Winter is done and time for fun. April is the month many outdoor enthusiasts live for. Weather patterns make everyone wants to feel the warm sun in our great outdoors. Here are some of April’s highlights:
MOREL MUSHROOMS: Morels are seldom easy to find. Chances are this tasty gem has met your shadow during springtime walks in the woods. They are masters of concealment in dead leaves and under or around spring foliage. The average hunter may find 10 and walk past 100.
We start looking for morel mushrooms in early April when woodlot plants appear. Half-grown mayflowers are a good indicator of the required soil warmth when early morels start to pop up.
Early-season hunters should check southern hillsides and creek bottoms open to sunlight that quickly warms the soil. Warming trends make eastern areas productive. Morels do not grow by the sun, lacking chlorophyll the chemical that absorbs sunlight as energy to reproduce. Morels start popping up at dusk and grow through the night, but you will occasionally see one pop up during daylight hours. Northern spots are best when air temperatures heat up at the end of morel season.
Dying elm trees are said to produce a rotting root system that feeds morels. You may not find morels in the same spot after the roots are rotted away. Don’t limit your search to only elms. Check unlikely areas. The darn things could pop up anywhere. Apple trees are possibilities because constantly rotting fruit can help produce morel mushrooms.
Areas with good leaf matting, typically under trees that drop their leaves and bark earlier in the fall and have longer to decay consistently produce. Light-colored barked trees like birch, sycamore and cottonwoods are good examples while the earlier mentioned dying elm trees may only produce morels for a year or two.
Plenty of moisture mixed with temperatures in the high 60s to low 80s are perfect conditions for good mushroom growth. April and early May provides all of this with warm rain and mid overnight temperatures. Morel mushrooms are temperature sensitive.
Dry springs seldom produce exceptional morel mushroom numbers. More grow when it is wet, but some will grow no matter what. You might still find morels in good numbers, but they may not grow as large.
CRAPPIE: Warmer water temperatures move crappie into submerged creek channels and brushy coves to stage for the spawn. You can easily locate these schools with a depth finder. This is a great opportunity to catch crappie because schools actively feed. You will find crappie in deeper areas but close to spawning spots.
Many fish deep with jigs or small lures on creek-channel bends or around submerged brush piles. The bigger females are the last to move towards a spawning area, so continue fishing deeper. Try vertical fishing minnows, crappie jigs tipped with commercial additives or euro larvae.
Pre-spawn is a key time to fish around the bases of standing trees, a tactic that sometimes works on bigger post-spawn crappie and surprisingly a trick that many ignore. Bounce your jig down the sides of each stump and tree. Bigger crappie often hug bark.
Crappie spawn shallow on firm lake or pond bottoms and generally around some type of cover. Brush, logs, stumps, docks, ledges, ditches or sometimes weed beds are great places to look. There is no science to it, just find the fish and cast minnows or jigs. You may eventually spook the crappie, so find another school and return later.
Find the fish and take a kid fishing. The crappie bite early and often, giving the child a good opportunity to discover how fun fishing is.
Male crappie bite best during the spawn. They are protecting the nest and will become aggressive to any threat. I have even watched males chase off bigger bass. So, the rule is bright colors to attract attention. Small lures with some kind of noise like rattles works well in dingy water.
When crappie is biting light, try adding minnows. I like to tip jigs with minnows when male crappie is on the prowl. They seem to take bigger bites and hold on longer when a minnow is on the hook.
TURKEY HUNTING: Are you a novice turkey hunter? Then purchase a turkey hunting video and watch how the experts hunt gobblers. Wild turkeys are smart in their world, so you have to know all the tricks. Here are a couple suggestions:
Calling: There are putts, purrs, clucks, yelps, cutting, tree yelps and even gobbling sounds created on box, slate, diaphragm and push buttons calls used by hunters to fool gobblers.
Novice callers should buy an instructional tape and imitate how the sounds should be made and the call that is easiest to use. Then keep it simple with clucks and yelps. You can learn more challenging calls later.
Silence and limited movement are keys to turkey hunting success. Wild turkeys have eyesight approximately eight times better than a whitetail deer and amazing hearing. Camouflage from head to toe and everything in between including your shotgun. There are many good commercial brands to try.
Find a good spot where you know there are turkeys. This can be determined early in the morning by making turkeys shock gobble off the roost with barred owl hoots.
NEW BIRTH: It’s not uncommon to find a fawn in the spring woods. Please step back and walk away from these poor babies. A doe will abandon her baby when human scent is present. Just touching a fawn could mean it’s death, probably from a predator. You will see other babies too, especially tiny squirrels and rabbits, birds and an occasional baby fox or coyote pup.
SPRING FLOWERS: Sweet Williams, wild violets, may flowers and other beautiful plants pop up in April. A bouquet of sweet William’s aroma will fill your house. You might find a huge patch of these light purple flowers in almost any April woodlot.
April is the promise of many great moments in the outdoors. Find the time to visit a waterway or woodlot for a taste of beautiful spring.