If you’re a turkey hunter and a fisherman, mid-spring is a sort of cosmic practical joke in which everything happens at once. Bass are swarming the shallows to spawn; trout are gorging on the year’s first good hatches; turkeys are gobbling on every hill and hollow–and there’s only so much time.
What’s a sportsman to do? As much as is humanly possible. Head for one of the five destinations below, where the turkeys strut only a stone’s throw from where the fish bite. You can sleep when you get home.
North-central Arkansas where the wooded hills and limestone bluffs of the Ozark National Forest meet the banks of the White and Buffalo Rivers.
It’s one of the country’s top turkey locales, with more than a million acres of public land. Focus on Sylamore WMA, south of Mountain Home. Season: April 3-May 9.
The White River has famous fishing for rainbow trout and potential world-record browns; the Buffalo holds scads of smallmouths. Both flow through prime turkey country–and both heat up in spring.
INSIDER INFORMATION “Float either river,” says Marc Oliver of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “I especially like the lower end of the Buffalo, from Rush to the mouth. But it’s a great time to fish the White, too.” Contact the AGFC: 800-364-4263.
Kentucky and Tennessee where Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake spill over the state borders, forming the federally owned Land Between the Lakes (LBL).
There are 170,000 acres of low wooded hills and bottomlands and lots of turkeys. To lose the crowd, hunt designated walk-in areas. Season: roughly April 19-May 2; check state regs.
Both Kentucky and Barkley are celebrated bass and crappie waters. And this is prime time, as the fish stack up in the shallows to spawn. Both lakes hold largemouths in the 6- to 12-pound range.
INSIDER INFORMATION “Camp in the LBL and you can launch your boat, hunt, and fish all in one general area,” says Steve Bloemer, LBL wildlife biologist. “The Tennessee side has more birds; the Kentucky side, less pressure.” Contact the LBL: 800-525-7077.
South Dakota’s Black Hills where sleeper trout waters thread a stunning landscape of rock hills, ponderosa pines, and open prairie–home to roughly 20,000 Merriam’s turkeys.
THE HUNTING Arguably the nation’s No. 1 destination for Merriam’s–the southern portions of the national forest and surrounding private lands (worth asking) hold the most birds. Season: April 10-May 16.
THE FISHING Rapid, Castle, Spearfish, and Grace Coolidge Creeks offer trout fishing that rivals that of better-known western waters. Also hit Yates Pond and Lakota and Roubaix Lakes. Bring Elk Hair Caddis and Adams in size 16 and smaller.
INSIDER INFORMATION “I’d go the last 10 days of the season,” says John Wrede of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, “and hunt west and southwest of Custer and Wind Cave parks. You’ll have better fishing then, too.” Contact the SDDGFP: 605-394-2391.
Eastern Texas where two of the state’s largest blocks of forested public land border two of its most prolific fisheries–Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn Reservoirs.
THE HUNTING The Sabine and Angelina National Forests encompass 300,000 acres of prime Eastern turkey habitat. Birds are well distributed, but Sabine gets a little less pressure. Season: April 12-25.
THE FISHING There’s peak shallow-water fishing for both bass and crappies on a pair of renowned reservoirs: Hit the northern end of Toledo Bend for crappies. Focus on Sam Rayburn for a better shot at trophy largemouths in the 8- to 10-pound class.
INSIDER INFORMATION “Last year was the best turkey hatch we’ve ever had; the year before was the second best,” says Sean Willis of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “There should be lots of gobbling this spring. Access the area with a boat for less-pressured birds.” Contact the TPWD: 512-389-4800.
New York’s Catskills where the cradle of American flyfishing lies nestled beside a 705,000-acre state park of rolling, mountainous terrain. There are vast public holdings both in and around the park.
THE HUNTING Top spots are generally along the periphery of the park, where state land abuts private agriculture in southeast Delaware Country. There is also good remote wilderness hunting within the park. Season: May 1-31.
THE FISHING Browns, rainbows, and brook trout rise to some of the year’s biggest bugs on three of the East’s most celebrated trout waters–the Beaverkill, Willowemoc, and Upper Delaware. March brown and green drake hatches can be superb in May.
INSIDER INFORMATION Carl Parker of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation points hunters to Murphy Hill in Andes, the Platte-kill State Forest in Roxbury, and Bear Spring Mountain WMA near Walton. Hunting closes at noon–just in time for the best fishing. Contact the NYDEC: 518-357-2450.