Lets’ start with the fact that I’m a 24 year old senior college student, Spring break to someone in my shoes usually would have meant sand and beaches with plenty of cold drinks. Not to this guy, not because I couldn't go, it was because I had bigger and better plans in mind that involved leaves, trees and antlers, with the chance at unraveling a few turkey secrets.
Instead of heading off south to the gulf or where ever the rest of the college students in America plan their breaks I was headed south, but to my “home” hunting areas. March is in my opinion probably the best month to get out and unravel some secrets you missed out on over deer season. In most years at least in Oklahoma the snow is gone. The bucks are dropping their antlers and it's a great time to see rubs and scrapes from the previous season they almost glow with intensity but not nearly like the glow of a freshly dropped antler! If you still have a hang on stand out you should have been taking them down and placing in storage if you haven't already to prevent damages to straps and cables caused by none other than Mother Nature, I can never stress this enough every year we hear of someone somewhere whose stand failed causing them serious harm. I only had a few that needed to come down due to most of our stands being huge homemade ladder stands welded from two (2) inch square tubing. The only thing these needed were for the gear lanyards (ropes for hoisting guns-bows, and equipment into the tree) to be removed and then replaced next fall. Then I came into the opportunity to do a little shooting (at) a beaver that had decided to make residency in one of our newly built ponds. If the beaver were allowed to dam the spillway the integrity of the whole pond dam would be in jeopardy. Quickly my younger brother was quick to point out that the beaver was coming from the neighbors’ pond via a tin horn (water canal) that ran under the road my first thought was to set traps to catch the tree eating rodent. And I soon realized I was going to have to go back into deer season mode getting up early, and trying to shoot the thing as in gnawed on the numerous trees around the pond. Having not brought a gun home with me (bad call on my behalf) I had to trust that my fathers’ 30-06 was sighted in well enough to make a 50-100 yard shot on the pesky rodent. In short it wasn't after only running nearly a box of shells through the old Remington did I realize this. He eventually fell to my old .22 magnum that has been passed to my brother the week after I left.
But back to my break, as the sun would lift I would head out to the woods and look for deer sign from the previous year, as well as fresh sheds, while taking down the occasional stand. I did stumble across an antler or two but the most exciting find was a rub line that ran parallel to a major trail used mainly by does to start the rub line off was a Ceader tree nearly the size of my thigh that had been rubbed from waste high to the ground with great intensity. From there on there were trees from that size on down to the size of my wrist mangled for nearly a mile. All were sixty (60) yards off of the two major doe and yearling trails, which leaves ample room to hang a bow stand smack between the two leaving me or whoever is hunting that stand a particular day a simple thirty yard bow shot to the left and right. I can already see the blood trail next year from that rub line!
Once I was “done” according to my Mother, “playing” in the woods. I was off to the lake with my crappie rod in hand. The fish were so shallow it was another type of hunting just like finding a good bedding area for a big buck. Any piece of cover was holding at least one fish if not 2 or 3. I would soon have my limit and off to the cleaning table placing the fillets in bags and in the freezer. Then wouldn't you know it would be time to head back down to the pond to watch for the beaver. The second night, with the first shot fired, turkeys blew off of a roost in a location I never had realized birds were roosting right on the edge of private property and public land. The next evening I was sitting to watch for these birds to figure out where they were coming from and lets’ just say I think the odds are in my favor come my first chance to hunt these birds with multiple long beards in the flock!
Also during my week I was running back and forth checking trail cameras, to see if I could capture an image of bucks still with head gear or maybe even some of the long beads. However the only pictures I ever got were of a group of does that hung out in an area for nearly an hour with flash after flash going off on them. The next day I decided I would set my camera to video mode, but….I hadn't taken into account the weather for the day and the next day when I checked the unit I was excited to see 5 videos taken. At 90 seconds each. But once I got home I realized the wind was the devil that day and I had five (5) videos of limbs and grasses blowing horribly. That I will credit to my fault for setting the camera in an area that would be susceptible to such a problem. Lesson learned the hard way!
Finally on the last day of my “break” I was waiting on my Grandparents to arrive for lunch. When they came to the house my Grandfather said there was a raccoon down near the drive way that must have been hit by a car because it was stumbling and walking in circles I headed out to put the injured animal out of its misery. When I exited the house it was in the front yard walking in circles. I assumed as soon as it seen me it would take off. But he for some reason at 1 p.m. in the afternoon just stood and walked circles. I looked him over in the scope and decided that he was having some type of health issue. As I walked towards the animal he continued with his actions. I decided it was time to take action and shoot him even if he had just only been hit by a car. Once the animal lay dead, the young male was examined and determined to have a neurological disease that was infectious by a state official. I’m glad I had the sense to not pick up the suspicious animal on my last day of being off of school and would like to stress the point that any animal that you kill/harvest that was acting in any way out of the ordinary. Do not handle the animal leave it lay and call your local wildlife agency or extension office to try to get someone to check the animal out; If your wildlife department is unavailable. See if it's possible try to have a veterinarian check the animal, even if it cost you out of your pocket it is better than possibly paying your health or life. I hope you all took advantage of the month of March to examine your hunting area if not, do it in April! To everyone who has gobbles on their mind just as I do now at this very moment good luck this spring! Be ethical and wise when taking your shot!
-“may god guide your bullets and arrows making them fly true”