How can you beat October? The leaves are turning, the deer are moving about, eating every acorn in sight, starting to think about romance. The fish are biting - in the ocean and in the lakes and streams. The bugs are all gone, and there's just a bit of a bite in the air, the promise that the season is changing to something much colder.
April, however, opens the vaults in my memory bank like no other. Yes, turkey season has a lot to do with it, but I have caught the three biggest bass of my life in the fourth month of the year - two of them 200 yards apart on the same day, on the same riprapped bank, using the same little crankbait.
And April is also the month that I have had my most-memorable trips afield with my son, Andrew. His three beautiful sisters came ahead of him, and they only had the tiniest interest in the outdoors, so I had a long wait for a hunting and fishing buddy.
We have caught crappie in April at Buggs Island Lake on the North Carolina/Virginia border, so many that I thought my hands would freeze pulling them out of the ice water in the cooler to clean them. With my redneck buddy Rick, we have removed dozens of rainbow, brown and brook trout from a mountain stream on several first Saturdays in April.
I took Andrew turkey hunting in Georgia one April, at far too young an age for him to sit still, but when a hen walked within 10 yards of us, heading to the gobbler I was calling, Andrew sat like a statue. Of course, I'd already whispered, "Move a muscle and I'll wring your neck." He took me seriously.
It's been a while since he was young enough to carry a shotgun into the woods on Youth Turkey Day, but I can remember one Saturday morning, with the temperature around 29 degrees and a gobbler only 15 yards away, circling behind an old, broken-down shed. Andrew was shivering. "You cold, or is that the turkey making you shake?" I asked. "Both," he said.
A year later, I called a hen and three gobblers into a field to a single hen decoy. Andrew killed his first longbeard, and I killed another as it stood over its fallen comrade, still flopping on the ground. It was a moment I'll never forget, matched only by his first whitetail buck, taken from a stand with his grandfather.
Last spring, he was home for college the weekend turkey season opened. At dawn, we were on a finger ridge, huddled against a big oak tree, a fabric blind in front of us and gobblers all around us, trying to out-yell each other. At 9 o'clock, I told him our only chance was to split up and go after different birds. A half-hour later, I heard his shotgun bark once, twice, then a third time. I was already celebrating when my cell phone buzzed and he confirmed my suspicions. A 23-pound gobbler, the first one he'd called in on his own.
Like I said, it doesn't get any better than April.