Week 4 Homework: Environmental Awareness
Given that it is currently 50 degrees at 1 pm, immediately following a two-hour rain, I am assuming that temperatures are relatively stable and I wouldn’t anticipate any anabatic or katabatic airflow to strengthen or weaken the very light wind cited in the hypothetical. With moisture on the ground, scenting conditions for skin rafts left after the rain should be very good, but we’re looking for fungi here, and I would guess that the hard rain permeating the leaf litter and entering the soil would have “washed out” the volatiles that otherwise might have built up earlier in the day. These volatiles should now be moving again, but I would guess that scent might be pooled up in the deep leaf litter–and potentially, if the leaf litter is from the previous year and has been matted by snow cover (as it often is in the upper midwest) it is possible that this less-permeable surface would cause odor to shift and emerge in places that are not directly above our target.
Black trumpets could well be emerging from, or even hiding beneath, such leaf litter if this were a midwestern forest with many oak trees. I would approach the site directly into the wind, with Mo quartering roughly perpendicular to it. I would pay attention to the possibility that scent was draining down the trough cited in the hypothetical (which appears to be oriented roughly parallel to the light wind) and I would consider that such scent could be emanating from a variety of places further up the drainage. Overall, these seem like promising conditions for scent work.
Ticks, mosquitoes, blackflies: the holy trinity of northern Minnesota! At 40 degrees I wouldn’t expect the flying insects to be particularly active, but they’d be around, especially in a very light rain. The wind, though, would (thankfully) make them a non-issue on this given day. Ticks, on the other hand, could (depending on the time of year) be out in great numbers. Mo has been vaccinated for Lyme already, and if I anticipated extended work in heavy tick areas I probably would have dosed him with Frontline, even though I am as conservative as possible with such chemicals.
If I had Mo out and this seemed like an excellent opportunity for success–a spot known to produce the target fungus, for instance–then no doubt I would give it a whirl but I would be quick to pull the plug on a day like the one described. Too windy, and the matted grass hiding sticks and branches would make moving through the area a bit treacherous. I’d want to work uphill, with Mo quartering across the wind, but if the trail came in at the top of the hill then I might descend just partway and work my way back up toward the top, just to see if it would be worth our time to work. My guess is that prolonged searches would result in exhaustion and frustration, potentially affecting both of our enthusiasm for future hunting. Time for a cup of coffee and a book back at camp, I think.