling that we will probably cancel.