The northwestern mountains along the Tennessee and Virginia borders hold the highest turkey populations in North Carolina, and a handful of small public hunting lands in the region offer sportsmen great opportunities for spring gobblers. The Cherokee and Three-Top Mountain game lands cover about 3,000 acres in northwestern Ashe County; the Thurmond Chatham game lands cover 6,231 acres in Wilkes and Alleghany counties; and the Elk Knob game lands cover 1,095 acres in Watauga County along the Tennessee state line. The Elk Knob harvest has been the best among the four game lands in recent seasons. Traditionally, North Carolina's spring season opens on the second Saturday in April. When that date falls relatively late on the calendar, as it does this year, the heaviest harvest is in the first week to 10 days of the season, matching one of the peaks of the gobbling cycle. You'll often find birds in lower elevations during spring, especially around the edges of pastures or near the bottoms of hollows. Owling at first light can coax a shock gobble from an unsuspecting turkey. Hunting is permitted all day in North Carolina, so hunt during the late afternoon to try to intercept gobblers on their way back to the roost. Contact: North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (919-733-7291).