Spring has sprung and all that comes with it. Blooming daffodils, blossoming trees, green fields and hawks nesting all signal the rebirth of the beauty of a North Georgia spring day. To those of us who love to live in the outdoors, there are also wild turkeys gobbling, the cooing of nesting doves and of course the splash of a beautiful trout that could not resist a night crawler.
Spring for me is also a time of reflection of past springs and the previous hunting season through the wild game mounts we recently picked up and the anticipation of what opportunities this spring will bring. My hunting and fishing calendar year has always started in March, as turkey season is finally here, as well as spring trout season, and planting for the upcoming dove and deer season.
We recently picked up our elk, deer, turkey and trout mounts from the taxidermist. My New Mexico 5x5 elk mounted by Nimmons Taxidermy in Lexington looks just like it did when I harvested it. Nimmons also mounted my son Josh and grandson Jackson’s turkeys from last season and both are beautiful mounts. In addition, we picked up a couple trout that we had caught in the past few years.
My son Josh also got back an outstanding mount of the “Vandiver buck” a massive 10-point whitetail deer he harvested in Oglethorpe County last season from Woodys Taxidermy in Baldwin. Woodys and Nimmons both do great work on wild game mounts, which in itself is a true art.
Turkey season opened this past Saturday and was a great start to the new season. My grandson Jackson, with the help of his personal guide, his dad Josh, harvested two nice gobblers with 6-8 inch beards, as he had done last season on opening day. Thus far Jackson, in two years, has shot his Remington 20 gauge four times and harvested five birds, as he took two mature gobblers last year with one shot. Wish I could shoot that well!
We have patterned several mature gobblers during the month of March with our trail cameras and many early morning scouting trips using crow and owl locator calls. These early morning outings provided the added benefits of hearing doves cooing, bard owls hooting, hawks screaming and of course the gobble of mature turkeys. Watching the progression of spring from day to day has been awesome this year as it seemed that every day something new was budding or blooming. We are anticipating a great turkey season and hopefully Josh, Jackson and I will harvest some more great gobblers.
Spring trout fishing officially opens Saturday with the 26th annual Helen trout tournament. This year the tournament should be the best ever, with $2,200 in prize money for tagged fish in the 4-6 pound range. The tournament is a great way to kick off trout fishing season. Look up the Helen Chamber website for information.
Trout are biting well on the year round trout streams due to the recent warmer than usual weather. Josh recently caught his best ever brown trout weighing over 6 pounds and measuring 21 inches long. The fish was a mature male with brilliant colors, hooked jaw, and full white tipped fins. He decided to have it mounted and it will be a great addition to his trophy room. I also caught and released a rainbow trout weighing in at 7 pounds which also was a beautiful fish with a brilliant red stripes on its sides. Looking forward to taking my granddaughter Taylor and grandson Jackson trout fishing during their spring break. Taylor has decided she wants her Pa Pa to have a big trout mounted for her. She for sure will want to catch it all by herself including baiting her own hook. More great memories ahead!
Planting food plots for deer and doves is next on my hunting calendar. April and May will be consumed with plowing, planting and fertilizing existing food plots in preparation of deer season and of course dove season the ‘tradition unlike any other for hunters.’ Spring is a great time to spend the day on a tractor with the smell of a recently bush hogged field or the sweet smell of fresh dirt in a plowed field. The sweat equity put in during the spring pays great dividends in the fall hunting season. Quite often while plowing you can get a glimpse of a new born deer fawn or a curious wild turkey gobbler in search of a mate for the spring; those memories are life lasting.
Whatever your passion of spring, be it fishing, hunting, planting or just smelling flowers, get outdoors and enjoy the beautiful weather we get to enjoy in North Georgia.
Russell Vandiver, recently retired as president of Lanier Technical College, has been an avid fisherman and hunter for 50 years. His column appears monthly.