The 'Second' First Season

The 'Second' First Season

Dehmer, Kurt
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As pursuits go there is nothing that turns the proverbial crank quite like a hunt. But alas, spring is not usually considered the season for such things. Although this may be the case, and aside from the hibernation-thinned bruin, nothing considered big game is in season. Be that as it may, spring can indeed be one of the best seasons to hunt.

Wild Turkey on Ice
The toughest and most rewarding springtime quarry by far is the wild turkey. Not only is this cagey fowl the inspiration for a tasty bourbon, it is also fast becoming the second most sought-after game species in North America (the first being white-tailed deer). Keen eyesight, hearing, and olfactory senses set these birds far ahead of their genetically compromised domestic cousins. Montana’s turkeys are especially keen, as they spend most of their lives fending off coyotes, foxes, dogs, and various egg-marauding critters like skunks, badgers, and raccoons.

Most turkey hunting in Montana takes place in the eastern part of the state. There are healthy populations in the western part, but most of those regions are limited to a permit drawing.

Turkey hunting involves a tremendous amount of patience and skill. The first couple of years usually see seasoned hunters scratching their heads in frustration. More information on turkey seasons and regulations is available at the local Fish, Wildlife & Parks office, or on the web at fwp.mt.gov. One other invaluable resource for the turkey hunter is the National Wild Turkey Federation web site at nwtf.com.

Critters
Of course turkeys are not the only source of hunting-based recreation during spring months. Varmints also fit the bill quite nicely. Most nongame rodents and predators fall into the varmint category, and in recent years varmint hunting has become a bonafide sport complete with clubs, blogs, and specialty products.

Most local varmint hunters focus on gophers, aka the Richardson’s ground squirrel, during the spring months. Most shooting takes place with the standard .22-caliber rimfire, but increasing numbers of archers are finding the little “flickertails” a good way to stay sharp. Of course all the basic do’s and don’ts of hunting apply with varmint hunting. And always remember to ask before hunting on private land, or you might just become the varmint.

Inanimate Objects D'Art
If blood sport just isn’t in the cards, one can always hunt in a more benign way. Because the large ungulates of the region have lost their seasonal headgear, many folks find themselves scouring the country looking for the sheds. In recent years shed-antler hunting has become as much of pastime as hunting for the critters that sport them in the “on” season. The basics of shed hunting are as follows: go out for a hike and keep your eyes peeled.

Sheds can be used for a variety of handy crafts or just admired. Keep in mind that some Wildlife Management Areas are off-limits to shed hunters.

As is the case with every hunting practice, be responsible if you're going to undertake any of these ideas, and use proper hunting etiquette. For more information on any of these hunting opportunities contact Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks at fwp.mt.gov.

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