Skiff Mountain Wildlife Management Area was the site of my very first-ever spring hunt for wild turkey and it seems like only yesterday that I gave turkey hunting a try. I got hooked on turkey hunting forever!
Back then, turkey hunting on state lands was by lottery and I was one of the lucky ones chosen for Skiff Mountain. I already knew where I wanted to set up on a small hillside, and I made my way to my hunting spot under cover of early morning darkness.
As the first light of dawn approached I was rewarded with the booming gobble of a tom turkey somewhere below me in the valley. Now, I was new to the sport of turkey hunting and as green as grass in the spring of the year when it came to knowing the best way to take a wild turkey. Oh, I had attended a turkey hunting seminar and purchased a couple of turkey calls, but that hardly gets you ready for the real thing.
That morning the tom (a mature male wild turkey) and I exchanged pleasantries, he from wherever he was in the valley and me trying to imitate the come-hither call of a female wild turkey in need of some male companionship.
From the sounds of his gobbling, he started to come in my direction and then he stood his ground, demanding that the hen come to him. You see, many of those big old male wild turkeys can be quite chauvinistic when it comes to courting the fairer sex of their species.
That old tom and I traded calls for about a half an hour and then I guess he went off looking for some other action, but just to have him answering my calls got me hooked on turkey hunting in the spring of the year and it has been a yearly challenge ever since.
When you think about it, the reintroduction of the wild turkey into Connecticut is an amazing story. As far back as the early 1800s, the wild turkey had been completely taken out of the Connecticut wildlife picture.
In later years, during the 1950s up to the mid-1970s, according to the DEEP, attempts at artificial propagation were unsuccessful until some free roaming wild turkeys from New York state were introduced into Connecticut. The initial turkey stocking began to produce more turkeys and a program for the live capture and reintroduction of this magnificent game bird to other parts of the state began to take shape and, by 1992, 356 wild turkeys were released at 18 sites in Connecticut. These releases and a seemingly successful population increase has resulted in turkey populations in almost all areas of Connecticut.
While I faithfully hunted turkeys in spring for a couple of years unsuccessfully, I was undaunted by my failures. It wasn’t until I was on a fall deer/turkey archery hunt that I took my first-ever Connecticut wild turkey with a bow while hunting private land in Colchester. I was in my treestand hunting deer when a flock of turkeys came into shooting range and I was able to put my tag on a Jake (young male turkey). If memory serves me correctly, it was only one of seven harvested with a bow that year.
For me, it is not the actual harvesting of any wild critter I hunt that gets me excited, but the simple fact that I am out in the woods trying to outwit them. Of course, if I an able to put a harvest tag on a turkey this is only icing on the cake. Edna and I have feasted on wild turkey for Thanksgiving and, for my money, there is not a domestic turkey that can compare to the flavor of a wild turkey.
I would not get my first wild turkey in the spring of the year until Edna and I purchased some land up in New York State. It was an unseasonably cold day in May and the wind was gusting, all of which does not make for a good day to hunt turkey.
However, I was still in the learning stages of my turkey hunting and found myself up on the top of the hill on our land and no sign of any wild turkey. I decided to walk down and diagonally across our property, calling with a push-button hen call along the way. I really did not have any high expectations because of the howling wind, but hey, I was still hunting.
I was about two-thirds of the way down across our property when I stopped to give a couple of hen calls and I was almost bowled over with a chorus of gobbles just over the next rise that answered my calls.
Now, turkey hunting wisdom says you should have your back against a large tree to help break up your outline so the turkey does not see you when it comes into view. Looking around me, I was surrounded by nothing but saplings that were of little use as far as concealment was concerned. I simply sat down right where I was and gave another call and was once again rewarded with some resounding gobbles, only closer this time.
From the gobbles, I did know that there was more than one gobbler, but the next thing I knew three turkey heads popped up over the ridge, straining to locate the lovesick hen (me) that had been calling them. I then harvested my first-ever spring gobbler, and the fact that it was a Jake did not take away from the moment.
While I try to spend as much time in our great outdoors as possible, there is something really special about hunting turkeys in the springtime. First off, if you are one of those that likes to laze around in bed until late morning, then turkey hunting would not be for you (although there are some who would argue that point).
Sunrise is generally a half-hour away as I get out of my vehicle and make my way into the even darker woods to my hunting destination. I try not to use my small flashlight if at all possible and try to step as quietly as possible. I know where I am going, so it does make it a little easier to do so in the dark of the morning.
What makes a spring turkey hunt so special is the fact that it is spring and the air is perfumed with the sweet smells of this yearly season. The morning air is rich with the scent of the rebirth of so many wild plants and blossoms on some of the trees that it even invigorates an old guy like me.
As I settle down to wait for some turkey activity, the early morning silence is broken, first by some mischievous crows as they start to fly around looking for some trouble to get into. Not too long after the crows, for they seem to be Nature’s alarm clock, songbirds will start their sweet chorus, and quite often I will be able to single out the melodious song of the male cardinal. It is really and truly spring, and all is right I my world.
I do have to admit that after I harvested my first couple of wild turkeys, I became quite adept at turkey hunting and, over the years, I have taken my fair share of wild turkeys.
And for some reason, I know not why, I seem to have been blessed with what some might call a remarkable memory, although Edna will tell you sometimes I can’t remember where I last put my eyeglasses.
This year, turkey season begins April 30 and ends May 31, on both state and private lands. You may take three bearded birds on private land and two bearded birds on state land. Hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise, ending at noon.
Think T.N.T. (Trout ‘n’ Turkey).
OPENING DAY 2014
Best! Worst! OK! These three words probably describe what I have heard most from fishermen regarding Opening Day of the 2014 trout season.
Most of the Quinnipiac River fishermen seemed to be happy with the results of Opening Day. Kyle Cooney and his son Brayden came away with five nice trout between them. Don Dandelski, a local trapper and owner of D & D Wildlife Control, caught and released a whopper of a trout from the Quinnipiac.
Even your ancient outdoor columnist was able to catch a couple of 16-inch rainbows and a couple of smaller brown trout using phoebes to fool the trout, even though the river was running a tad high and a bit colder than usual.
Oh, and to the group of thoughtless Opening Day fishermen on the Quinnipiac River that wade the river abreast of each other: WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?
I’m talking about the anglers that wade side-by-side down the middle of the river disrupting the fishing of others every Opening Day. You are wearing out your welcome on the river. Take that as fair warning from some of them.
One of the annual Quinnipiac River Opening Day events is Tom “Farmer” Barry’s “Wild Brunch” that he hosts for a few friends at Dossin Beach. This year Tom, Paul “Chief” Nowakowski, Len Chudzik and I feasted on elk burgers, venison and bear as well as some shrimp. Ya’ gotta love that kind of brunch.
And Mirror Lake up in Hubbard Park looked like the “good old days” with a fairly crowded shoreline for both the Opening Day as well as the Annual Daffodil Children’s Fishing Derby run by Meriden Parks & Recreation under the guidance of Chris Bourdon.
The 87 children who signed in for the contest had a ball, some of them fishing for the first time ever. Even though some of them did not have fishing tackle, it was not a problem because the city furnished rods and reels as well as bait for their hooks.
Nine trout were taken by the young fishermen as well as six other species of fish. The children that did not catch a fish were then given a chance to win a prize with the leftover gifts supplied for the Annual Daffodil Children’s Fishing Derby. Matt Sauer got the prize for the most fish, Brett Arnold for the heaviest fish and Jason Leachman for the largest fish.
Contrary to the belief of some, the fish were lively and the kids and the adults had a ball. Kudos to Meriden Parks and Recreation for hosting the event, the CT DEEP Inland Fisheries for the trout stocking, and to the both of them for bringing back the excitement of recreational fishing to Mirror Lake, one of Meriden’s natural recreational resources.
The Meriden Rod & Gun Club in conjunction with the city of Meriden will hold a kids fishing derby at Hubbard Park on Saturday, May 10. More details will follow next week.
See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.