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Hunter’s Corner: Time for outdoor activities to take off

This past week all of my busy indoor activities subsided and anticipated outdoor activities are going to pick up in tempo. As a result, Ranee and I took off for two days to stay at the Dancing Bear Guest House in Shelburne Falls, Mass.

Shelburne Falls is across from Buckland; the two are separated by the Deerfield River. In addition to crossing the river by bridge, there is a former trolley bridge that has been converted to a bridge of flowers. If you ever wondered what Mayberry, RFD, would look like if it were in Massachusetts, it would be Shelburne Falls and Buckland. The congenial hosts of the Dancing Bear are Philip and Edith Bragdon. For those longtime listeners of New Hampshire Public Radio, Phil delivered the news and special reports. If you are looking for some serious downtime, call Phil at 413-625-9281 for a reservation.

We spent a full day at Historic Deerfield. What a great investment of time. Being a history buff, I was in awe of what they have accomplished in saving an important part of American history. This is farm country and, at one time, relations were contentious between the Mohawks, Abenaki and Pacumtucs who originally inhabited the Deerfield area. French, Mohawks, Abenaki and Pacumtucs raided Deerfield with a force of 300-plus in 1704, killing 46 and making off with 109 captives. Eighty-nine of the captives survived the forced march back to Canada. Recent test boring in Deerfield revealed the depth of topsoil to be between 18 and 20 feet, which explains the importance of Deerfield as an agricultural center then and now.

This is a very busy outdoors weekend that many, including myself, have long awaited. Salmon fishing is sizzling hot. Designated trot ponds and lakes opened yesterday.

In anticipation of all the excitement, I stopped by to visit with Ron Lacroix and to pick up some flies. Ron is a master fly tier. First on my shopping list was to stock up on some 88s. The 88 is a deadly streamer fly that works equally well on rainbows and brook trout. Ron ties them on a long shank #8 hook and they are a wonder to observe and use. Last year it was my most productive fly on rainbows.

I asked him how the salmon were biting on Winnipesaukee and he said the action was hot and heavy, especially around Ellacoya. He showed me the two beat-up flies that were working well and they were two versions of the Maynard Marvel. One pattern has an orange nose and the other, which he calls “old blood and guts,” has a black nose. These are what I call pin-sized tandems and try to match the size of the real smelt that the salmon are feasting on.

When it comes to the choice of fishing streams or rivers, the streams warm up faster than rivers and some of the rivers are still experiencing snow cap runoff. A fish biologist from Fish and Game suggests you follow the black flies north when choosing where to fish. What he was saying is that the water conditions improve from south to north.

The other happening this weekend is the youth turkey hunt. The regular spring turkey season opens May 3. The hunting hours of the spring season are a half hour before sunrise until noon, so if you want to scout for the upcoming season, if you spot someone already in your area, don’t spoil their hunt – move on to a different area. The other option is to scout in the afternoon. Ted Walski recommends driving early-morning “gobbling routes” before the season begins. Start about a half hour before daybreak. Stop at one-half to one-mile intervals along a 5- to 10-mile route in the region you intend to hunt. Get out of the vehicle and listen for gobbling turkeys and drumming grouse for four minutes at each stop.

Last year hunters took 3,876 gobblers during the spring season, 1,056 turkeys in the fall (706 from the five-day shotgun season and 350 from archery). During the 2012 youth turkey hunting weekend, 480 turkey were registered (they are counted in the spring total). Walski, a longtime Fish and Game turkey biologist, predicts a good turkey harvest this spring, in the range of 4,000 gobblers.

New Hampshire saw a relatively good hatch of young turkeys last summer, followed by a fairly easy winter. I have a feeling the late snow we experienced will help with the turkey season. Last year, March was incredibly warm, which advanced the mating season so most of the hens were on nests before the season opened. Not so this year. I would be surprised if the total take of both the spring and fall season is well over the 4,000 mark predicted by Walski.

A special thanks to Fish and Game and the Department of Environmental Services and all of the volunteers who helped make Wild New Hampshire the biggest success ever. There were more than 7,000 attendees who were treated to some outstanding demonstrations. There is always a major planning and coordinating effort that goes into this annual event and it really paid off this year.

(Bob Washburn can be reached at

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