I cannot think of a better time enjoy the outdoors than during the next few weeks. Everything is greening up and it is just a great time to be outside no matter what your interest.
As the weather warms, many people are heading into the mountains for some camping, hiking or biking. Ramps are at their peak and morel mushrooms are beginning to appear where you can find them. Trout fishing has been excellent with spinners and minnow imitations in the morning while caddis flies and Hendrickson mayflies are emerging in the afternoon bringing trout to the surface for the fly anglers. Bass are starting to move into the shallows for their pre-spawn rituals in the impoundments.
With dogwood, apple and other trees in bloom along with spring wildflowers, the mountains are full of color and the hardwoods are beginning to bud and will leaf out soon. The forest is alive with the singing and mating calls of numerous wild birds as they nest and go through their mating rituals preparing to lay their eggs.
Of course, the largest draw to the woods over the next few weeks will be the spring turkey season, which opens Monday across the state. Hunters will be heading to their favorite spot in the pre-dawn darkness hoping to hear a turkey gobble as he wakes up on his roost calling to hens, announcing his presence as daylight approaches. For the turkey hunter there is no more exciting sound than that of a fired up tom gobbling his head off before flying down from his overnight perch to go in search of hens.
When I hear a gobble as the sun starts to brighten the eastern horizon all my senses go into overdrive with anticipation. Immediately I move toward the area where I heard the bird, listening for more gobbling or other turkeys as they prepare to leave the roost. While moving I try to figure out the best possible place to call from hoping to be in position before the birds fly down. It is a race against the sun. Moving quickly in the pre-dawn light is not always easy but you want to be close when the birds fly down. Ideally, you want your calls to be the first and closest sounds the gobbler hears and he will be in search of you as soon as he hits the ground hoping to get with the nearest hens first thing.
By imitating a female turkey with yelps, clucks and purrs the hunter hopes to lure a gobbler into shotgun range before he finds the real thing. The toms will continue to strut and gobble once they hit the ground until they have located their hens, which will answer the male’s gobbles with their own calls.
Once the gobbler has located his hens, they will move off to feed, get a drink of water, and go about their daily routine. This is when scouting pays off. Knowing where the birds like to travel once they fly off the roost will help you decide the best ambush spot to intercept a gobbler while he is with his hens once the flock is on the ground. If you know where the birds like to feed, drink, strut and so forth you can set up hoping to draw a curious tom away from the hens or be in position when the hens go to their nests later in the morning.
Turkey hunting is very exhilarating, that booming gobble gets my heart pounding with anticipation in the darkness as I rush to be in position when daylight brightens the surroundings. The trees that were just outlines earlier become more defined and I can see the branches backlit by the eastern horizon. My back is against a large white oak when I notice movement on a branch.
A gobbler stretches its neck out, his beard clearly visible in the morning light and he unleashes a thunderous gobble. My heart pounds; he gobbles again. I wait unmoving, another gobble, my palms are sweating, it must be turkey season.