I have found it very gratifying the past few weeks to have numerous people ask me why I have not written a column lately and just where have I been? Well, thanks for asking, and this is where I was. For me spring is a lot about turkeys and the earlier I can get into the woods the better, so on April 18 I was standing on a leafless ridge in Allegany County watching the sun rise and listening for gobblers.
Did not hear a single one, but I was in the woods.
On youth gobbler hunting day here in the Mountain State, things were looking good for my stepson and I to realize our goal of getting his first turkey. The turkeys we were into were fairly cooperative.
Fact is I was able to call in a mature gobbler three different times that morning, along with a silly group of jakes and a yappy hen. However, the big boy would not come inside of 55 yards, half circling our position in full strut while we cramped up and went dead in our behinds from sitting still.
After the two-hour turkey show was over I told my boy not to worry, things would get better as the season progressed.
I consulted my hunting journals to confirm that I had done something this turkey season that I had not done for 26 years, which was to kill a jake gobbler.
This was not an “oops.” I knew what it was when I pulled the trigger.
Not sure what made me turn my back on a long tradition of only shooting long beards while spring hunting, but I did.
It felt good to carry that bird out of the woods though and we had him for supper the very next evening.
Dare I call that my management gobbler? The next week I called three jakes to within 15 yards and never contemplated shooting. Perhaps the young birds are again safe with me for another quarter century.
My friend Mike Sibole invited me for a hunt over in the panhandle. He had never killed a gobbler and said he had no idea how to call one.
Of course I agreed to attend, not wanting to miss a chance to hunt in new woods and with an old friend to boot. I warned Mike that even though I have killed some gobblers in my time there are days when I am pretty certain that I do not know a thing about calling turkeys.
I think that being a good turkey caller is kind of like being a good husband.
Some days are better than others, and there are times when you have no idea if you are doing the right thing.
Mike lives in Berkeley County, so it was an early wake up on that morning during the last week of season just to get there. Actually, at five minutes before three I am never sure if it is early or late.
It was a worthwhile trip. Even though things were quiet at sunrise we hunted around and found a bird to fire up, so that by 6:55 Mike was kneeling down in the green woods to attach a field tag to his first wild turkey gobbler, a handsome old sharp-spurred long beard.
Who needs sleep anyway?
Spring is not just gobblers, so one Sunday afternoon while my boy was using garden worms to catch nice sunfish from a local pond, I got into the crappie with a yellow spinner.
Two of those fish were 12 inches long and as wide from top to bottom as an iron skillet. The largest crappie I have caught in my life. Then there was the day on the Allegheny Front that I would have gladly traded my shotgun for a good pair of binoculars.
The woods had come alive with warblers and other neotropical songbird migrants, recently returned from their winter stay in the south.
The bird songs and vibrant colors were a thrill to the senses that only early morning folks get to experience.
On that last day of season the stepson and I were working that same gobbler from youth day, and things were not getting as good as I had predicted.
That late in the game he was still roosting with hens and not being cooperative.
We worked that gobbler on five of the six days we had to hunt together, but he is still out there and has us dreaming of next season.
I was just happy to have a teenager willing to get up with me at O-dark thirty on that many weekend mornings.
So, that is some of where I have been. Hope that you were able to get there too.
Dave Long is a retired West Virginia natural resources police officer and a frequent contributor to the Outdoors page.