Carl Wolf, The Outdoors Section

Magic bullet for the outdoors? The U.S. Army looking for a biodegradable bullet to cut down on current rounds that can corrode and pollute soil and water. Stipulation is new ammo contain seeds that produce food for animals without any ill effects. Army already has embedded seeds into biodegradable material that flowers months later.

Some 46.7 million people participated in bird watching (birding) in our nation recently. It looks like next to pets, we spend a lot of time and money on critters, including wild ones. My memory recalls a time when as a tall person I would stand at the back of a birdwatching group trying to see and hear the leader explain how to identify a bird. At home in my frustration I complained to wife Jeanette who simply said, “why don’t you just be an expert?” I did that and next time out as “the expert” in front of the group I would point out a bird and ask folks to call out what they saw.

As information was uttered from under everyone’s upheld binoculars, I would quickly and secretly consult my bird field guide and soon had the bird identified. With a confident voice the identity of the bird was stated, and I was now considered an expert! Many years and thousands of sightings later, my skill did approach expert status, but certain tricks helped. When leading a group of birders, place them on one side of a tree or bush while you walk to the other side. Your motion will make the bird move away from you and around to where the group can see them.

Another trick is to place the group with the sun at their backs, then the bird in the tree has difficulty seeing them and is less likely to be alarmed and hide. One of the neatest tricks is to kiss your hand. This is called pishing and the kissing sound almost magically will bring little birds close for a better look. Of all the tricks, perhaps the best is to just sit still. Birds are curious, but survive by being cautious. Sitting still, you will often have birds come within view when they think no danger is about.

Cross the Yellowstone at Pompey’s Pillar and you enter a world of sagebrush that is the home of the sage grouse. Not only the home, but what they eat. In winter the grouse are completely dependent on sagebrush, then in the spring hens switch to small non-grass plants and the moisture in all these eatables allow the sage grouse to live without drinking water.

I went to Vietnam on the USS Ranger (CVA 61), an attack aircraft carrier that spent much of its energy making drinkable water. We had showers and drinking fountains and water when we ate, which makes me wonder how the sage grouse could get along with so little of it. The Ranger was sold as scrap metal for $1 and the largest warship of its day was cut to pieces. After the Ranger, I served on the USS Enterprise (CVAN 65) our first nuclear powered attack aircraft carrier, and same thing happened with water. The difference was the Ranger had to refuel periodically but the Enterprise seemed to go forever. Enterprise has been decommissioned.

A great horned owl silently floated across a nearby stubble field, then suddenly wheeled and dropped like a rock. This was in the dim light of morning and later I walked to the site and noticed many tunnels uncovered since the snow had melted. The mice, gophers and voles are now visible, at least to an owl, and they were feeding on them. Further along I found numerous piles of fox poop, usually found where they crossed regularly at irrigation ditch planks. The scat told dinner stories of everything from corn and olive berries to small rodent bones. Foxes have sharp teeth.

Still openings for our next Conceal Carry class – if interested call 967-2365 or


Carl Wolf writes a weekly column called “The Outdoors” that is published each week in the Yellowstone County News print edition.  Carl writes about the birds and the bees mixed with outdoor adventure, animals while throwing his political two cents in the column.