Q: Do you know offhand what type of trees these are that are in our Foothills, often by rock formations?
This one is above Hidden Springs. Also, what is it that makes trees seem to thrive near the rocks?
GARY JAEGER, email
A: The photo you sent me looks just like the tree along a favorite trail of mine in the Boise Foothills.
It's a hackberry tree.
Western hackberry is native to Idaho. I've seen it in many of the state's deserts, canyon areas and low-elevation river drainages, such as the Salmon and Snake rivers.
Hackberry is an important tree in the ecosystem of the West, and some botanists call it a grocery store for wildlife.
I've seen quail, owls, kestrels, hawks, flickers and lots of songbirds sitting among the branches in my favorite hackberry.
I've watched yellow-bellied marmots scurrying around the base of the tree, and also saw young marmots munching on its fresh green leaves in the spring.
It's a fascinating tree. I don't want to get all zen about hackberry trees, but if you sit near one long enough, you'll get some kind of wildlife experience.
The tree is something of a contrast, too. Its sharp, twisted branches are not welcomed by hikers walking by. You can catch and tear clothing on its branches. Campers trying to set up a tent near one can rip the fabric on the tree's spiky branches if they aren't careful.
Yet, its sweet berries provide food for an assortment of birds. Mule deer, bighorn sheep and antelope browse on its twigs.
Thickets of hackberry also provide hiding places for deer and other wildlife.
Though it is found in an arid landscape, it needs a constant water supply, so that's why you found it along rocky areas with seeps. It is also found along rivers and streams.
Some might think hackberry is an ugly, tangled, scrubby bush or tree, but it's pretty important. The problem is that it is slow growing, and the ones we lose to development are often irreplaceable.
WHERE'S THE AMMO?
Q: Why are ammunition shelves so bare in local sporting goods stores? Where is all the ammunition going?
A: The run on ammunition is still at a frenzy. I've seen it too.
I was in a sporting goods store last week and noticed bare shelves for some pretty common calibers of ammunition.
Sport shooters and hunters are nervous about proposed legislation banning certain firearms and gun components. They are also buying ammo and guns up in a frenzy.
Frenzy is not an overstatement, believe me. Stores get shipments of ammunition one day and it's gone the next, if it lasts that long.
Stores are not even stocking the shelves. One gun counter manager told me ammunition is brought in on pallets from the truck and put in the middle of the floor and it's soon gone.
Stores are trying to get as much ammunition as possible. It used to be that gun shop managers would just order supplies to replenish what they regularly sold, but now it's impossible to stay stocked.
It's especially true with 9mm and .223 ammunition. If a store gets 50 cases of .223 ammunition, it's gone in a day. A case has 500 rounds. It's possible that 100 cases, if available, would go in a day, too.
There's also really high demand for .22 ammunition for plinking. Bricks of .22s contain 500 rounds.
The current and continuous run on ammunition is pretty impressive, but it's very frustrating for casual shooters who don't keep much ammo on hand and want to buy a couple boxes before they go shooting. Chances are good they won't find ammo to buy at the spur of the moment.
It's also hard to replenish the ammo you shoot. If you go from the range to the sporting goods store, chances are you won't find it.
The best thing to do is make friends with someone at the gun counter, find out when shipments arrive and dive into the frenzy.
Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors