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Second-weekend turkey hunters just might hit paydirt

By STEVE VANTREESE

Kentucky's turkey hunters could be in for a lively second weekend of the spring gobbler season.

Steven Dobey, chief of turkey management for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said hunters out today and Sunday could encounter a flush of gobbler activity as the birds' courting season tries to catch up with the calendar. The peak of gobbling, seemingly held off earlier by colder temperatures, could be developing about now, Dobey said.

Kentucky's season (April 12-May 4 this year) is set such that the peak of gobbling typically comes right at the beginning of the hunting or even before it. This year's bouts of lingering wintry cold are believed to have delayed turkey breeding behavior.

Dobey said he observed turkeys still in large winter flocks well into the spring, indicating that even the spring break-up and dispersion to nesting territories was running behind conventional timing this year.

The slow-to-develop peak along with some heavy winds may have restrained last Saturday's and Sunday's opening weekend harvest. Dobey said Kentucky hunters reported taking 8,880 bearded birds April 12-13, a slightly lower than typical opening weekend harvest nowadays.

Kentucky's estimated total wild turkey population is 220,000, despite some decline in the reproduction rates in recent seasons. Overall, hens haven't been producing as many young birds per brood of late, but Dobey noted that the reproduction rate downturn is moderated by having perhaps an all-time high in the numbers of hens producing youngsters.

Dobey said this year's crop of 2-year-old gobblers â “ those that tend to produce the most action for hunters â “ is just so-so, the 2012 reproduction year having been somewhat modest.

"The 2012 class was below what I'd like to see, but it was better than the crop of 2011, which was one of the poorer poult production years we've seen," he said.

Despite a series of lower poult production years seen in summer brood surveys across most of the Southeastern U.S., Kentucky's turkey resources are still perking right along. Dobey said most all the suitable habitat across Kentucky is occupied by turkey flocks with hunting opportunities aplenty for the state's approximately 90,000 turkey hunters.

Kentucky hunters have taken more than 32,000 birds each spring since a record 36,097 were bagged in 2010. That record harvest reflected a spike in reproduction â “ seen in higher poult counts in summer surveys â “ in 2008.

Last year's spring gobbler harvest â “ 32,498 â “ was higher in number of birds taken per square mile of land than all the states that border Kentucky.

Kentucky hunters, with appropriate hunting license and spring turkey permit, each can take two bearded birds during the spring season. A hunter can only take one bird a day, however.

n Veteran tournament angler Charles Jones of Jackson, Tenn., was a runaway winner in a recent Walmart Bass Fishing League/LBL Division event out of The Moors Resort and Marina on Kentucky Lake. Jones topped the Pro Division by three pounds with a five-bass limit weighing 19 pounds, 13 ounces.

Jones reported catching most of his bass on a Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover Jig, working it off rock creek banks in 10-12 feet of water. His largest single bass, however, a 7-1 largemouth, came on a Strike King spinnerbait.

He pocketed more than $7,400 for the winning catch.

Ronnie Smith of Walton, Ky., was runner-up with a limit weighing 16-13, while Kenneth McGar of Crofton was third with an ounce less, 16-12, from his five keepers.

Zach Grounds of Fortville, Ind., was fourth with a limit of 16-9, and Benton's Gerald Andrews finished fifth with five bass of 16-1.

Stan Evans of Newburgh, Ind., sacked a limit weighing 15-14 to lead all in the Co-Angler Division. Kenneth McGar Jr. of Crofton â “ son of the third-place pro â “ was second among co-anglers with a limit and 14-11 in weight.

n The Jackson Purchase Rifle and Pistol Club will hold an International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association-sanctioned rimfire silhouette shoot 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday at the group's range, 1.5 miles east of I-24 Exit 3 on Cairo Road.

The matches are open to .22 rimfire handguns and rifles. Each match will call for 40 rounds to be shot â “ four banks of 10 targets at 25, 50, 75 and 100 yards. Registration is $6 for the initial match and $5 for each subsequent match. More information: Lee Jackson at 270-293-5558.

n Home educators can boost their kids' bug knowledge and more 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday at the Land Between the Lakes' Woodlands Nature Station Homeschoolers Day. The Nature Station's second annual homeschoolers' program will focus on insects, but participating kids will learn through science, art, writing, history and more, say LBL program planners.

While program activities run 10 a.m.-3 p.m., participants can benefit by arriving at any time throughout the schedule. Planners recommend a minimum of two-hour visit for students.

The homeschoolers' activities are free with Nature Station admission. Take-home education materials will be available. For more information, phone 270-924-2299.

Steve Vantreese is a freelance outdoors writer. E-mail outdoors news items to outdoors@paducahsun.com or phone 270-575-8650.

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