I love this time of year. The trees are beginning to grow leaves again. The song birds have returned and the smell of spring is in the air. The turkey season is in full swing and the trout fishing is spectacular. This is certainly the season to start your day on a mountaintop listening to the owls hooting, the crows crowing and the turkeys gobbling. I enjoy sitting up against a tree just before daylight. I close my eyes and listen to Mother Nature’s symphony of spring. It is breath taking to say the least. It seems that all is good with the world when signs of life are starting to show up everywhere, especially after the winter we had.
I spend a lot of time in the woods during the month of May. It’s my time to get up and smell the roses. There is one week down to the turkey season and I must say that it hasn’t been that successful so far if success is based on bringing home a turkey. I’ve hunted five mornings without shooting the gun. Some people would say that this season is a bust so far but not me. I have picked a bag of morel mushrooms already. We found them growing on a hilltop in the Catskill Mountains of New York. These fungi are a sure treat and a reason for celebration. I have seen several pregnant doe in the woods apparently getting ready to fawn in the next month or so. I also looked on as a pair of orioles fed on the bud clusters of a blossoming tree. The wildlife moments are endless, if you just take a moment to stop and observe them. On Monday of this week, my hunting buddies and I watched a pileated woodpecker rip apart and old birch tree. It was as if he had a jack hammer attached to his neck. The splinters of wood simply flew away from the drill. It was a very comical show and the admission was free.
The title of this article also refers to the bad. If you consider everything that you just read as good, then you’ll agree with me about the bad. The heavy rains and occasional warm days have certainly thrown the dandelions into high gear. I was forced to cut my grass three times in the last nine days. My lawn looked like a new laid carpet of yellow flower design when I returned from a turkey hunting trip in New York. My landscaping has more weeds in it than it does perennial plants and the hedges already need a trimming. This is lawn maintenance at its worst. Not only do I despise lawn work, I dislike it even more when I can’t keep up with it.The list of bad things we must deal with this spring doesn’t end with my belly aching about lawn care. It also includes the height of the Susquehanna River. Yesterday marked the opening day of the walleye fishing season and based on the color and height of the river, we won’t be going out for walleyes for quite some time. Farmers might have a hard time getting into their fields for an early planting and the ground nesting birds may have a hard time staying healthy in all this damp weather. So you see. There is good with the bad, positive with negative and it’s all out of our control. Mother Nature is truly in the driver’s seat. We’ll just have to take the good with the bad.
There are still three weeks of turkey hunting left in this spring gobbler season. While many of you, myself included, have experienced a slow start in turkey activity. I assure you it will get better. Many previous seasons have started like this where the turkeys weren’t gobbling and they certainly weren’t responding to calls. I don’t think anyone knows exactly why this happens but the best advice I can give you is to not give up. There will be a day when even the quietest of gobblers will want to find a mate. There will be a day when even the quietest of woods will explode with turkey life and they will come running to hen calls.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission last month approved the shooting range permit. What this means is that anyone who visits one of the State Game Lands public shooting ranges will need to obtain either a new $30 range use permit or be in possession of a current general hunting or furtaker license. The Commission says that over the past few years, they have made large investments into its 29 State Game Land shooting ranges across the state. These investments include the removal of lead, the construction of safety barriers, the change in shooting range design and other related projects. These investments came at a high cost, but kept many shooting ranges open and available to the public.
The cold hard facts are that the hunters paid for the range upkeep and remodeling while many other groups used the facilities. Additionally, the open use of State Game Lands for shooting activities by those not licensed has resulted in some situations where ranges and State Game Lands have been used for illicit activities. There are a few exceptions to the permit requirement. Shooters 15 years of age and younger properly accompanied by a licensed or permitted person 18 years of age or older, and each licensed hunter or range permit holder could have one guest. Range permits are available to purchase through the agency’s website ( www.pgc.state.pa.us). Unlike online hunting and furtaker license purchases, range use permits can be printed at the time of purchase. For the first year, range permits will be valid from the date of purchase until June 30, 2012. After that, permits will be valid on a license year basis (from July 1 through June 30). Range permits also can be purchased at the agency’s Harrisburg Headquarters and all six region offices, and require either a credit or debit card. Range permits and hunting or furtaker licenses do not need to be displayed while using a State Game Lands public shooting range, but must be in possession, as well as a secondary form of identification, such as a driver’s license.
Be sure to watch Pennsylvania Outdoor Life tonight at 6:30 on WNEP-TV. We’ll take you along on bear research being down here in the Wyoming Valley. We will have a story on the in-season trout stocking that took places at Frances Slocum State Park. Have a great day!