To the Dakotas last week went an urgent message from the National Audubon Society—"WARNING: The first four whooping cranes to migrate this fall are now approaching your area.... Their lives must be spared...to help bolster the ever-threatened existence of the species." This week a like bulletin will go to Nebraska as anxious wildlife fanciers follow the so few remaining whoopers from their summer nesting grounds in the Canadian wilderness to winter quarters on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, a refuge enlarged in 1956 by the closing of 4,640 additional acres to hunting to prevent careless or malicious wildfowlers from further diminishing the flock.
Last spring 25 of these great birds winged north. One sluggard elected to summer in Texas and an injured female now graces San Antonio's Brackenridge Park Zoo. How many will return is so far an unanswered question. Instead of nesting as usual in Canada's Wood Buffalo National Park area, the Cranes vanished above Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories and no nesting census was possible.
The four whoopers who should now be at the Platte River Basin in Nebraska are the vanguard and did not nest. Behind them is a pair with one youngster. The rest have yet to appear, but last season the whoopers hatched eight chicks and the average is four. This fall the outlook is bright. The fact that no other young cranes have appeared as yet may indicate busy rearing activities by the adults who pushed so unusually far north.
The greatest hazard confronting cranes on their current 2,000-mile trek will be the hunter. The migration may continue into December, wildfowl seasons along the route (see map) are opening, and despite relentless campaigns to familiarize the laity with whoopers, mistakes have been made. Cranes have been taken for snow geese and other large birds, and since 1939 30 have been shot. Yet, the whooping crane is distinctive enough so that a reasonably cautious gunner should be able to avoid potting one.
A mature crane is 5 feet tall and has a wingspread of seven feet. It is white except for black wingtips and a red-crowned head, and normally flies high, emitting a trumpetlike call. The hopefully awaited four- or five-month-old whoopers will be on their first southern junket, and, though almost the size of adults, are buff colored, mottled with white.
The whooping crane can be saved from extinction, but nature can ill afford the loss of even one.
A TIME FOR HUNTING
The fall is young. Greens are dissolving into a splash of color, and, as winter probes a finger here and there, in high country a bit of white sets off nature's yearly brilliance. So, across the nation and in Canada, hunting seasons begin to open, and, though the angler has water yet to cast, game too becomes quarry.
Woodcock, the elusive timberdoodle, are in Nova Scotia alders now, and last week the northern counties opened to upland hunters. Their bag limit is eight, but few have filled it and many wait for the southern county opening this week when the long-billed birds will congregate in Queens, Shelburne and Yarmouth counties before moving south.
In Maine the goose hunter is out, and one thinks of Merrymeeting Bay, where the plump honkers gabble to one another and sneak boating is an art. The Canadas are there too, and guides report a fine opening.
In New Jersey railbirds are the preoccupation, and it was a poor season until Hurricane Flossy piled the tides high on marshes and meadows of the Maurice River. Now, seated in the bow of a narrow-sided, shallow-draft boat while his guide poles through matted stalks of wild rice, the gunner finds birds. The most plentiful sora is very small and it takes a limit of 25 to furnish anything like a family meal. But that meal is a tasty one and the season is not ended until Nov. 9.
Some wildfowl seasons are opening in the Midwest this week, and a fine flight is expected, drought conditions notwithstanding.
Farther west the big-game hunter is having his day. For that new kind of deer stalker, the bowman, Colorado opened its season Oct. 1. When bow hunting started there four or five years ago a hundred archers trudged the woods. This year more than one thousand took out permits, and they are picking their kill from one of the largest deer herds in Colorado history.
In Idaho last week Kenneth Hartzler of Boise, who wanted a moose, investigated a shot and saw that a young greenhorn had hit a calf moose, dropped his rifle to cut its throat and was being charged by both cow and bull. Hartzler's companion diverted the cow and Hartzler downed the bull. It had a 48-inch spread and weighed 1,200 pounds, one of the largest moose ever taken in Idaho, and that state allows a man only one moose in a lifetime. The moose season is over, but elk runs to Nov. 30 and the mule-deer herd in the Middle Fork area of the Salmon River has outgrown its range and a hunter may take two deer there also until Nov. 30.
British Columbia offers the finest in big game, and seasons for elk, deer, bear, moose, caribou, goat and sheep are open and will run to, and in some cases through, December. No outstanding kills have been reported yet, but with snow there will certainly be some from such famous areas as the Upper Elk River and Bella Coola. Meanwhile, wildfowl and ptarmigan are open and other upland game will be on Oct. 13.
Other states and provinces, of course, are opening game seasons also. The above are neither the outstanding nor the only ones. They serve to bridge a change of season and herald a time for hunting.
CHARGED WITH ARDOR
Amorous whistles in shady places often lead to consequences that are, if not tragic, at least unfortunate; Pity the poor moose, however, whose bleats of love are more full-throated, whose responses are more feckless. Up in Newfoundland this year some 30 of the splendid but misguided beasts, mistaking diesel train horns for a come-on, have made romantic forays onto the tracks and been dropped in same.
SO—season opened (or opens); SC—season closed (or closes).
C—clear water; D—water dirty or roily; M—water muddy.
N—water at normal height; SH—slightly high; H—high; VH—very high; L—low; R—rising; F—falling.
WT50—water temperature 50°.
FG—fishing good; FF—fishing fair; FP—fishing poor; OVG—outlook very good; OG—outlook good; OF—outlook fair; OP—outlook poor
TROUT: NEW HAMPSHIRE: FG for splake on flies at White Lake, Tamworth and Connecticut River between Lake Francis and First Connecticut Lake; OG for this spunky hybrid. Some streams slightly H but most producing old-fashioned trout on wets and streamers. Frosty nights make sunny days best bet, and OG through October.
COLORADO: FG generally, with most streams L and C. Pouge Lake OG for big natives trolling but FP from shore. Eugene Foster of Denver, however, discouraged by nonproductive dry flies at Estes Lake, switched to marshmallows. Six marshmallows later he had creeled six fat trout but, still dissatisfied, caught a seventh on a piece of cheese.
BRITISH COLUMBIA: Most interior lakes report FG, with Kamloops coming well to flies. Big Bar, Peterhope best bets, but small island and lower mainland lakes and streams all worthwhile and OG.
IDAHO: Fishing excellent on dry Mosquitoes size 10 or 12. FG on dries in Big and Little Wood rivers. Boise River drainage also good, with hottest spot south of Boise. Middle Salmon from Camas Creek downstream to Arapahoe Point FG. Henry's Lake yielding 5-and 6-pound fish to trollers. Statewide OVG.
MUSKELLUNGE: PENNSYLVANIA: Northwestern waters almost N after recent heavy rains. Muskies starting to feed in Allegheny and Tidioute area, French Creek and Cambridge Springs area. Wardens advise OG if no more rain.
NEW YORK: Chuck Swanson of Falconer led Chautauqua Lake anglers last week with a 33-pound, 13-ounce muskie measuring 49½ inches. Live bait highly productive, but little time as SC Oct. 15.
WISCONSIN: Ecstatic spy reports magnificent colorful autumn with finest muskie fishing of recent years, and OVG.
STEELHEAD: BRITISH COLUMBIA: Kispiox FF and fall run expected in Thompson River any day; OG.
IDAHO: Steelhead hitting at mouth of Middle Fork of Salmon. Excellent results also at Big Home above mouth of Big Creek and OVG.
CALIFORNIA: Best angling of season in Orleans area of Klamath River with spinners. Water clearing after runoff from forest fire damage, and OVG.
STRIPED BASS: NEW JERSEY: Striper action uncertain following recent storms but some surf results reported at Manasquan and Asbury Park with skimmer clams the bait; OF but will improve.
MASSACHUSETTS: Backlash of Hurricane Flossy still upsetting Cape Cod waters but some stripers being taken along back shore in Pamet River area to Orleans and from Cape Cod Canal. OF at moment but OVG for next month or more once weather moderates.
CALIFORNIA: Frank's Tract, Big Break above Antioch Bridge and Sherman Island Lake all report FG for fish to 32 pounds. San Pablo Bay productive on Contra Costa side, and OG.
NORTH CAROLINA: School stripers hitting in Croatian and Roanoke Sound and OG for October, especially in waters near Manteo and Manns Harbor.
PACIFIC SALMON: BRITISH COLUMBIA: Big news is return of over 25,000 pink or humpback salmon to artificial spawning channel of Jones Creek about 100 miles up the Fraser. These are yield of eggs transplanted two years ago from Lakelse Lake on the Skeena River 500 miles north. They represent extremely high survival from 2,000 feet of artificially created gravel spawning bed designed to compensate for damming of stream. Further significance is return of run in an even year to a stream which formerly supported runs only in odd years. This unusual success suggests the possibility of increasing salmon runs by breaking the alternate-year rule which is normal for the species and restoring nonproducing streams. Elsewhere in province FG for silvers at most points along the east coast of Vancouver Island, and Campbell River and Cape Mudge area report limit catches to 18 pounds. The Cowichan area coming into own with fish to 21 pounds. Some rain but streams N and C and OVG.
OREGON: Salmon now running in most coastal streams, with chinook and silvers being taken above tidewater; OG.
IDAHO: Fall run heavy on Snake River from above Brownlee Dam to Murphy Bridge. Chinooks to 25 pounds hitting large brass Colorado spinners and daredevil lures, with OVG.
CHANNEL BASS: NORTH CAROLINA: October OVG for surf anglers along Dare coast and Hatteras observer advises perfect weather and fish to 40 pounds are on the spot.
BONEFISH: FLORIDA: Poor weather has discouraged most Keys anglers, but guides report fall OG once weather breaks.
BLACK BASS: MISSOURI: Anglers making nice catches on White River and from mouth of James River to Table Rock Dam, with top-water plugs or spinners efficient tempters. Most rivers L and rain badly needed; otherwise OG.
FLORIDA: FG on Little Lake Harris at Howey with most fish taken on live shiners or artificial eels. Cooler weather improves outlook for surface lures; OG. Most noteworthy catch of week was a 12-pound, 4-ounce largemouth collared by Tom Stevens of New Smyrna Beach while fishing in the Withlacoochee River. This river and the Rainbow, a short, clear stream running into the Withlacoochee from Rainbow Springs, are in prime condition, and OVG.
TENNESSEE: Limit creels reported from area lakes, with Norris Lake in lead but Watt's Bar, Ludon, Cherokee and Douglas lakes close seconds. Top-water lures best producers in early morning, but bass seem so hungry that almost anything, including spinners, will work; OVG. The heftiest catch of the week was 8-pound 3-ounce largemouth taken from Kentucky Lake by Hank Woffard of Nashville on a fly rod and popping bug which he designed himself.
ONTARIO: OF and FF, with Buckhorn Lake in Kawarthas living up to its reputation. Another favorite fall hot spot, Jones Falls on Rideau River, yielding nice catches.
IF YOU SEE THIS BIRD DON'T SHOOT
AS WHOOPERS WING to winter quarters, wildfowlers along the way are warned to hold fire if any large white bird or a silhouette like inset above flies within range.
[See caption above.]