March 2010
Howle's Hints

March Brings First Sights and Smells of Spring

"Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." — Oliver Wendell Holmes

I know warm weather is on the way even without glancing at the calendar. February was void of aroma and color, but March brings the first earthy smells and swatches of green. Dogwood trees in Alabama are trying on their new blooms for Easter, and crappie are ready to bite anything resembling food. Coyotes have found their mates, and the wild turkey gobblers are beginning to break out of their bachelor groups, sounding off occasional morning and evening gobbles to attract hens.

Game Plan for Gobblers

It’s hard to beat Mother Nature when it comes to sounding off locator calls for gobblers in the morning. Instead of blowing a crow call early in the morning after you’ve hopped out of the truck, let the live crows entice the tom to shock gobble while you drink a cup of coffee. This will give you time to plan a strategy and set up for the hunt.

The best place to set up for turkey hunting is on a higher elevation. Toms are much more likely to come uphill to calling instead of downhill. Sometimes, all it takes are a few soft yelps and purrs to get a gobbler to head your way. Call softly because you want the tom to come looking around for you. If you call loudly, he’ll be able to pinpoint your exact location and realize you are too big and ugly to be a hen. Once the gobbler is headed your way, stop calling and be in position for a quick shot.

Even though beard length is an indicator of a mature, male bird, it’s sometimes hard to tell a jake from a mature gobbler at a distance. Besides beard length, another method to distinguish between the birds is tail feathers. On a mature gobbler, the tail fan will be an even semicircle when strutting. The central tail feathers of the jake will be longer than the rest.

Plywood and three nails will hold a turkey fan in place while it dries.

 

Making a professional-looking turkey fan mount means getting the fan in position to dry quickly. A piece of plywood, just larger than the fan, and three nails are all that is needed to construct a drying frame. Drive three nails in a horizontal line approximately six inches apart at the base of the plywood. Lay the fan on the plywood with the bottom feathers below the two outside nails. The center nail rests below the center of the tail fan. This will hold the tail feathers in a perfect semi-circle while the mount dries.

Unpredictable Weather

Weather in March can be like an Angus bull in spring. One minute he’s your best friend and the next he’s running you out of the pasture. You can dry out from the rain, but, with up to 30 million volts, lightning from thunderstorms requires special precautions. I once saw the aftermath of a lightning bolt as it ran down a tree with barbed wire stapled to the tree. The lightning welded three strands of barbed wire together.

Check the long range forecast before heading out during March.

 

If you are caught out in the woods, crouch down as low as possible within a cluster of trees instead of a single tree. Support yourself with your feet, keeping them close together to minimize ground contact. If you fell asleep in a boat and awake to a raging thunderstorm, insulate yourself by crouching on a cooler lid and sitting on the overturned cooler if other insulating objects are not present. Finally, check the long-range forecast before heading out and plan accordingly.

During March, the weather can change quickly. If the smoke from your campfire or chimney hangs low in the air or rises a few feet and drifts horizontally, rain is likely. Smoke drifts low when low pressure exists in the atmosphere. The saying, "When smoke hangs low, watch for rain to blow," can help in planning your day afield.

The cold rains of March can turn dirt roads into a muddy mess. Even with four-wheel drive, a vehicle can lose traction and become stuck. If you are traveling through a muddy area and the vehicle begins to stand still while spinning, decrease the speed of the wheels spinning and turn the steering wheel slowly left and right. Often, this will allow the front wheels to gain more traction and pull the vehicle on through the mud.

Tiny Tape

Duct tape has been used for temporary fixes on everything from wrapping a leaking radiator hose, covering a hole in the tent or repairing a leaking canoe hull midway down the river. The tape can be a bulky thing to pack since the center core is so large. To remedy this, wrap long sections of duct tape around a pencil for your next emergency. The tape will unroll off the pencil easily, it packs small, and you have a pencil handy to jot notes or write a will if things get really bad.

Exclusion cages give an accurate account of forage eaten by wildlife.

 

Miniature Models

Before building a hunting cabin, barn or even a house, build a miniature model of the structure out of cardboard with one inch being equal to one foot of the actual building. This model allows the prospective builder to see relative sizes and dimensions of the structure. In addition, the model can be placed outdoors to determine what angle the sun will strike to get the most out of winter warming and summer cooling. Placing the model outdoors also gives a sense of how much natural lighting you can expect inside the completed structure.

Food Plots

Exclusion cages show you how much forage is being eaten from your food plots by wildlife. Exclusion cages made of rolled hog wire or field fence are the least expensive. Simply secure the cage with a couple of metal posts. The exclusion cage gives a truly accurate account of just how much forage is being used in a food plot.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.