Zeke Wilson

Zeke Wilson writes about the outdoors for The Indiana Gazette.

Warm weather toward the end of the week will coincide with the last days of small game season.

While I was pursuing coyotes over the weekend, tracks of rabbit and squirrel were found regularly, indicating a good population of both species. A plump fox squirrel even was spotted at one point, despite the deep snow and single-digit temperatures.

Making plans with family or friends for a hunt on Saturday will allow for fellowship and fun alike. With any luck, a few squirrels or rabbits could even be harvested for a fantastic meal. An abundance of small game recipes can be found, and there is no excuse to not enjoy such table fare. Information as to how to transform a furry critter into four quarters and loins can also be easily found in print or online.

The turkey population in our area appears to be healthy. Over the weekend the sight or sign of turkey was evident through much of the northern part of Indiana County. However, the hard-crust snow of last week could still lead to to some winter mortality in the weeks to come. A large flock I saw on Saturday had gathered where a plowed road and small stream parallel each other. Water and grit can be hard to come by with deep snow, so turkeys find such areas in order to survive.

Ice balls were noticeable on the ends of several gobbler beards, showing just how cold the weather has been. Quite often when the weather is rough, turkeys remain on the limb for days at a time as nothing can be gained by going to the ground.

With any luck, the southern slopes will soon begin to show bare ground for the wildlife to enjoy.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has been trapping and tagging gobblers this winter to further research as to mortality and harvest rates. Hunters are encouraged to harvest and report tagged birds this spring. Habitat work on a regular basis on game lands is a large reason for good turkey populations, despite hunting pressure throughout the year. Prescribed burns and other habitat work provide everything a nesting hen could hope for in raising her clutch this summer. While out exploring this winter, I saw turkeys on several different state game lands.

Spring gobbler season is an exciting time of year and will be here in just a couple months. Hunters have the opportunity to purchase a second spring gobbler tag anytime before the season opener to help extend their time afield. For only $20, a second tag can provide additional entertainment and table fare for the hunter.

After a long winter, enjoying the emerging vegetation and song birds while attempting to locate a gobbler is about as good as it gets.

Hunters may struggle to find their favorite turkey load this spring and should check their inventory. If a brand or shot size change is necessary due to what is available, it is wise to pattern the shotgun on paper.

Approved trout waters will soon be stocked in preparation for the opening day on April 1. Eager anglers can contact the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to inquire about volunteering with the stocking as the general public is not welcome to simply show up and help as in the past due to COVID-19 concerns.

Taking the opportunity to prepare for trout and turkey season now will allow warmer weather to be used for other activities.

Special youth days are offered for trout and turkey, although the entire regular season remains for plenty of additional outings. Mentors can match the water to the ability of the youth angler, with impoundments better suited for new anglers.

Stocking dates will once again be available to the public so anglers can utilize the hatchery raised trout best.

Zeke Wilson writes about the outdoors for The Indiana Gazette.