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7 Things to Try this Week in Iowa’s Outdoors

  • 4/10/2015 11:31:00 AM
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7 Things to Try in Iowa's Outdoors This Week | Iowa DNRIowa's great outdoors is waking up from a long winter's sleep, and more seasonable temperatures make this a perfect time to explore.

Hunt Morels: Some say it’s too early. The old adage goes, “Wait ‘til oak leaves are the size of squirrel’s ears,” but “soil temperatures have to be 53 degrees,” say the scientists. Really, it takes just the right combo of rainfall and warm weather. Mushrooms should start popping soon, so start looking. Try south-facing slopes near dying elms, ashes or old orchards now. Check out creek and river bottoms if it’s dry; north-facing slopes if it’s hot. It’s prime time until mid-May. 50 Tips to Spot Morels

Turkeys are out early: Whether you hunt with a camera, bow or shotgun, nothing’s as exciting as hearing a wild turkey hen call out and a gobbler respond. Be in the woods at least a half hour before sunrise (6:30 a.m. eastern Iowa, 7 a.m. western Iowa). Sit very still next to a tree trunk and wait as the woods come alive: woodpeckers drumming, songbirds singing, turkeys shuffling through the leaves and squirrels chattering. Wild turkey season is open now through May 17. Be prepared for an adrenaline rush. Turkey hunting: safety videos, info on licenses and laws, places to go, harvest reporting and more.

Grab your pole: Spring is a great time for folks who fish from shore. Preparing to spawn, panfish, bass and other species move into shorelines where water is warm. Try fishing smaller lakes. Take advantage of good water clarity and fish near drop-offs, rip-rapped jetties, brushpiles or other habitat. Crappies hit best when water temperatures reach mid-50s. When water warms to the 60s, look for shallow hollows in the substrate. Bluegills – then bass – will be spawning. Males aggressively defend these nests, making for excellent angler success. Get the current fishing report.

Catch some shooting stars: Head for open country, a dark spot away from street lights and farmstead floodlights. Lean back on sleeping bags or lawn chairs and catch the oldest recorded meteor showers, the Lyrids. Known by the Chinese some 2,700 years ago, they were “falling like rain” in 687 B.C. Look to the northeast after 10 p.m., but expect the best show after midnight, especially just before dawn. The show starts now, but peaks April 22 or 23 with up to 20 meteors per hour.

Cherish the romance: Songbirds are returning from winter in a warmer clime. Observe nest building in your backyard. Head to the woods for courting displays of returning American redstarts, orioles and rose-breasted grosbeaks. Catch the great blue herons’ courtship near marshes and lakes. Or, check out the nearest Bird Conservation Area for a chance to see some of Iowa’s more unusual birds from dickcissels to northern harriers, ospreys to red-headed woodpeckers.

Nature’s frills. Pasque flowers and snow trilliums are the earliest wildflowers to bloom. But soon, dogtooth violet, bloodroot, May apple, Dutchman’s breeches, pussy toes and spring beauty decorate the woodland floor. Take the kids hiking in a park to see who can spot the most. Look close and you might even find a morel or two, too. Want to learn more? Check county conservation board and Iowa Prairie Network programs for guided hikes with naturalists. Act soon, because they don’t call them spring ephemerals for nothing. Take a spring wildlflower no-pick scavenger hunt.

Spring. Best time to camp. Period. No sweat, hardly any insects, beautiful wildflowers, birds calling, trees are flowering. Iowa State Parks have some of the best spring views around. Pull out the tent or clean out the camper. Put on the hiking shoes. Reserve up to three months ahead of time for a campsite or as far as a year ahead for cabins. Rent a cabin for just two or more days a week now until the Friday before Memorial Day. Reservation details | Trail info