By John Martino
— Indiana’s wild turkey hunting season opens Wednesday and runs until May 13. With this spring’s unseason-ably warm weather, hunters will more than likely have to work a little harder this year.
DNR wildlife biologist Steve Backs is forecasting a harvest of approximately 11,000 birds. His prediction is about 6 percent less than the 11,669 birds taken last spring and 20 percent less than 2010 when hunters collected a record 13,742 turkeys.
There are two reasons for the lower projected estimates. First, Indiana has experienced several consecutive summers of below normal turkey production, primarily due to above normal precipitation in June when poults are most susceptible. Other states in the south and Midwest have experienced similar or worse drops in production.
The second reason is because of our record warm weather. Growth of spring vegetation is about a month ahead of normal. More greenery will make seeing and hearing birds more difficult. When hunters do hear a turkey, they could be more likely to overestimate the distance to the bird and end up spooking or “over-running” the location of the gobbler.
Advanced vegetation growth can also pose safety concerns.
“The increased concealment gets us into a potential hunter safety issue,” said Backs. “Hunters need to be very vigilant in correctly identifying their target. Although wearing hunter-orange is not required, it is a good idea when going afield or when leaving your hunting area.”
Wild turkeys were extirpated from Indiana by the early 1900s and their reintroduction is one of wildlife’s greatest success stories. In Indiana, restoration efforts were launched in 1956. Now, all of our state’s 92 counties have resident wild turkey populations.
It is no secret that licensed, ethical hunters take pride in playing by the rules, but poachers don’t. Hunting season increases the likelihood that law-abiding hunters will encounter poaching. When that happens, conservation officers encourage anyone witnessing illegal hunting activities to use the TIP hotline. TIP is an acronym for “Turn in a Poacher or Polluter.” The toll free number is 1-800-TIP-IDNR.
Kyle Wagler enjoys the tradition of hunting. For his 13th birthday he was presented a special gift by his parents Tina and Nathan Wagler. His present consisted of a wild boar hunting trip to Caryonah Hunting Lodge in the hills of Tennessee.
After spending the entire day in the woods, the Eastern seventh-grade student had encountered only several distant sightings of wild boars. Through perseverance, and with darkness rapidly approaching, Kyle finally had an opportunity. With a single shot from his .50 caliber muzzleloading rifle, he ended up collecting a beautiful male wild boar during the final hours of his hunt.
Although more challenging than he expected, Kyle now has a goody supply of pork chops. It’s surely a memory not soon forgotten by Kyle or his parents.
Hunting for a Cure
The Coyotes for Charity group, which encompasses predator hunters from Wabash, Kosciusko, Fulton, Grant and Howard counties, wrapped up the season with 193 coyotes. All pelts were prepared by Larry Frank before being shipped to North America Fur Auction.
The group’s mission is to donate all proceeds to the American Cancer Society. This year their contribution totaled $5,400. The charity began in 2004 with four hunters collecting five coyotes. This year, Coyotes for Charity included more than 100 hunters taking 193 of the carnivorous predators, which is also a benefit to our area’s wild game populations. To date the area charity group has donated more than $24,000 in the hopes of finding a cure for cancer.
Sporting Clays Event
The Maple Run Friends Church will host a sporting clays event on May 18 at the Howard County Izaak Walton League, located at 2620 S., 200 E. The shoot will begin at 8:30 a.m. All participants will be treated to a free lunch after completing the course.
Sporting clays is one of the most fun and fastest growing shotgun shooting sports. Each of the 10 stations provides targets simulating real hunting scenarios. Scoring will be based on the Lewis Class points system which provides novice shooters an equal chance of winning.
The purpose of this unique church fundraiser is to generate funds for its mission projects. Currently, the church has its sights set on assisting tornado victims in southern Indiana with a work project scheduled in late June.
To register for the event or to obtain additional information, contact Don Thompson at 765-661-2946 or Maple Run Friends Church at 765-384-7774
Mother of All Morels
Whether you are a true “morel maniac” or someone who occasionally looks for one of nature’s most succulent treats, anyone can find this year’s most magnificent mushroom. All it really takes is warm weather, proper moisture and a little luck. If you would happen across a fantastic fungi, remember to enter it in WWKI’s “Mother of All Morels” contest.
To enter, all you have to do is take your monster mushroom to the WWKI business office located at 519 N. Main St. in Kokomo, during normal business hours. The annual contest will run until 5 p.m. on April 30.
Prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers. In addition to eating your find and receiving a full year’s worth of bragging rights, the overall winner will take home a spinning rod and reel plus valuable prize packages from Bass and Bucks Outdoor Store, Foxes Den Restaurant and morelmaniamania.com. You will also get the special opportunity to watch popular radio personality Kevin Burris turn green with envy!
Adams Auto Group Benefit Tourney
Kokomo is fortunate to have many businesses that believe in promoting our community and important youth events. Adams Auto Group is one example.
If you are interested in spending a day on the water while helping a worthwhile youth program, Adams Auto Group is again hosting its annual benefit bass tourney. The friendly contest will take place May 12 from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on our Kokomo Reservoir. Registrations will be held on the public boat ramp, located on County Road 400 E., prior to the tourney start time.
A portion of the proceeds will go to this year’s 29th annual Jim “Moose” Carden Kids Fishing Clinic held later in July. The additional funding will go towards the purchase of fishing equipment and safety related items for the children who will take part in this summer’s fishing clinic.
“We just wanted to do our part in promoting children and the outdoors,” said business owner Brian Adams. “By sponsoring the tourney it gives us the opportunity to do both.”
The Tipton High School Student Bass Anglers group just completed its first tournament of the season. All boats were operated under the guidance of adults. The competition was held on Morse Reservoir.
Competing in his first-ever tournament and fishing solo on top of that, Colby Louthen ran away from the rest of the field after bringing three largemouth bass to the boat sporting a total weight of 5 pounds, 13 ounces. Second place and the tourney’s “big fish” honor went to the team of Andy Hinkle and Keegan Gray with one largemouth topping out at 4 pounds, 9 ounces. Griffin DeBaun and Chris Hoover finished third with a single largemouth weighing 4 pounds, 7 ounces.
of the Week
Bryant’s Outdoor Store: Steve McKee hauled in several crappies with the largest stretching 14 inches. McKee caught his fish from an area reservoir using minnows.
Dave’s Bait Barn: Jimmy Barnes pulled in five channel catfish with the largest tipping the scales at 6 pounds, 9 ounces. Barnes collected his fish using cut bait while bank fishing the Kokomo Reservoir.
Peoria Bait and Tackle: Brandon Adams brought in three channel catfish with the smallest tipping the scales at 4 pounds and his largest weighing 8 pounds, 10 ounces. Adams caught his fish on nightcrawlers and chicken livers while plying the Mississinewa River.
Springhill Camp Ground and pay Pit: Randy West and Lee Smith pulled in nine channel catfish sporting a total weight of 14 pounds, 8 ounces. The local anglers hooked their catch on live bait.
U.S. 31 Bait and Tackle: Dawson Harrison caught and released a trophy largemouth bass dropping the scales at 6 pounds, 2 ounces. Harrison caught the fish from a Cass Country pit using a soft plastic artificial bait.
• John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at email@example.com.