Everyday Outdoors: Fill a spring day in the WV woods

Spring dogwood in the West Virginia woods.

Spring is a glorious time in West Virginia. It’s an especially great time to be an outdoors person. Depending on the weather conditions, some time around the last of March, or the first of April, a lot of exciting things start to happen in nature in this area. Whatever your interests, they can add up to a full spring day of outdoor activities in our corner of the world.

Although some serious fishermen catch fish all winter, the fishing around here really picks up in early spring. Also, turkeys start to strut and gobble, and morel mushrooms begin to make their yearly appearance. Some folks also wait all year on the time for ramps. Since I am mainly a hunter, fisherman and woods wanderer, those activities are the focus of a spring day for me.

Morels.

In early spring, before turkey season opens, I like to hike, scout and listen for gobblers. This usually has me up and moving well before daylight. It’s also a great time to explore new territory and check for deer sign from the previous fall. Think big buck rubs. I will also mushroom hunt a bit, even though I am terrible at finding them, and get some great exercise. This early in the season, the fishing gets better after the day has warmed a bit, unless you’re trout fishing.

As the season progresses, spring gobbler season opens, and the fishing usually gets even better, especially for bass and pan fish. This is the time of year that my days tend to get really long!

If I am off from work, my alarm will be set for 4 a.m. even though I usually don’t need it. I like to be on some high spot to listen for gobblers well before sunrise. If I can get a bird — or multiple birds — to gobble, I’ll spend much of the morning in that area hunting them. If I don’t hear anything there, I’ll be on the move.

Sitting quietly in an area where you know there are turkeys is a great way to kill a gobbler, but I don’t do it very often. I like to run and gun, searching for a gobbling tom to aggravate with my calls. When doing this, I often end up a long way from my truck.

Wade Shambaugh with a spring gobbler.

If I’m not finding gobbling turkeys, I can end up wandering around, exploring, taking photos, looking for mushrooms, old bottles or whatever. Again, I know many skilled turkey hunters will sit until the end of legal shooting time. I’m just not that serious about it. I love to woods wander. A gobbling bird is a bonus.

By mid-day, I’m on to fishing. My absolute favorite is small-stream smallmouth bass fishing.

A stringer of largemouth bass.

Mid-April through the end of May is my favorite time to get after them. This is also a great time to fish for largemouths, bluegills, crappies and other species. We often clean and fillet a few for an evening fish fry.

As we get further into May, sunrise comes earlier and sunset comes later. If you turkey hunt all morning, and fish all afternoon into evening, you will be ready to sit down for some dinner and a cold beverage!

Even though hunting, fishing and woods wandering are the activities that I enjoy on a spring day in West Virginia, there are countless other things to do. Find your own way to a perfect day. Just get out of the house and enjoy the season!

Wade Shambaugh has lived in Morgan County his whole life and is a lifelong outdoorsman.

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