For the past 20 years or so I’ve been afforded ample time to spend in spring turkey woods.
It is certainly a different time in the woods compared to the hunting seasons of fall and winter. Not only is the quarry dissimilar and distinct, but the fields and forests look and feel so different.
Fall woods are brilliant leaves falling, wild fruits and nuts scattered about and a new fragrance not noticed through the months of heat and dry spells. Winter woods are often snowy and dark, and fields usually barren and still.
Spring turkey woods are fresh with a different scent in their own right. The forests are revealing green spouts of new forming leaves and stems as hibernation ends for the woodlands and brushy edges. Spring seeps are wet and small mountain runs once again have heavy flows, providing a boost to any nearby forest undergrowth that pushes upward. Song birds sing steadily, seemingly happy in their songs. Every bit of this adds to the lure of coming to a changing landscape where wild turkeys roam.
And so considering spring woods, I headed to my camp in the canyon country of Tioga County the Thursday before the Saturday opener. I had planned for some scouting and trout fishing on the Big Pine Creek both Thursday and Friday, but the deluge of water that came on Thursday muddied the Pine so badly that fishing was out for the foreseeable future. At least scouting was possible on Friday, and I found both sign and saw turkeys crossing mountain roads in my travels from spot to spot.
Saturday morning was simply beautiful. Clear skies, decent temperature and no wind made for excellent conditions to listen for the tell-tale sign of a love struck tom — a gobble.
None came all morning, and three other friends who were hunting at different locations far from mine, heard no gobbles either. Perhaps the previous heavy rain had quieted the birds.
Monday morning was cool but still, but also without a turkey gobbling. It wasn’t until Tuesday morning that one of my companions heard some toms sounding in the morning woods. He even called one close, but not close enough for a shot.
That afternoon I traveled to the Pine. It had cleared but was still high. Fishing however was remarkably good, with black wooly buggers bounced along the bottom doing the trick.
Wednesday morning was cloudy with light wind, and even though I hunted a spot with good sign I had found the previous Friday, there was no responses to my calling. Of course, that may have been because within 45 minutes of first light, sleet, and then steady heavy snow, was covering both the woods and me, and probably silent turkeys.
I left the woods after another hour of steady snow. When the snow (which allowed some good photos — one included here) stopped, I headed to another spot on the Pine, and was once again enjoying some good fishing until heavy rain forced me back to camp.
Thursday morning was cold — a heavy ice covering my truck — but the sun broke over the mountains to clear skies and light winds. A different location for me, yet no turkeys after hours of sitting and slowly walking relatively deep into a part of the vastness of the 162,000-acre Tioga State Forest.
Later, wading in extremely cold spring water, fishing was still good. But with a forecast of accumulating snow for Friday into Saturday morning, I headed home late Thursday.
Was I disappointed? Not really. I didn’t hear a gobbler, but that mattered little. The fishing was good considering the weather, and the woods just as inviting as they are always are in the springtime.
It was good to get away from the problems the world now faces, and I’ll be back in a week or so, listening for toms and casting insect imitations to the hard fighting trout in the Big Pine Creek.
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