• Outdoors Column May 9

    Spring has finally sprung throughout Grey and Bruce counties and outdoors men and women have been reaping the bounty that Mother Nature has to offer. Spring wild turkey season is well underway, the Georgian Triangle Derby has recently wrapped up, local rivers have been a focus of attention with the seasonal trout opener, and local forests are giving up some of the finest bush treats of the season.

    Two weeks have passed in Ontario’s spring turkey season, which has come as a welcomed opportunity to get in the woods for many of Grey and Bruce’s hunting fraternity. I had the opportunity to share opening morning of the spring ritual with a good friend as we made the annual pilgrimage to the turkey woods that were blanketed with fresh snow. Amidst the unseasonable weather conditions, myself and local hunter Reid Cameron harvested a pair of fine two-year-old Tom turkeys 10 minutes after legal shooting light into the 2013 season. Like many local hunters, we struck success early in the season.

    Drew Watson of Watson’s Tackle reports plenty of mature gobblers hitting the scales at his Owen Sound store. Watson’s is once again open for business after a fire mishap had the location temporarily closed for renovations and inventory re-stocking. Watson, who once again is hosting the local weigh scale for the 6th annual Big Gobbler Contest noted “steady weather and good numbers of birds in the region have resulted in a productive season for many hunters.” Many turkey enthusiasts have noted that plenty of Toms are still “henned-up”, meaning they spend the majority of their day courting and breeding hens. This makes mature gobblers hard to tempt with the call and requires some savvy hunting tactics to seal the deal. Watson suggested “hunting later in the morning and early in the afternoon when a good number of hens tend to nest, as this leaves gobblers looking for receptive hens and much easier to call in as opposed to hunting birds early off the roost”.

    The spring turkey season runs until the end of May and the best opportunity to harvest a mature gobbler usually comes just after the peak of breeding season. If the warm stable temperatures continue, it is likely that there will be some outstanding hunting opportunities in the coming days. The Big Gobbler Contest runs until the end of season and tickets can still be purchased at local retailers involved in the this great contest which donates all proceeds to the Grey Bruce Eat and Learn Program. Hats off to Lake Huron Rod and Gun in Underwood, Watson’s Guns and Tackle in Owen Sound, and Rack and Roost in Brussels who are the host weight stations for the contest. Curtis Fair of Kincardine leads the Typical Turkey division with a giant 25lb Tom that scores 75.875. Rhys Jones of Kincardine is leading the Non-Typical division with a turkey that scores 81.875 and sported two large beards. Judy McCutcheon leads the women’s Typical Turkey division with a Tom scoring 65.7 and Connor Caldwell of Chatsworth holds the lead in the youth category with a gobbler scoring 62.5.

    Plenty of turkey hunters stumble upon the finest of bush treats during the month of May, and nothing spells spring better than a great feed of fiddleheads and morel mushrooms after a day in the field. Whether you are a turkey hunter, hiker, mountain biker or backyard dog walker, early May provides the greatest opportunity to come across morel mushrooms. Morels are the needle in the haystack find for those who seek local edibles from local forests. Once ground temperatures reach a constant 5 degrees Celsius, morels begin to pop up across Grey and Bruce forests. Finding numbers of morels can be a difficult feat, but our local area is known as a hot-bed for annual spring mushroom growth. I have been a morel addict for nearly 2 decades, learning the art of finding these tasty morsels from my mother, who took morel hunting as a serious endeavor. Like years past, I hit the woods with eyes peeled for these tasty treats during the past week and was rewarded for my time spent looking.

    With some light rain in the forecast, morels should be popping up heavy across both counties in the following days. Conditions have been dry during the past week and that has hampered strong growth. In the mean time, I have been busy collecting a heavy haul of fiddleheads that seem to be plentiful with the late spring we are experiencing. One of the easiest ways to come across ideal morel habitat is to hike many of the Conservation Authority forest tracts throughout both counties. Mixed forests with some amount of decaying wood seem to be key in providing optimum morel growth.

    May 4th was the final day in the annual Georgian Triangle Spring Trout Derby. Bob Bell of The Spirit Rock Outpost and Lodge in Wiarton was one of the local weight stations for the event, which ran the span of 15 days. Bell noted “Plenty of healthy salmon showed up at the shop to hit the scales for the event. Anglers were finding great success from Lions Head all the way to Graig Leith trolling salmon and steelhead.” Chris Yates of Owen Sound caught the heaviest rainbow during the event. His trout tipped the scales at 11.26lbs. Local Charter captain Tony Degasperis took home the top spot in the Brown Trout division with a “square tail” that weighted 11.98lbs. Clavering native John Good caught the largest salmon of the derby. Good’s Chinook weighted in at 12.80lbs and was caught on a custom MJ lure created by his son Mike. Top lures for derby anglers were reported to be HotFish spoons, Silver Foxes, Lymans and Yo-Zuri minnow baits.

    There is still plenty of time to enjoy the spring throughout Grey and Bruce. Local trout rivers are still flowing and providing excellent opportunities to tangle with steelhead and resident brown and brook trout. Yellow perch fishing along the Lake Huron shoreline is in full swing with anglers finding these tasty fish in depths of 40 to 60 feet from Southampton to Goderich. Perch make an excellent quarry for people of all ages and often leave lasting memories for young anglers being introduced to the sport. The steady action of perch and their willingness to bite keeps young people interested and it is hard to argue the fact that yellow perch are the finest eating of all freshwater fish. If hitting the water isn’t and option than take some time to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends. It can be as easy as hiking the Bruce Trail and taking in some of the great sights across the Peninsula. Spring has sprung and there is no better place to spend your free-time than outdoors!
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