March madness: It’s about a lot more than basketball
As I see it, there are two kinds of March madness. The first is the mania shown by basketball fans around the country as they enthusiastically follow their favorite college basketball teams through the brackets. The second is the type I feel for the month itself.
March is a fickle month to be sure. Its icy-cold winds easily give way to summer-like breezes in just a few short days or even overnight. Despite cold, blustery, bone-chilling conditions, March seems to be winter’s last desperate attempt to keep its icy grip on most of upstate New York.
Unlike November, when freezing arctic blasts promise more of the same, March weather only teases. Each day promises that things will only get better. In March, there is a stirring of creatures that seem to know better days are ahead. A bird tweet here, the buzzing of an insect there, each giving notice to the coming of spring.
March means woodchucks are out of their winter hibernation, owls have already bred and are rearing their young and the male wild turkey is feeling the first twinge of the mating urge. As the hours of daylight increase, adult toms who all winter have been attempting to survive in bachelor flocks begin to break up into smaller and smaller groups, each going his own way looking for hens to breed.
In March, I love taking walks in the woods I intend to hunt later in the spring because paying attention to turkey activity in early spring usually increases my chances for success in May. I never use a turkey call because I don’t want any birds that may be there to become call shy when the spring hunting season finally opens. All that’s necessary is to look and listen.
The woods I hunt have a number of logging roads that snake through it, so I look for tracks in muddy areas and I carefully scan open fields with my binoculars for any sign of turkeys. Farm fields in which fresh manure has been spread are good places to look for turkeys in early spring. Turkeys are fond of the proverbial “hot lunch” and can often be found feeding on the undigested corn or other grain in the manure. If I find a fertilized field bordered by woods, I almost always find turkey sign.
As I walk, I keep my eyes open for other sign like a breast or wing feather or for turkey droppings. A gobbler’s dropping is “J” shaped, while that of a hen is spiral shaped. My experience has been that turkeys will usually be found in May in the areas where I found them in March. For me, early spring scouting is a pleasure as well as a necessity.
The last week of March, and then again the last two weeks in April, I occasionally force myself out of bed and head to the woods in order to be there at the crack of dawn. I don’t do any walking; instead I just park along the side of the dirt road and listen. If I’m lucky, I’ll be rewarded by hearing several turkeys gobbling on the roost. This gives me a tremendous advantage when the spring season opens in May. By that time, I’m confident the area I choose to hunt will be home to one or more gobblers. Then, it will be up to me to outfox one.