---- — Daylight has lengthened and cold winds have finally given way to warm, gentle breezes, for the most part, anyway. This is the special time of year when many of us enjoy being outdoors, a welcome escape from the four walls that almost held us hostage just a few months back.
Our beautiful spring season provides many opportunities — be it fishing, hiking, bird watching, searching for Indian artifacts, searching for delicious morels or just taking in the splendor of our natural environment coming alive with new birth.
Spring also ushers in our state’s wild turkey hunting season which this year runs from April 23 to May 11. IDNR turkey specialist Steve Backs expects more than 20 percent of hunters will see success during the 19-day season. He believes over 12,000 birds will be taken by Hoosier hunters.
We’ve come a long way from the 62 hunters who took part in Indiana’s first wild turkey hunting season back in 1970. Last year, more than 60,000 sportsmen and women took to the wood lots in search of our state’s premier game bird and this year may be even higher.
Because of the huge number of people who will take advantage of the numerous spring time outdoor offerings, safety becomes paramount. Unlike our fall and winter seasons when the majority of those enjoying our natural consumptive resources are hunters, it’s a bit different during spring. Hunters need to recognize they may not be alone in the woods, even when on remote private property.
According to the National Safety Council, hunting is a relatively safe activity, resulting in fewer injuries per 100,000 participants than other activities like cycling, golf, tennis and yes, wait for it ... even bowling. However, as with any activity, you must always use good judgment and take full responsibility for your actions.
I am always reminded of one particular incident told to me by Robert Parson while turkey hunting a private Cass County farm.
“I had just gone through a series of yelps on my slate call when I heard rustling in the dry leaves,” he explained. “Pretty soon I caught a glimpse of red and blue coming my way on the other side of some brush.”
For those who don’t know, red and blue are the prominent colors of a male turkey’s head during the spring breeding season. Parson’s heart began to race as he slowly shifted into position at the same time shouldering his Mossberg 12-guage in hopes of taking his first Indiana long beard. After several anxious minutes an elderly gentleman stepped into view. The man was hunting morels and had accidently strayed off the property he had permission to access. The colors Parson saw were on a decorative red bandana the man had tied around his mushroom hunting stick back dropped by his blue jeans. Because of proper hunter ethics and firearm safety, a serious incident was avoided.
Hoosier sportsmen and women have much of which to be proud. In Indiana, hunting accidents are rare. One is too many. Each year national statistics show the highest number of hunting accidents occur during turkey hunting season. Maybe it’s because hunters sport complete camouflage to escape the keen eyesight of a wary boss gobbler. Or maybe it’s the use of calls, which in some cases have been known to lure in other hunters as well. In spite of our state’s sterling record, as far as spring hunting accidents go, hunters should in no way rest on our laurels.
In an effort to maintain our proud tradition of safe hunting, here are a few rules to keep in mind when afield this spring.
• Never assume you are alone in the woods, even if you are the only one with permission to be on private property.
• Assume every sound you hear is caused by another person until every sense positively tells you otherwise.
• Never treat hunting as a competitive sport, this only leads to poor judgment.
• Set up to call in fairly open areas with your back against a tree that is wider than your shoulders.
• Respect all property and the rights of others.
• Listen for changes in the woods. Bluejays and chipmunks make a lot of noise when an intruder enters their area. Songbirds will stop singing. The intruder could be another person.
• If you would encounter another hunter in the woods, do not wave, use a turkey call or stand-up. Instead verbally call out or whistle to alert them of your presence.
• Never, ever shoot at sound or movement. Ever!
• Respect the rights of non-hunters just as they should respect the rights of us who do hunt.
Although not a safety concern, always give thanks to the landowner if you are hunting private property.
Remember, our wild turkey season coincides with the same time Hoosier woodlots are filled with those searching for springs short-lived delicacy — wild morels. And who can blame them! By keeping safety measures in mind our Hoosier state will remain one of the safest in the nation.
A strong contingent of Kokomo Bass Anglers took part in their first club tournament of the season. It was held on Lake Manitou. Mike Bailey ran away from the field after weighing in a limit of five largemouth bass dropping the scales at 7 pounds, 1 ounce. Bringing up second was Scott Vollmer with three fish weighing 4 pounds, 15 ounces. A 2-pound, 3-ounce fish also gave him the tourney’s big bass trophy. Third was Cory Lorts with three bass totaling 4 pounds, 1 ounce.
John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.