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Get ready for turkey season

It’s April 9 and, as I glance away from my writing to take a peek outside, it’s snowing.

This isn’t funny anymore. I have fly rods waiting to toss a line in my favorite Michigan streams and they have a Winter Weather Advisory up there.

I guess I’ll try to think about something else, something to take my mind off the current weather forecasts.

Boy, this winter has turned out to be a bit of a turkey … turkey … that’s it! It’s time to start thinking about turkeys!

As the sun will surely rise in the east, tom turkeys will be thundering across the countryside as they fly down from their nighttime perches and begin gathering their hen harem.

That hasn’t always been the case.

Wild turkeys once inhabited forested areas all across Ohio, providing food and sport for Native Americans and early settlers. As settlement continued and forest lands were converted to cropland, the wild turkey’s population dwindled to the point that, by 1904, no birds remained.

Through the determination of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, restocking efforts began in the 1950s and continued through the 1990s as well as the early part of this century. I was lucky enough to be a part of the turkey’s return to Hancock County, releasing the first birds to wander our area since their disappearance.

Delaware Township, Van Buren State Park and the Blanchard River corridor, west of Findlay, were the first areas to receive birds.

I participated in the follow-up surveys being done to monitor the big bird’s progress and, for three years, it seemed likely (at least to me) that they’d vanished. Then, while conducting a survey just after daybreak, the unmistakable booming of a gobbler echoed off the rising April sun. I can’t describe to you how I felt. It was a combination of surprise, awe, pride and a thankfulness we owe each spring we see.

Today, we’re getting ready for turkey season. The youth season is Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22. A change from previous years divides Ohio into two zones for spring turkey hunting: a south zone, which opens on Monday, April 23 (ending May 20), and a northeast zone, which opens to hunters on Monday, April 30 (ending May 27).

Hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise until noon from April 23 to May 6 in the south zone and April 30 to May 13 in the northeast zone. From May 7 to 20 in the south zone and May 14 to 27 in the northeast zone, hunting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset.

The wild turkey, promoted by Ben Franklin to be our national bird, is back. We can thank the efforts of Ohio’s wildlife biologists for the studies and reintroduction process along with our wildlife officers for being the birds’ stewards and protectors as they once again inhabit familiar haunts … all funded by the sales of Ohio hunting and fishing licenses. Thank you for your support of our natural resources.

“I started out a boy bent over a spring. Then I climbed mountains. I became a conservationist. Then I saw what we were all doing, and I wanted to stop us from doing worse. Now I want to restore what once was, not for an old man’s memories, but for a baby’s smile.” — David Brower

Along the way:

Some folks believe that there are four seasons to the year: spring, summer, winter and fall. As an outdoorsman, I know better. There are quite a few major seasons hiding in that mix, like hunting season, fishing season, boating season and the spring and fall migratory seasons.

There are also subseasons tucked neatly in between. Deer season, ice-fishing season, duck season, walleye-run season, turkey season, fly-fishing season, sports banquet season, camping season, snowmobiling season, and shooting seasons. There are certainly many more that I don’t have room to list.

One of those shooter’s seasons getting ready to open is the IDPA season. Kicking off April 22 at the UCOA shooting range, the match will provide a place for both beginners and experienced pistol shooters to test their skills.

The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) is a shooting sport designed to simulate self-defense scenarios. One of the unique facets of this sport is that it is geared toward the new or average shooter, yet it’s fun, challenging and rewarding for the experienced shooter.

The founders developed the sport so that practical gear and practical guns may be used competitively. An interested person can spend a minimal amount on equipment and still be competitive.

The main goal is to test the skill and ability of the individual, not equipment or gamesmanship. “Competition-only” equipment is not permitted in this sport.

If you think this might be a sport for you, stop out and give it a try. They will also welcome visitors who want to learn a little more about one of the fastest growing handgun sports in the world. The organization boasts membership of more than 20,000, including members in 50 foreign countries.

The UCOA shooting range is located at 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay. Learn more at: www.ucoa-findlay.com/idpa-information.html

Step outside:

Are you interested in developing your birding skills or in getting started on this fascinating pastime? Wildlife professionals will be leading several tours just for you. You’ll learn about bird field markers, flight patterns, and behaviors, which will help the beginning birder become better acquainted with Ohio’s bird species. Tours are 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. at the following dates and locations:

• April 29: Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, 13229 Ohio 2 W, Oak Harbor. Meet at the west entrance of the boardwalk in the lakefront parking lot.

• May 20: Pearson Metropark, 4600 Starr Ave., Oregon. Meet in front of the Packer-Hammersmith Center.

• June 10: Maumee Bay State Park, 1400 State Park Road, Oregon. Meet in front of the nature center.

Tours will be held rain or shine. Recommended items to bring include binoculars, field guides, and a notebook. Don’t forget the bug spray! Preregistration is required five days prior to each tour. Register by calling the Division of Wildlife’s Meredith Gilbert at 419-429-8359.

• Today: IDPA workday, 9 a.m. International Defensive Pistol shoots are getting ready to start at the UCOA and the grounds need some attention to get them ready. If you’ve got a little time today, stop out and give them a hand at 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.

• Tomorrow: 50-bird trap shoot, practice starts 11 a.m., program begins at 12:30 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.

• Tomorrow: Bass fishing seminar, 6 p.m., University of Findlay’s Endly Room, northeast corner of the Alumni Memorial Union. The event includes a PowerPoint presentation, lure rigging and cast retrieval in the UF pool. The seminar will be taught by Weston Young, the Findlay Bass Team president; as well as other team members. It’s a great opportunity to increase your fishing know-how and to meet other anglers. Cost is $10, and you can contact youngw@findlay.edu.

• Thursday and Friday: Trap and skeet, open to the public, 5 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.

• Saturday, April 21: Pheasants Forever banquet, Community Building at the Hardin County Fairgrounds. If already a Pheasants Forever member, the event ticket is $20; if not, the price is $55. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Water, coffee and pop will be provided, but you are welcome to bring along a cooler with your favorite adult beverage. For tickets, call Tom Kier at 419-634-0824.

• Sunday, April 22: First IDPA pistol match of the season, registration at 9 a.m., shooting begins at 10 a.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.

Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard 45867-0413 or via email at jimsfieldnotes@aol.com.



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