Driftless outdoors in April is heaven on earth

By Capn. Ted Peck

Hunter uses both slate and box calls to lure in a turkey. Total camo is key to bringing these birds into range. (submitted photo)

Song writer Jimmy Buffett penned the line: “Don’t try to describe the ocean if you haven’t seen it.” 

Good advice if you’re trying to relate the unseen grandeur of heaven. The Bible goes into considerable detail about this eternal place in the Book of Revelation.

The last chapter of the Good Book is a revelation the Apostle John had when imprisoned on the island of Patmos.

If you believe the Bible is the inspired word of the Creator, heaven obviously existed before John’s vision.

John didn’t have access to the internet, let alone Google. He didn’t have the opportunity to absorb the sensory explosion of the outdoors in the Driftless Area, either. But if he did, my guess is John’s revelation would have been about this very place — in the month of April.

There are years when the earth is a half-moon past the vernal equinox before spring bursts forth in all her glory. This has certainly been one of those years.

Grass turned green and buds appeared practically overnight. Much needed-rains last week goaded Morcella spores to ease beyond the surface beneath the withered arms of recently deceased elms and aging apple trees. 

The internet reveals folks down around Dubuque displaying trophy bags of morels last week. The little grey guys are just starting to pop up around here as you read these words, soon to be followed by those luscious yellow treasures.

There is a considerable matrix which must congeal for us to experience a banner mushroom year here in the Driftless. This certainly wasn’t the case in 2023, but this year there is certainly considerable promise.

Moisture and soil temperature are major keys. The flavorful fungi first appear in fairly open areas, near the tops of bluffs with a northern exposure, hiding in plain sight at other compass vectors spiraling down the hill to the nether reaches of cloistered valleys over the next couple of weeks.

The woods is alive with cardinal music and the rolling thunder of boss gobblers looking for love with hunters trying to mimic enchanted stumps hoping to make their venture a final patrol for a long-bearded tom – oblivious that they are an irresistible jungle gym to battalions of deer ticks.

Morels were treasured trophies about the time a lifelong passion for fishing flushed this old, freckled skin with unquenched desire at the midpoint of the last century in the far southeast corner of the Driftless.

Piscatory pursuit since that time has brought countless thrills across North America wherever fish swim since then. Turkey fever only became a serious affliction about 40 years ago, finding only temporary remission across a half-dozen states.

This distraction in search of what’s truly important in life began sometime before 1985 in northwest Illinois. Back in the day when there was a modicum of freedom in the Land of Lincoln, the DNR used to award a little pin with a turkey juxtaposed in the outline of the state. 

The recognition program stopped at the turn of the century when politicians realized personal pockets were a better repository for tokens than acknowledging hunting prowess in taxpaying sportsmen.

There is little chance that politicos realized the folly of collecting tokens, deer horns, stuffed ducks and glass-eyed fish as validation for outdoors prowess. The only worthwhile trophy is a soul at peace.

Time spent in the outdoors reveals harmonious immersion with nature is the true reward. This epiphany leads many enlightened hunters to swap the gun for a bow.

Bowhunting for turkeys is second only to calling coyotes into arrow range in the spectrum of hunting challenges.

My personal expertise and desire never attained that degree of passion. Dressing up like a pile of oak leaves and toting a bow into the woods is still justifiable because it offers an acceptable illusion of purpose.

Donning this attire and wielding a tennis racket while functioning as a tick magnet is borderline nuts, even with today’s definition of acceptable behavior. 

When a person finally comes to the realization that total harmony with the Driftless outdoors in April is truly experiencing heaven on earth, opinions of those not so enlightened bear no consequence.

Might as well hum the George Bennard classic hymn “The Old Rugged Cross”. This song writer grew up in Iowa, penning this verse in 1913. He didn’t try to describe the ocean — but was spot on regarding the promised land.

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