It didn’t register at first while I was shutting down the grill on the back porch after dinner, but there it was again, “Beeez-beeez-beeez.”
I knew the sound, but as I looked out at our snow-covered yard, it didn’t seem possible: a woodcock? Sure enough, when I looked to the north, I finally caught a glimpse of him against the evening sky as he spiraled up, broadcasting his song to the world.
I smiled, and suddenly felt as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Meteorologically speaking, it was spring; however, recent snowfalls and more in the forecast suggested otherwise. Regardless, that moment it hit me: There was much to do and time waits for no-one
It happens every year, and I should be used to it by now, but somehow, the list of springtime sporting chores always seems to catch me off guard. It was especially sneaky this year, as Old Man Winter still holds most of the state firmly in his grasp. The firewood supply is almost gone and my back still hurts from the last couple weeks’ shoveling duties.
Nevertheless, open water fishing starts in a few days, shed antler hunting should be getting good with the snow melting and turkey season starts in just a month. Am I prepared? Not yet. But I will be.
Spring trout fishing doesn’t really crank up around here until the middle of May, but like most fishermen, I want to be ready for opening day. That means I have work to do. Somehow during every off-season, gear from designated brook fishing, open water fishing and ice fishing tackle boxes all get mixed together. I swear they come to life and party together all winter long then forget their respective homes come spring.
Sure enough, I’ll be scratching my head, wondering how a spool of braided ice line ended up next to a Rapala floating smelt or why there’s 4X tippet wrapped around a wonder bread-colored Mooselook Wobbler. It’ll take me an hour or so but I’ll get it all straightened out and organized.
Four years ago, I fell in love with a runty little 4-week-old chocolate Lab. He was the only pup out of the lot that showed any interest in an antler I tossed into their pen so regardless of size, a few weeks later, Winston came home with me. Together, we’ve found some great antlers and while we weren’t able to get out much last year, I’ve promised him some miles in the woods this spring.
It may seem late, but I rarely start seriously looking for antlers until at least mid-March. It’s easier to get around, I’d rather not pressure wintering deer and I can’t see the sense in walking over antlers buried in snow. Winston has great instincts but needs work, as do I, so we need to brush up on our training just a tad. I still remember his first two antlers, a gnarly-tined matched set from one beauty of a coastal buck. Maybe we can do better this year.
I didn’t hunt turkeys in my youth. It wasn’t even a thing around here until I was in high school and even then, nobody really cared about it all that much. But how times have changed — and me with them. In a million years I never imagined how obsessed I’d become with chasing 20-pound birds through the spring woods.
I think I know where my calls are, at least most of them. I recently found a diaphragm mouth call in a coffee mug in the cupboard. Your guess is as good as mine on that one. Luckily, I have a dedicated turkey hunting pack and most of what I need should be in it, but I’m sure rounding up all the rest will turn into an hours-long project like everything else. I know where my decoys are for sure though. They’re too big to lose and I’ve had my fill of dodging them in the shed all winter between the shovels and salt sand.
I need to register our canoe at the town office. It really pains me to do so, and I still question why, but the Old Town Discovery 133 is my go-to vessel for trolling the Moose River during the first couple weeks in May. Powered by a small Minn Kota electric trolling motor and battery pack, she’s served us well and landed more smelt-stuffed togue and salmon than I can count over the last couple years. That reminds me, I need to make sure our lightweight trolling gear is ready to go. We’re vacationing in Florida at the end of April, and I need to be ready to head north the following week.
It’s been a great winter. We’ve finally been able to snowmobile, snowshoe, ski, snowboard, ice fish and generate much-needed revenue for recreationally dependent areas throughout the state after several snow-deprived years.
However, with longer days and the higher sun melting away the landscape, it’s time to switch gears. Hungry trout are lurking, turkeys are strutting and somewhere out there lay both antlers from the buck that gave you the slip last fall. Are you ready?