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Spring Is Here!

Spring is certainly a favorite season for many sportsmen. Cabin fever and the winter doldrums are finally behind us, we can finally get outside, and so many things are available to explore and enjoy.

Foraging for wild edible plants can begin as the daily temperatures begin to rise, the snow has melted, and spring rains produce the growth of mushrooms and leeks. While caution should be exercised when harvesting wild mushrooms, two varieties that are quite identifiable and very tasty are the oyster mushrooms and the much sought-after morels.

Oyster mushrooms usually grow on the sides of aspen or poplar trees but can also be seen growing on maple trees and other tree species. The most prized of all wild mushrooms is the morel which can be found on the forest floor, often near dead elm trees and in old, abandoned apple orchards. Both of these varieties are very tasty, and their flavors are enhanced when browned in butter — preferably in a cast iron skillet.

Wild leeks are often found in wooded areas and along creek bottoms in shady locations. They have wide dark green leaves and grow in clusters that can blanket a large area. The stem resembles a spring onion, and they tend to have a strong onion flavor, with a hint of garlic flavor as well. They can be used in place of spring onions and are very good in gravies.

Combined with small potatoes, they make an excellent wild leek and potato soup.
Springtime for many Pennsylvania hunters means Spring Gobbler Season! The season will soon be upon us, with the Youth Day occurring on Saturday, April 22, and the regular Spring Gobbler Season beginning on April 29.

While the sound of an old Tom gobbling at first light is exciting, it is also exciting to think about sitting down at the dinner table and enjoying a meal of wild turkey breast, thigh, or leg meat.

Especially in these days when everyone wants organic this and free range that! Well, that is exactly what wild turkey meat is — organic and free-range!

Turkey breast meat is delicious when sliced thinly, or up to 1/4 inch in thickness and pan-fried in butter.

It goes well with freshly harvested oyster or morel mushrooms. I am always amazed and disappointed when someone tells me that they use only the breast meat of a wild turkey, thinking the thigh and leg meat are too tough and thus unusable. Wrong!

Place leg and thigh meat — including the ones someone else does not want and gives to you — in a large soup pot and cover with water. Bring to a rapid boil, then let simmer. It will take some time, but once the meat softens to where it will fall off the bone, it is excellent for use in soups, casseroles, sandwiches, and chili or gumbo. The broth that is created makes excellent soup stock.
If all of that is not enough to excite your palate, how about some fresh brook trout for dinner? Best cooked over a wood-fired grill or with butter in a cast iron skillet, freshly caught trout is a meal “fit for a king,” especially when accompanied by sautéed wild mushrooms!

With all of these great-tasting foods to harvest, hunt for, or fish for, it also presents a great opportunity to introduce youth or someone who would like to learn about hunting or fishing to the outdoor activities we enjoy. Taking time to share experiences with others will make the adventures much more memorable.