The first of March welcomes a new outlook on life for everyone. Winter seems to disappear. The excitement of college basketball conference and national tournaments has sports fans anticipating one last run for their favorite teams, or at least good prognostication skills through various pools. Flowers begin to bloom soon and the grass has just the right amount of green to let one know they are on the other side.
It also starts a whole new hunting and fishing season bringing a different type of excitement for outdoors lovers.
March 1st marked the opening of striper season on the Roanoke River. The Roanoke is one of the premier fisheries for striped bass during the spawn. Over the next few days the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission will begin sending biologists out in boats in the Roanoke, Tar, Neuse, and Cape Fear rivers and issue reports on the numbers of fish captured, sizes, male/female ratio as well as information of American and hickory shad captured, which is the primary food source for the striped bass during their migration.
Perhaps a float trip is due on the Roanoke. Or the Tar. Or the Neuse or Cape Fear. The water is deep and flowing steadily and it is early for the spawn so the hundreds of boats are not yet on the rivers. Of course, because it is early, the stripers are much less plentiful, if there at all as of yet.
But, like death and taxes, the stripers are a guarantee to come. It is one of our conservation successes.
And let’s not forget another one of great conservation successes that come shortly afterward.
It does not seem that long ago when just a handful of counties in North Carolina had a turkey season. Now, every county in the state participates in the annual wild turkey season.
In 2015, North Carolina experienced its second largest turkey harvest to date. 2013 was the largest take. The state has averaged over 17700 birds taken over the last three years, while the previous five years averaged just over 13500. This is a promising sign the population is continuing to grow and thrive. A single year uptick could indicate an increase in hunters targeting the bird, but with a three year average in increased birds taken, it indicates the birds are able to continue their sustainable population even if larger numbers of birds are harvested.
And as with the thought of a float trip for striper, I wonder if it may finally be time to take an ole Tom with the bow. They have proven elusive thus far. I have been close. Very close. It just never proved the time to be.
But where will I go? A trip to the Poccasin lake region of the state? The turkeys are plentiful, along with black bears and bobcats. Yes, the black bears and bobcats are the reason I was not successful there before.
Maybe a trip to Pisgah is the place to be. Many a time I have had the Toms fooled into coming within 50 yards of where I was sitting. The same number of times the birds never closed in within bow range, except once. That once though, well wow!
After calling it a morning with the return calls ceasing hours earlier, I started carrying my things from the blind back to the truck. Upon returning to the blind, I went in, grabbed the remainder of the contents inside (the bow was already back at the truck), and as I exited there was Tom looking at me just as surprised as I was at it. The startled gaze only lasted a second or two, as the burned in memory following was nothing but legs and dust as he hurried away on the path like a just graduated college football star at an NFL combine running the 40.
Yet, here I am, as many others throughout, are anticipating the joy the next few months bring rather than the frustration.