By Don Mallicoat- Wow! Where has the regular hunting season gone? We’ve about two week remaining in the regular hunting season. Small game season ends February 28th. More on that later. Hang tight. Spring hunting opportunities are only about six weeks away after that which means turkey season. Are you ready? Are you thinking about getting started because of the seemingly exploding turkey population in the mountains? The WRC has something just for you.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, along with the National Wild Turkey Federation, is offering 14 free turkey hunting seminars across the state in March. The seminars, which will be held from 6 to 9 p.m., are open on a first-come, first-serve basis to all ages and skill levels, although participants 16 years and younger will need parental permission to register. Pre-registration is required and participants must register online at www.ncwildlife.org/Learning/Skills-Based-Seminars.
Among the topics that will be covered during the seminars are biology, hunting methods, calls and decoys, firearms and ammo tips, camouflage clothing, and turkey processing and cooking techniques. A question-and-answer session, along with a brief overview of hunter recruitment, retention and re-activation (R3) initiatives, will conclude each seminar. In our area two seminars are planned. The first is March 14 at the Mountain Heritage Crops Research Center in Mills River. The second will be March 22 at Haywood Community College in Clyde. Check them out to get started!
I’ve had a little success with geese lately, checking something off my New Year’s Resolution list. I got one goose each on two separate trips to a local farm. Something from my past military experience led to my success: when your tactics aren’t working, change your tactics. That rule can apply to any of our hunting situations. I’d always like to find grouse along logging roads, but you got to beat the thick brush to find them. Anyway, two geese in the freezer for a season that ended this past Saturday.
Speaking of seasons ending, let’s look at the close out dates for migratory and small game this month. As mentioned, goose season ended this past Saturday, February 11. All of the small game seasons continue through the last day of the month, February 28. That includes grouse, rabbit, squirrel, quail, raccoon, opossum and bobcat. If you are a crow hunter that season also suspends February 28th until June 1st of this year.
Do you have a coyote problem? It seems from talking with folks they are seeing more. Maybe it’s just the time of year and they are moving more looking for food. I’ve always suspected they were in a large woodlot behind my house. Now I know. Ben went crazy barking one afternoon, more than normal at the random squirrel, and I looked out the door to see one trotting along a creek bed about 20 yards from his kennel. I don’t doubt their presence is connected to the growing deer population in that same woodlot. If you have them in your neighborhood I strongly encourage you to give hunters permission to come in and take some out. They are not only detrimental to game populations but are many times the culprit behind the lost dog and cat signs you see posted along the streets.
The groundhog in Pennsylvania evidently saw his shadow foretelling six more weeks of winter. You wouldn’t know it from our weather! Thinking about getting in a little fishing? Try the Delayed Harvest designated waters. Water levels appear to be normal, at least on the French Broad River. Streams were stocked in the Fall and fish should be active. According to folks on the WNC Fly Fishing Trail in Jackson County most of the best fishing is midday after waters warm up and midge and Blue Wing Olive hatches start. Some of the more popular patterns include: Black Caddis, Flashy Nymphs, Midge Dry Flies, Woolly Buggers, and Partridge and Black Elk Hair Caddis. Let’s get out there and enjoy this Spring like weather!
Speaking of the French Broad River, this may be a good time to get in a little Smallmouth action. Water levels aren’t high or low making wading or floating easier. Fish are typically sluggish during the winter months due to cold water temperatures. I would recommend something slow moving bumping over rocky shoals into deeper pools like a crayfish or hellgrammite pattern. But hey, that’s just me.