Safety a top priority when turkey hunting

Al Smith - Guest Columnist

Turkey hunting season is only three weeks away and as with any hunting season safety has to be the utmost priority of hunters. Since hunters are camouflaged and sitting along fence rows or in a woods, safety is crucial. It becomes even more so as the annual leaf out progresses. The later it gets in May, the harder it is to see, not only birds, but the hunter as well. Hunters should be vigilant in identifying the bird and a Tom’s beard.

Be aware of what’s around you. Even if you’re on private property, there could be other hunters out there who are coming to your call. Don’t shoot at movement; don’t shoot at sound; no turkey is worth it. Many experts encourage hunters to only shoot after they see the turkey’s beard.

Don’t forget non-hunters may not be aware of the turkey season. They may be out there hunting morel mushrooms or possibly birding.

Once a hunter has shot a bird, it is suggested he carry it over his shoulder or better yet, to avoid someone mistaking it for a live bird and take a shot, use a blaze orange turkey transport harvest bag.

Here are some safety tips all turkey hunters should follow:

- Plan to wear blaze orange when moving from one spot to another because you never know if someone else is out there, even on private land.

- Avoid wearing patriotic colors – red, white, blue. These same colors are found in a turkey’s head.

- Be aware that mushroom hunters will be moving through the timber in late April and May. Mushroom hunters are encouraged to wear blaze orange and avoid red, white and blue.

- Plan to add bug spray and drinking water to the field bag

- A blind is good for concealment and when taking kids turkey hunting, but not for moving around. If you plan to be mobile, don’t bring the blind.

- If hunting private land, be sure you have permission and know the property boundaries.

- Even if hunting private property, the potential exists that someone else may be out there. Trespassing calls increase during turkey season.

- Be extremely careful if planning to use a gobble call while hunting. Another hunter may mistake you for a turkey

Don’t forget to follow regulations. As a judge once told me years ago, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”

A Limaland turkey hunter lost his hunting privileges for a year last spring, when a pair of area wildlife officers cited him for hunting spring turkeys over a baited area.

According to Ohio Division of Wildlife reports, while on routine patrol during the spring turkey season, Mercer County Wildlife Officer Austin Levering came upon a parked truck on a county road. He discovered several containers of poultry feed upon further inspection. A man dressed in camo came walking out of nearby woods carrying a shotgun shortly after Levering inspected the truck.

The wildlife officer discovered the hunter had a valid hunting license and his turkey permit when he contacted him. Levering then had the hunter show him where he had been turkey hunting. The wildlife officer found a large pile of poultry food about 30 yards from a ground blind where the hunter had been.

Auglaize County Wildlife Officer Mark Schemmel arrived and assisted Levering with the investigation and processing of evidence. Subsequently, the hunter was issued a citation for hunting spring turkeys over a baited area. The hunter’s firearm was seized as evidence and the judge in the Celina Municipal Court suspended his hunting privileges for one year from the date of violation.

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FOWL FACTS: This time of year, people see a plethora of waterfowl as they migrate. Ducks are not easily identifiable for the average person. Most of us are familiar with the mallard since it is the most popular American duck. The mallard drake (male) is one of five ducks that have a significant amount of green on their heads, according to Ducks Unlimited (DU). Wood duck drakes, often referred to as the prettiest of ducks, along with the American green-winged teal, American wigeon and northern shoveler are the other drakes that have prominent iridescent green plumage on their heads.

Most people know that researchers band numerous waterfowl each year. Of the average 350,000 fowl that are tagged, about 85,000 are recovered and report each year, according to DU.

Did you know the primary and secondary feathers on a duck’s wings work together to provide thrust and life simultaneous? According to DU. The long primary feathers on the outer edge of a duck’s wing provide thrust while the shorter secondary feathers closer to the body provide lift in flight.

Geese have strong pair bonds, but they do not stay together for life even after losing a mate. Researchers have found that although pairs will remain together for several years, they will find new mates if one member of a pair dies, according to DU.

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Switching to fishing, April means the beginning of walleye tournaments and walleye and Lake Erie are synonymous. The Cabela’s National Walleye Tour kicks off April 12-13 out of Huron and some anglers are predicting 100 pounds might win the two-day tourney. That is not a misprint, it is 100 pounds of fish in two days.

Jason Przekurat, the 2016 National Walleye Tour Championship winner, is one who said it could take that much while others are predicting 45 pounds a day. That’s 90 pounds in two days so 100 may not be far-fetched.

“I’m not going to say it will take 100, but I wouldn’t be shocked if the winner hits 100,” Przekurat said.

The reason for such huge predictions is simple. There still remain numerous walleye from a super outstanding 2003 year class. That translates into fish that will weigh between 9-13 pounds. Since this was such a mild winter, walleye anglers have been catching huge walleye throughout the winter.

“It’s been some of the most fantastic fishing you’ve ever seen,” said Ronnie Rhodes, a charter captain who operates Fin Tastic Walleye Charters. “It has been just incredible. The fishing is great right now and the future for Lake Erie is looking excellent. If the weather stays cold, I don’t think you’re going to see many fish that have spawned. They will be full of eggs and you’ll see some really big bags. There have been a ton of 12 and 13-pounders caught this winter. Even some 15-pounders have been caught.”

Przekurat said, “The funny part about Erie is that it’s not hard to catch fish,” continued Przekurat. “But once you start catching 7s, you better be looking for 8s. Once you’ve found 8s, you better be looking for 9s. And once you’ve found 9s, you better be looking for 10s. It’s possible to catch a 40-pound bag and be sitting in 30th place.”

Fishing as a pro-am team, anglers are permitted to keep six fish and weigh their best five each day. All accessible water is in play – including Michigan, Ohio and Canada. Traditional areas, such as Kelleys Island, Pelee Island and the Bass islands are expected to be popular.

“The weather is everything on Erie,” said Rhodes. “This time of year, it can be nice or there can be a freak snowstorm. As always on Erie, Mother Nature will dictate where we can go. If it blows from the east, it can get rough and it can also be a tough bite. If the weather holds like it is, you’ll need every bit of 45 pounds a day to win. And it should take more.”

Al Smith

Guest Columnist

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may be contact him at or follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may be contact him at or follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

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