Daffodils poking up through the soil, robins staking out their territories, daylight saving time, trout stocking trucks cruising the back roads and wild turkeys gobbling. These are some of the blessed, welcome signs of spring to the outdoor person.
Folks have embraced the mild winter but the mild winter has hosted some peculiar problems too. Turkeys are already gobbling and strutting. The large flocks that are seen in the winter are breaking up now as hens begin to look for nesting spots and gobblers follow them around the woods. When she decides on a suitable place, he and as many hens as he has been able to corral will hang around there. Then he has to spend a lot of time running off competitors for the hens' favor so they stay pretty busy.
The thought here is that by the time the season for gobblers opens on April 28, gobblers will have collected a solid harem of hens and hunters, now matter how skillfully they are able to use turkey calls, will be ignored by today's crop of super-suspicious gobblers who may thunder back at every call a hunter makes but will not leave the hens he has with him to look for her.
It is expected that ticks will be a big problem for anglers and hunters this spring. Every outdoorsperson should have some strong insect repellent and spray their clothes heavily with it before going fishing or hunting. Do not spray directly on the skin, as this can cause all sorts of allergic reactions, but boots, caps, and outer trousers and jackets should be sprayed heavily.
Pet stores sell a great little tick remover and I have one of them. I also purchased just this week some spray that freezes ticks and a handy tick remover comes with that product. Ticks are nasty little creatures and it is a good idea to examine one's body thoroughly in front of a mirror after every fishing or hunting trip.
Another nuisance that can be expected to arrive early is the appearance of black bears in rural residences. There were bears prowling all winter long and surely they will be active early this year. So get some garbage containers with tight-fitting lids and feed Fido indoors because these things will discourage bears from hanging around. Once a bear gets a whiff of anything edible around a house, he'll be there regularly and a bear can do a lot of damage in their search for food.
Two years ago, while spring gobbler hunting, I was sitting in my one-man chair blind on a warm spring morning. I had some sandwiches with me and I had also sprayed a lot of insect repellent around the blind. About 9 a.m. I heard some loud snuffling sounds and it took me a moment to realize it was a bear sniffing at the back of my blind.
It likely was curious about the conflicting smells coming from this strange contraption. So I leaned forward in the blind and looked out. One bear ran away from the back of the blind and another one shot back down the trail into the thick brush.
I'm grateful he didn't decide to rip into the blind to find the food. That would have been a close encounter of the kind I don't want to experience.
The Game Commission has reported that last year the black bear harvest was the highest in Pennsylvania's history; 4,350 bears were harvested, 355 of them in management unit 4D.
I can remember the year, back in the late 1970s when the bear harvest was less than 1,000 and wildlife professionals were so concerned about the bear population that they closed the bear hunting season the next year. Well, we now have the highest population of black bears the state has ever had.
One thing that makes that statistic so hard to deal with is that bears are remarkably adaptable. If people let garbage, bird feeders, fido's dog dish outside and they smell it, they don't mind at all marching in and claiming it. Trapping out these nuisance bears takes up a lot of any WCO's time during the summer.
And when they are trapped, there is no place to relocate it that does not already have all the bears it needs or wants.
Another thing to remember is the threat of rabies. It isn't just the foxes and coyotes that are rabies threats, but now it is any animal that inhabits the forests. Deer were found with rabies this past January, last year beavers caused some anglers a lot of problems because of rabies.
Spring is when the young of most species are most evident and young animals and birds are so "cute." Children, especially, want to touch or pet any wild baby they see in the backyard.
Everyone, regardless of age, must know that any wild creature that is acting non-typically, that is, they seem to have no fear of your being near them or they behave uncharacteristically aggressively, is probably sick and you must get yourself away from them.
So ticks, rabies and stubborn, uncooperative gobblers are a few of the things we can expect to contend with this spring.