Outdoor Corner: Real Madness

Lyle Johnson

When we hear the words March Madness, college basketball is usually the thing that pops up in our minds. But there is another type of madness taking place in the outdoors that you won’t find on national TV and you certainly won’t hear Jim Nance talking about it either.

Things get a little “mad” during the spring in the wildlife community. Most of it happens around the instinct to procreate, if you know what I mean. Bass garner most of the attention during this time because of the spawn taking place. They get really hungry at first, feeding a lot. Then the males clean out a spot to attract as many females to stop by as they can.

He defends his territory, making sure it stays clean as he sweeps it with his tail. If the intruder is alive, it gets moved by mouth. I recall fishing at Toledo Bend many years ago during the spawn. I cast my lizard out and brought it through a nest that was guarded by a male that was intent in keeping that plastic enemy out of his “motel.”

He picked the bait up the first time and carried it about 6 feet before I set the hook, but nothing was there; probably had the lizard by the tail. I repeated the cast a least a dozen more times with the same result. The buck bass picked it up, carried it off and after I jerked it out of his mouth, he returned back to his post. On the 13th cast he made the mistake of getting the hook in his mouth. He then accompanied me back to Prairieville, destined for a pot of hot grease.

The phrase “wild as a March hare” was used by my dad on many occasions when describing the behavior of a person that was acting up a little. This phrase originated in jolly old England as they described the actions of the hares that were beginning the mating ritual in spring. Of course they were usually speaking of some human behaving badly.

Cody Braud is pictured with the gobbler he killed in Mississippi on opening morning with a 15-yard shot. The bird had a 10 ¾” beard 1 in. spurs.

But the March Madness I’m talking about that comes anything close to the basketball deal is turkey hunting! This deal happens in the spring because of, you guessed it, the mating season. The male turkey, or gobbler, uses his vocal talents as well as strutting his “stuff” to attract a harem of females or hens.

His “stuff” is the set of feathers he’s endowed with that makes for one of the most beautiful displays in all of nature. The gobbler looks really plain with only a blue head and a red throat that stands out at all. But when attempting to attract a girlfriend, those drab looking feathers get puffed out and his tail is spread out in a fan, making a sight to behold.

Here’s the deal; turkeys roost (or sleep) in trees, so the hunter spends their time attempting to find roosting areas. This is accomplished by walking or riding roads that border woods and calling like a crow or an owl. This usually results in a gobbler answering back because they don’t like either of the two. Turkeys don’t wander too far from the roost trees, so hunters mark these spots to set up for the future hunt or hunts.

Next comes the hunt and preparation. Please ladies don’t get offended but it’s a lot like a woman getting ready to go somewhere. Turkeys have excellent eyesight, so what a hunter looks like is pretty important; they can’t be seen!

You have to select an outfit, only it’s not to attract attention but to disguise oneself. It needs to match but not other components, it needs to match the colors in the woods. Springtime green is a good color, so brown is out for the most part.

Make-up? Yes, make up is required as well. But it’s not to enhance or bring out one’s facial beauty; it’s to hide the face. No Cover Girl or Revlon is required; usually just some green, black and brown will do. Apply liberally and as needed.

One of the things we certainly don’t want to wear is anything, especially a bandanna, in the color red or blue. Unfortunately, that combination has resulted in injury or death by a shooting accident. Please be very careful to know what you’re shooting at.

Although the gobbler sees very well, this dating game is not visual. The sounds that the hens make are what gets his attention at first. There are many ways to get to his heart from the females voice; the list is extensive. The hunter must be skilled at mimicking her voice.

The cluck is of one of them. The plain cluck, many times, includes two or three single note clucks. It's generally used by one bird to get the attention of another. It's a good call to reassure an approaching gobbler that a hen is waiting for him.

Chevonne Molliere took this photo of a bobcat at the end of a log getting a drink of water on a recent fishing trip.

Here’s the rest of the list that a hunter emulating a willing hen will need at one time or another; tree call, plain yelp, cutting of excited hen, assembly call, fly down cackle, kee kee run, purr, cluck & purr, owl hooting and a crow call.

Once the hunter has made all these preparations, a spot that serves as camouflage and allows a clear shooting path is secured and the dating game is on! Poor fellow; he thinks he’s getting ready to score but his instinct to procreate ends up with a clean head shot by his suitor and ends up in an oven or a deep fryer.

There is a new boating safety law going into effect April 1. All boats less that 26 feet with an engine over 3 hp must be equipped with an engine cutoff switch, better known as a kill switch. It must be used as well. We’ll get into that a little more next week.

March madness; you bet, but there’s a method to the madness. Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. So until next time have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you!