Birdshot and backlashes - Turtles

by Bob Cary

It is turtle time.<BR><BR>They are loafing in the sun on logs, rocks and beaches. Mostly, we see the various dark-shelled sun turtles, sometimes as they slide off their perch and plop into the lake.<BR><BR>A couple of weeks ago, they were laying their eggs, a rather tedious process. Preferred spots are fine gravel or sand strips, preferences which often attract them to gravel roads and put them at risk.<BR><BR>When a turtle has selected the site for her egg laying, she digs a hole with her back legs and deposits the round white eggs from her rear end, one at a time. <BR><BR>Once, traveling up to Prairie Portage, to see if Canadian Rangers Mike and Priscilla O’Brien had arrived, right after ice-out, we spotted a huge snapper on the north side of Newfound Lake. We ran the boat up on the beach and jumped out, camera in hand, to record the scene. <BR><BR>Called “mick-in-nick” by the Ojibwe people, the snapper is aptly named for its rather surly and snappish disposition. However, this one was busy laying eggs. Kneeling down with the camera, we recorded a series of eggs arriving into the world, ovals which were poked into the sand hole and eventually covered. <BR><BR>Finally, tiring of all this, we headed back to the boat only to discover our craft was now in the wind heading eastward about 40 yards off shore. In our haste to get out and get photos, we hadn’t properly beached and tied it up.<BR><BR>As previously noted, this was right after ice-out and the water was ice cold. But what to do? Nothing, but peel down to shorts and strike out for the wayward boat. The water, was, shall we say, invigorating. My wife said I was swimming so fast that she couldn’t see how I even got wet . In any event, the boat was retrieved and we went on up to Prairie.<BR><BR>Turtle soup, made from snappers, is a big hit with some people. We’ve hunted turtles, trapped turtles, cleaned turtles and cooked turtles. It is a considerable chore to get the meat out of the shell and out of the skin. And there is not really a whole lot of meat on a turtle, but it makes fairly good soup. That is, with the addition of lots of potatoes, carrots, onions and other stuff. Frankly, chicken soup is better and a lot less work.<BR><BR>One spring, a whole herd of turtles hiked from the oxidation pond at the Moose Lake Boy Scout Base up to the gravel driveway leading to the office, 50 to 60 turtles in total. When we pulled up, there were a dozen or more of the Scout Base staff watching the drama unfold. <BR><BR>Not just the turtles laying eggs all over the place but a very large skunk busy digging up and woofing down the eggs as fast as he could uncover them. The turtles were laying eggs furiously, and the skunk was eating them just as fast. Eventually, the skunk got filled up. Really filled. It was swollen up like a basketball. It fell over on its back with its legs sticking up in the air, too full to move. And no one among the Scouts had the courage to pick it up and move it. The skunk just lay in the driveway all night. The next morning, it burped a few times and managed to waddle off into the woods. <BR><BR>Scientists say that turtles evolved over 160 million years ago. That makes them a lot older than people if it is so. There weren’t any scientists around then. Turtles are supposed to be kin to the dinosaurs and other reptiles that clumped around when the world was younger. <BR><BR>There are about 300 different kinds of turtles today; but, luckily, only a few of them live around here. They eat mostly stuff like dead fish, acting as sort of a lakeshore cleanup staff. Over the past eight decades, turtles and I have gotten along pretty well together, except for a couple of times when they tried to remove a fish or two from my stringer<BR><BR>Nice thing about turtles is that they are quiet. They don’t spend a lot of time destroying the tranquility and solitude of the wilderness, screaming like loons.<BR><BR>