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Posted on Sun, Apr. 09, 2006

April is best of times in outdoors

MIKE BLAIR/Special to The Star
The turkey is a symbol of April for many Missouri and Kansas hunters.

This is the time of the year I daydreamed about on cold, gray days this winter.


For someone who loves the outdoors, there isn’t a better month on the calendar.

Oh, some might argue in favor of October, when fall colors brighten the woods, duck hunting is just getting started, and visions of big bucks fill hunters’ heads. But for me, April has it beat.

Why? Let me count the ways.

1 TURKEY HUNTING: The gobbling of a turkey on a distant ridge is a sure sign of spring.

It stirs the soul of thousands of hunters, who can’t wait until April arrives and the spring hunting season opens.

Anyone who has thrilled to the thundering gobbles of the big gamebird and the sight of a tom in full strut, putting on a show for the ladies, remembers the experience. And they dream of April mornings, when the woods are colored emerald green with new vegetation and are alive with the calls of songbirds.

2 CRAPPIE FISHING: The fish of the month? Many fishermen would point to the crappie. They eagerly await April days when the water gets warm enough for the popular panfish to concentrate in the shallows for the spawn. That’s always a benchmark moment in the fishing season — a time that draws crowds of fishermen at Missouri lakes such as Smithville, Truman and Lake of the Ozarks and Kansas lakes such as Hillsdale, Clinton and Perry.

3 MORELS: Another April special. When the water gets warm and timely spring rains hit, many take to the woods in search of tasty wild mushrooms. But it’s more than just putting food on the table. For many, it’s the thrill of the hunt — the challenge of finding where the morels are popping up and getting to them before others do.

4 SPRING’S BLOOM: Fall isn’t the only time when the woods are full of color. Spring puts on its own special show. I look forward to spring hikes when the woods are colored with the red of redbud trees, the white of dogwoods and the rich green of new vegetation. It’s an awakening; a sign that a new season is upon us. And it’s a great setting for a hike.

5 PADDLEFISH SNAGGING: Yeah, I even look forward to some back-wrenching work in April. I look forward to the paddlefish-snagging season. The season actually starts in March, but it reaches its peak in April. That’s when the water warms to the point that the big females start to move up river for their spawning run. It’s work, jerking heavy weights and big hooks through the water all day. But look at what you could hook: a fish 100 pounds or bigger.

6 WHITE-BASS RUN: The white bass is another symbol of April. If you don’t believe it, head to the Ozarks on a weekend at this time of the year. The banks of rivers feeding reservoirs such as Bull Shoals, Table Rock and Norfork lakes are lined with fishermen. And when the run is at its peak, everyone is catching fish.

7 LAKE OF THE OZARKS BASS FISHING: For me, few experiences say April as much as bass fishing at Lake of the Ozarks. The reservoir, which attracts crowds of people in the summer, is a different animal in the spring. It is uncrowded and peaceful. And it seldom ceases to produce excellent bass fishing, especially right before the fish go on their spawning beds.

8 CANOEING THE OZARKS: For me, there are few better ways to greet spring than in a canoe or johnboat on an Ozarks float stream. Paddling down a peaceful river, surrounding by spring’s beauty, invariably recharges the soul. The scenery is unmatched. And the fishing can be just as invigorating, especially when the smallmouth bass are active.

9 TOURING THE FLINT HILLS: I also love to dive into the Flint Hills on an April day, either to wade-fish one of the sparking streams that cut through the region, take a hike, or observe prairie-chicken booming grounds from a blind. Some see the region as a monotonous landscape of grassland. I see it as a source of fascination, with a unique blend of wildlife, wild flowers and untouched beauty.

10 FARM-POND BASS FISHING: April also is a time to return to the farm. For many, me included, it is a time to go bass fishing on the ponds that dot the rural landscape. Many are obscure and hidden, but they produce some of the best fishing in Kansas and Missouri.

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