Welcome to the Ide(a)s of March
March can be as fickle, weather-wise, as any month
of the year, but for Hoosier outdoor folks this also makes it one of the
most interesting times of the year.
The last hunting season (for fox and coyote) expired
February 28 and the last trapping opportunity (for beaver) will end March
Still, with the upcoming wild turkey season only
a little more than a month away, March offers a chance to scout the bird
you hope to bag. This can be time consuming, but it also can be fun if
all you do is find a place to bag your bird and to see how wild turkeys
live. You may not see a bird, but scouting can bring to light a wealth
of information on the big bird.
For example, when turkey hunting--as we know it
today--was in its infancy, I was scouting a large, hardwood hills area
of the Hoosier National Forest known as Mogan Ridge with Phil Hawkins,
my Franklin (Indiana) outdoors friend..
We found plenty of wild turkey sign--especially
scratchings--but we could not be sure we were scouting a flock that sported
a big Tom. Finally even this question was answered when I found a turkey
dropping that was roughly two inches long and shaped like a "?."
This, we had been told, was the trademark of a Tom.
I was so thrilled with my the find that I fished
a little clear plastic artificial lure box from my pocket (no need for
being surprised t anything you will find in an outdoor person's pockets)
and placed my trophy on a little bed of cotton therein.
Later . . . much later, and with fanfare
apropos to the arrival of a king . . . I would present my trophy
to my wife as a quasi peace offering for having been gone from long before
daylight until long after dark at a time when I probably should have been
directing some spring sprucing at the lawn.
Needless to say, I have reason to recommend that
you strike the turkey-dropping tactic from your bag of wife-pleasing tricks.
Then, of course, if the weather turns especially
mild (a trademark of the period), there is the chance to kick off the shackles
of winter (more precisely the warm clothing) and get serious about fishing
for any one of a number of species (see archived columns on bass,
So March, if you will pardon my enthusiasm, can
be one of the best months of the year for Hoosier outdoor folks.
Let's just say, for example, that the weather
is showing signs of spring, but it is not quite warm enough to whet your
fishing appetite. But you have a young hunting dog--say one of the pointing
or retrieving breeds.
Cool March days are tailor made for dog training
for two important reasons.
while the temperatures may be slightly above normal, a dog can be worked
without fear of physical problems that would certainly be present later
in the warm months. Secondly, plant life--weeds--has not started green-up
and a dog probably can handle game birds better in late winter and early
spring than at any other time of the year--far better than late summer,
early fall or even into November and December.
Another good possibility for training pointing
breeds and flush-dog/ retrievers will be found at private shooting preserves
from one end of the state to the other.
Each year the Department of Natural Resources
issues roughly 50 game breeder permits and some of these are used as pay-as-you-shoot
Some of these permits are held by hunting enthusiasts
who use them for training their own dogs or cater only to their friends.
But there are a number of preserves open to the public at pretty
Most of these facilities are out of birds at this
time of year, but will operate until May 1 when their season closes.
Paid shooting preserves are not well organized
as a group, but potential hunters looking for this kind of action should
check with their local conservation officer.
Some of these facilities also offer guide service
and many have well-trained dogs to make the hunts more interesting and
Pheasant, quail and chukar partridge are the mainstay
birds for these facilities.
A trip to a private shooting preserve also is
almost certain to provide game for the table because operators of the facilities
know success and satisfaction go hand-in-hand in bringing customers back.
Although the seasons for taking all fur-bearing
animals are closed now, the season for running night-hunting dogs on raccoon
and opossum (not taking the animals) opened February 15 and will remain
open until October 14. This offers good dog-training opportunity
for treeing dogs.
At this time, a fresh black raspberry pie or
can be nothing more that a gleam in the little old berry picker's eye.
But locating a good berry patch is much easier now than it will be in June
when these sweet and juicy little nuggets turn from red to black and beg
to be picked..
Good patches of black raspberries can be located
now by simply driving the back roads and using binoculars to identify the
canes which are now a subdued purple. These are the old canes and they
are the berry producers.
Check brush infested fence rows and the edges
of thickets and woodlands, or even along stream or drainage ditch banks.
Fence rows along back roads also are excellent places to find black raspberry
Knowing where to go when berries are ripe is a
big part of a successful berry-picking trip.
Although it can, at best, only be an incidental
spring activity, bullfrogs offer some interesting fishing, not to mention
some very delectable table fare.
As most outdoor folks know, the bullfrog is predominately
nocturnal in habit. This largest of frog species also is most active during
the dog days of summer.
However, as we often say about wild things, one
of their characteristics is to act uncharacteristically.
What triggers this strange behavior I cannot say,
but if weather is unseasonably warm before flying insects get their lives
in gear, the bullfrog will sit in the edge of the water during the day,
apparently looking for something to eat. When this phenomenon occurs frogs
are not real spooky. A small surface lure close to the frog is apt to bring
action. In this situation, frogs apparently are looking for small aquatic
life for food. Likewise, a small artificial fly (even a small hook with
any white or colorful piece of cloth) dangled in front of the frog will
be hit with gusto.
The open season on frogs runs from June
15 of one year to April 30 of the following year. But with frog populations
being what they are--the raccoon explosion of the 1950s has made it tough
to be a frog--we would recommend that you do not try to catch bullfrogs
unless you intend to eat them, at least not with hooks. The season also
applies to green frogs, but this species is not often large enough to be
worthwhile as food for man, unless one is quite hungry.