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Every Day is Saturday: New outdoors opportunities abound in spring
0317Jackson VandiverwithElk
Jackson Vandiver poses with his 6x7 elk mount harvested in 2016 in New Mexico.

Spring officially arrives Monday, but it seems that it has been spring for some time now.

The weather has been amazing, with above-normal temperatures and very few cold days. Early spring weather typically means we will have a last blast of cold, windy and wet weather just in time for opening of turkey season and the trout tournament in Helen.

We are having colder weather this week just in time for the special-opportunity turkey season for youth and the mobility-impaired, which opens Saturday for two days. That’s followed by opening day of turkey season and the 28th Annual Helen Trout Tournament on March 25.

The drought continues in north Georgia even though we had some beneficial rain in January and February.

Drought conditions have led to low water flow in our trout streams, and I have seen a decline in holdover fish. This has been a result of lower water levels, increased fishing pressure due to all mountain trout streams being open year round, warmer water temperatures and an increasing population of river otters, whose favorite food source is trout.

Georgia’s Wildlife Resources Division and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services cooperatively started stocking trout early this year, beginning March 6, and have stocked 40,000 fish. Regular weekly stocking will resume Monday when another 70,000 trout are to be stocked.

There should be lots of opportunities to harvest some fresh trout this month from the mountain trout waters available in Georgia.

One of the highlights of spring is looking back on the previous year’s successful hunts and getting trophy mounts back from the taxidermist. My 12-year-old grandson Jackson harvested a huge elk in New Mexico this past fall, and we all celebrated his success when we hung his mount in his dad Josh’s trophy room.

The memories associated with that elk hunt and the time Jackson, Josh and I shared make for great anticipation for the next hunting season. We have applied for elk and mule deer tags again this year in New Mexico in hopes of making more memories out west.

The special opportunity turkey season allows for youths 16-and-under and those who are mobility-impaired to hunt turkeys Saturday and Sunday before the statewide turkey season opens March 25. What a great opportunity to introduce turkey hunting to youth. With the dogwoods about to bloom, the gobblers ought to be gearing up for mating season and should be receptive to turkey calls.

Hopefully, Jackson will be able to harvest another trophy gobbler this year with the help of his dad’s calling. We have pictures of some good gobblers on our trail cameras from this winter, as well as a lot of deer that still have their antlers in mid-March. Fresh smoked wild turkey and trout will make a great meal this spring.

My hunting and fishing calendar starts in March. Reflecting back on last season is a great way to plan what needs to be done in the coming months to improve the hunting opportunities in 2017.

With spring comes renewed energy, interest and enthusiasm for improving the habitat for our dove and deer hunts this fall.

Forgotten are the long, hot, dry days of preparation last year, as well as the expense of seed, fertilizer and sweat equity that failed to produce desired results. Spring provides new hope of a magical hunting season filled with amazing hunting opportunities.

The Helen Chamber of Commerce 28th Annual Trout Tournament starts at 6 a.m. March 25. Cash prizes will be awarded for tagged trophy-size fish based on weight. A total of $3,000 prize money is possible to be won, with $1,000 awarded for the heaviest tagged fish.

The cost to enter the tournament is $20 and provides an opportunity to catch some of the 4-to-6-pound tagged trophy trout stocked for the tournament.

To register or get additional information, visit www.helenchamber.com or call 706-878-1908.

Come join in on the fun-filled day with your family and friends.

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