Spring means birds ready to do their magic

Let the party begin! The spring dance in the woods is already underway. Every bird, from robins to wild turkeys, is gearing up for the process of attracting a mate and building a nest. This year, however they have to go about their rituals between snow and wind storms.

Ruffed Grouse will find the edges of dirt roads to be great spots to strut and spread that ruff and try to look like the most desirable fellow in the woods. He’ll establish his territory around a drumming log and wear himself out with all the drumming and preening it takes to turn a hen’s eye.

Wild turkeys have come through the winter pretty well- they are extremely hardy birds and the spring break-up is in the process. The large flocks you saw this winter hanging around farm fields or pine thickets and now beginning to disperse. Hens begin to travel around looking for their ideal place to have a nest. Gobblers, whose hormones are already jingling are already gobbling to advertise that fact, divide their time between trying to keep up with the hens and jousting with other gobblers to establish breeding rights.

Any hunter who goes afield now generally gets a great show and good photos if he is lucky. If he foolishly spends his time calling birds in to his location, spooking them in the process and educating the gobblers that chasing after all those calls he hears from afar is futile, even risky, he’ll reap the rewards when hunting season hits and he wonders why gobblers won’t pay any attention to his calls.

The birdcalls you’ll soon hear around the yard or in the woods are really not cheerful expressions of sweet little birds. They are really calls to lure mates and to warn competitors for the female’s attention to stay away or risk a flogging. It’s love and war out there right now!

Well, we welcome the eternal rites of spring in the woods. But there are some things for hunters to do before the opening day dawns. First of all, get those diaphragm calls out and see what kind of shape they are in. You’ll almost surely need to get some new ones. Get out that slate and glass friction call, scrape the surface well to clean it of oil and dirt and practice. Don’t forget to also use that green pot scraper to rough up the tips of your strikers.

According to the license digest you can send for your second turkey license anytime up to opening day. You can do it online – which I did this year – and it is pretty easy to do. Otherwise you’ll have to go to your issuing agent to get the second turkey license.

Issuing of second turkey tags does not hurt the population of wild turkeys. One gobbler, as you know, can breed many hens. So lots of gobblers are just “extras” in the mating process. The second tag is more for the convenience of the turkey hunter than anything, I think. If you are like me, hunting in various parts of the state throughout the season, it is nice indeed to be able to get birds in different areas.

I recommend that hunters either get one of the new one-man blinds that are so light and portable or carry a length of camouflage material and a few snap clothespins with which to erect a blind around a couple small trees. Remember that legally that material must be solid, not camou netting. The blind must be covered overhead so you will need some material you can attach from one tree to another to cover your head. That gets to be a lot of bother but it is for your safety. Blinds are to be covered overhead to cover your movements from any hunters who might approach from the ridge above you and see some head movement etc.

The last couple years the gobblers have responded to hunting pressure by approaching the site of a calling hen (you) slowly and silently, standing out there in the woods surveying the scene for endless minutes before betraying himself. The small blinds cover small movements you inevitably make if you decide to sit for long periods and wait these spooky birds out.

Remember that you are not allowed by game law to use any blind that is made from piling rocks or branches, limbs etc. A blind for turkey must be of solid material on all sides and from above as well. A blind legal in deer season is not always legal in turkey season.

Investigate the myriad types of decoys on the market. It is good to have more than one style of decoy since turkeys seem to get spooky of the same decoys out in the same fields every day. Keep in mind too that yard sales are great places to find turkey calls, decoys, camouflage clothes, boots and other assorted gear for every kind of hunting.