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Kentucky turkey hunters hit woods, fields for spring gobbler

By STEVE VANTREESE

Today brings the opening of Kentucky's statewide spring turkey season, the first outings in a April 12-May 4 hunting binge.

This is the initial opportunity at spring gobblers for all-ages hunters. Last weekend, April 5-6, brought the annual youth turkey hunt for adult-accompanied kids 15 and under.

With bearded turkeys the legal game for the season, naturally the focus of the hunting is turkey gobblers. And with the spring breeding season at hand, the gobblers' focus is certainly on hens.

Breeding season behavior in the form of tom turkeys' gobbling points hunters toward male birds sounding off. Most hunters try to close within 100 yards or so of the amorous gobblers, then set up and attempt to lure the gobblers into shooting distance with yelping and other hen calls.

An alternative growing more popular is hunting in place, often from a blind, with a turkey decoy located in a shooting area. The decoy hunter attempts to attract a gobbler into eyeballing distance by calling, then depends on the visual appeal of the decoy to lure the tom turkey that last stretch into the shooting zone.

Breeding behavior, if varying any, may be somewhat behind schedule this year because of cold, winter-like weather during early spring and of late. However, much of the turkeys' activities hinge on the photo period, the length of daylight, so life goes on despite lower temperatures.

As is typical, reports of gobbling during last weekend's youth hunt were mixed. A number of reports indicated toms gobbled well on the roost, and then grew silent after flying down to the ground in early morning.

Gobbling or silent, some birds obviously were vulnerable. Kentucky's Telecheck game reporting system registered 1,752 birds bagged by youth hunters statewide during the weekend. Graves County led in the region, 33 youngsters reporting scoring turkeys in that county.

Regulations are unchanged this year. The seasonal limit is two turkeys with visible beards, although a hunter can only take one turkey in a day's time. Each turkey taken must be reported to Telecheck by phoning 1-800-CHK-GAME or 1-800-245-4263 before midnight of the day the bird was killed.

Shooting hours are 30 minutes before official sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. Regardless of the time of day, however, no turkey can be taken from the roost. Those late-risers or early-to-bed birds are fully protected in the trees.

It is illegal for any hunter to hunt turkeys over bait such as grain that has been placed in the hunting habitat. Where bait has been placed and removed, the site still is considered baited (and illegal to hunt turkeys there) for 30 days after the bait has been taken away. Indeed, in Kentucky it's even illegal to feed wildlife away from the immediate area of a home from March 1-May 31

Shotguns are the weaponry of choice for most during the spring gobbler hunt. Allowed are scatterguns of at least 20 gauge but no larger than 10 gauge firing loads of shot no larger than No. 4. Turkeys also can be hunted with muzzleloading shotguns, archery gear or crossbows if hunters wish.

Each hunter is required to have an appropriate hunting license as well as a spring turkey permit.

There are some no-no's. Prohibited in the spring gobbler season is the use of a dog in hunting. Turkeys cannot be hunted from a boat. Electronic or recorded calls of any sort are illegal for use. Live turkeys can't be used as decoys.

n Land Between the Lakes visitors are reminded that the public area's Fenton Campground on Kentucky Lake is closed for camping until further notice because of storm damage, particularly run-off from a recent thunderstorm and heavy rain.

LBL spokesman Gary Hawkins said the funneled run-off overwhelmed bridges and some sites, making camping unsafe in the area.

While camping at Fenton is halted, the Fenton boat ramp, fishing access and pavilion and the trailhead for the Central Hardwoods Scenic Trail remain open.

Updates on closures of LBL facilities, trails, etc. are available on the website www.lbl.org or phone 800-LBL-7077 or 270-924-2000.

n The Land Between the Lakes Advisory Board will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday at Lake Barkley State Resort Park. The 17-member board is scheduled to discuss environmental education issues at the session

The meeting will be open to the public. Information on the meeting, approved minutes and the advisory board is available at the website www.lbl.org under the header "Working together."

 

Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoors writer. E-mail outdoors news items to outdoors@paducahsun.com.

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