Well, I had hoped that this week's column would be a report about outwitting a gobbler on the opening day of the season, but as often happens with even the best-planned outdoor efforts, that was not to be.
In short, where I sat last Saturday morning proved to be mighty quiet as far as turkeys were concerned - not a single gobble or even a glimpse of a turkey.
On the plus side, the weather couldn't have been better, and sitting in the spring woods, watching the sunrise, is a most satisfying way to spend a morning. For a while, I also enjoyed that special anticipation as I strained my ears for the first sound of a gobbler offering a wake-up call from a nearby roost. Although no rattling gobbles pierced the morning calm, I was treated to a symphony of songbird calls.
Another, more visual show materialized shortly after the first shafts of sunlight began to filter through the treetops when I noticed a sharp-shinned hawk fly into a tall pine tree about 50 yards directly in front of my portable one-man blind. Closer observation revealed there was actually a pair of those small hawks, which I assumed were engaged in a nest-building operation. I watched the sharpies for more than an hour as they made dozens of trips back and forth to the pine boughs that perfectly concealed their efforts there.
For the rest of the morning, I relaxed inside the blind, calling every so often and surveying the surroundings just to make sure some sly old gobbler hadn't sneaked in silently to investigate my cluster of decoys. But neither the calls nor the flock of fake hens would bring in any real turkeys, and the time arrived to pack up all the gear and head out of the woods. While it was somewhat disappointing not to have heard any turkeys, there were so many other sights and sounds to enjoy, so the day was far from a bust.
May is, by far, my favorite month of the year, mostly because there is just so much going on in the outdoors that I never can find enough time to experience it all. Along with turkey hunting, there are usually plenty of fishing opportunities as well, although all the high water this spring has made the river and stream fishing somewhat problematic. Once the water conditions get back to something more manageable, however, it will be difficult deciding just what to fish for.
Although I wasn't able to go turkey hunting again last week, I did make it a point to get out for at least a short hike almost every day, just to soak in all the wonders of spring. Almost every day I encountered another species of wildflower in bloom. Violets seemed to be everywhere, most of them the typical deep blue or purple varieties along with a few yellow and white ones here and there. Patches of wild phlox sprang up last week, painting many creek bottoms with beautiful swaths of pale blue.
Early May is a great time to watch and enjoy a wide variety of birds. Like the pair of sharp-shins I observed while hunting last weekend, most of our resident species of birds are hard at work building nests and preparing to raise their young. Most male birds will spend much time singing to establish their territory or attract mates. Those vocalizations make it easier to locate them with the help of a good pair of binoculars.
Many species of warblers have arrived in our area during the past week. Some species will nest here while others are only passing through Pennsylvania on their way north to their breeding grounds in Canada. Because these transient species are around for such a short time each spring, avid birders will be out scanning the treetops for a glimpse of these tiny birds.
With so many sights and sounds that occur only this time of year, May is a month that has so much to offer anyone who enjoys the outdoors. The best of springtime in central Pennsylvania is now, so be sure to spend some time experiencing it.