There are three days each year when it's no fun to have a bright red gizzard hanging below your beak.
One of those days, of course, is Thanksgiving. The other two days come each spring and fall, when hunters take to the woods in search of turkeys. Saturday marks the kickoff of the spring gobbler season. It's a great day to be a hunter, but a lousy time to be a turkey.
This is a unique and great time to be in the woods. In fact, it's my favorite time to be in the woods. Unlike the frigid, dark days of deer season, Pennsylvania's forests and fields are alive right now with the fullness of spring. The weather is warm. The sun is bright. And, most important, the turkeys are eager to respond to our calls. As mating season wraps up, gobblers are anxious to strut their tail feathers in the hopes of catching the eye of a nearby hen.
If you hit the woods Saturday morning, don't be surprised if the turkeys are acting a bit differently than they have in previous years. Thanks to this year's unseasonably warm start, some hens are running ahead of schedule. They're just as confused by the weather as we are. Biologists expect many hens to take to their nests earlier than normal.
According to Carl Roe, the executive director of the Game Commission, the warm weather means good news and bad news.
"On the positive side," he said, "a higher proportion of hens likely will be incubating nests by opening day thanks to the unusually early spring, making gobblers more vocal in search of hens."
"Also," Roe said," gobblers are in good condition this spring because of the very mild winter, which means those healthy males may just continue gobbling and looking for mates throughout the hunting season."
The bad news, though, is leaves have already emerged. That means hunters will have a harder time hearing eager gobblers and identifying their targets.
The trick to finding success this year is no different than any other season. You'll need lots of preseason scouting (if you haven't done it by now, it's too late) and smart calling skills.
Let's not forget the state's youngest hunters got the first crack at springtime gobblers last weekend thanks to a special youth season. That means there are plenty of birds already on the lookout for camouflaged men hiding behind trees.
Even with the challenges of an odd spring season, gobbler harvests are likely to be strong. If this year is like most years, that means we should see a harvest of about 40,000 turkeys.
Like I said, it's a lousy time to be a turkey, but a great time to be a hunter.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york dispatch.com.