If I wasn’t a spring turkey hunter, I’d feel much more rested on afternoons in May.
If I wasn’t a turkey hunter, I could sleep in on a Saturday, make breakfast for my family, and take my good old time easing into yardwork — maybe even go trout fishing.
If I wasn’t a turkey hunter, I wouldn’t destroy expensive boots walking several miles on a mountain trail only to get frustrated with non-vocal, uncooperative, or seemingly non-existent birds, not to mention dealing with ticks, poison ivy and other pests, like people.
But if I wasn’t a turkey hunter, I’d also miss out on one of the absolute best times to be afield in the Pennsylvania outdoors.
The spring woods are teeming with life this time of year, and though I haven’t yet filled my gobbler tag, I have been incredibly successful at seeing a variety of other wildlife species — best witnessed amid fresh greenery, sprouting buds, and colorful blooms.
For instance, northern cardinals seem to be following me everywhere I go, a cherished sight since they always remind me of my grandparents. Wrens and sparrows rummaging through leaf litter, as well as raucous blue jays yelling from overhead branches, are a bit more boisterous as they make their presence known. But the showstopper is a scarlet tanager, vibrantly stunning as it sings in regal red among emerald adorned branches.
Gray squirrels are active as usual, salvaging leftover acorns and chattering in panic as a red-tailed hawk soars overhead. Deer travel in twos and threes, hides mottled and scruffy this time of year — mamas swollen-bellied, ready to drop their fawns any day now.
A pre-dawn encounter with another hunter reveals a photo of a yellow-phase timber rattlesnake, snapped with a cellphone just the day before. It’s a good reminder to watch one’s step, and that there are dangers mixed in among the beauty.
Fresh bear scat along the trail is an additional indicator of other alphas on the prowl, though the distant sighting of a loping bruin on opening day didn’t stir too much commotion. It was more a welcome than a worry, as it’s always a treat to see a Pennsylvania ursid in the wild.
A quick glance at the watch reveals it’s soon time to call it a day, extinguishing any hope that the birds gobbling from the roost at daybreak might be engaged by late morning. As I walk the firebreak road back towards my truck, a yellow swallowtail butterfly dances in and rests among last autumn’s fallen leaves. Shoots of green force their way upward through the dead and brown, proving yet again that life is born anew in the spring woodlot.
All of these experiences I’d truly miss if I wasn’t a turkey hunter.