Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Always sad when hunting season ends

The lightest of a rose tint colored the eastern sky, fading all too quickly with the daily arrival of the sun's flaming brimstone.

In the woodlot, and straddling the crew-cut stubble of last year's tan-colored corn stalks, lay a secret I'd been trying to unravel for several days.

It also was quiet for the most part, save for a few caw-caw-caws! being shouted by a couple of passing crows. Those, plus the tweeting of a curious field sparrow or two that came to investigate the lone human plopped down on the ATV trail.

Silence ruled, again for the most part. Yet is was, somehow, an understated, dignified quiet.

Now largely outfitted in the green Sunday best, the trees did chatter just a little.

Maybe it was because they finally had the opportunity to stretch their branches after a too-long winter.

More likely though they simply were giddy, knowing they have a long pull until autumn reminds the trees how their lime-colored tuxedos are just rentals.

In another five months these same trees will find themselves once again stripped to their bare skivvies.

All good things must come to an end, of course. That's true of a tree bedecked in life-sustaining foliage and equally true for an Ohio turkey hunter.

I was here, too, when the season began at 6:10 a.m., April 22 and here when the season's last day started at 5:29 a.m., May 19.

Sandwiched between those two start times were a half-dozen or so more early morning rises in an effort to settle down in a woodlot before the turkey woke up.

Maybe that's not a lot by some turkey hunters' standards but when you consider how each of those trips included a full day (or half-day during the second week) then the tally becomes a powerfully large figure.

Yes, I could have just stopped hunting after the first morning. That's when a landowner friend and I tag-teamed on a pair of overly eager jakes.

Just 19 minutes into the season and we were finished, or could have finished were it not for the fact I went about buying a second spring turkey tag.

I know, I have no one to blame but myself for dropping another $24, traveling 41 one-way miles to my turkey-hunting woods and giving it another go.

Yet it wasn't like the 15-pound jake and his 3 ½ beard were disappointments. To the contrary. As former Ohio Division of Wildlife chief Dick Pierce would often remind me: “All turkeys are trophies.”

Amen to that, too, brother.

Nope, I bought the second turkey tag so I could have a good excuse to keep knocking on the door of a favored woodlot, or two, or three, as things turned out.

Turkey hunting is a tonic, and like all tonics the prescription needs to used if one is to benefit from its properties. Oh, and also refilled from time to time.

Don't get me wrong. I like to fish in the spring as much as the next guy. In fact, during the just-concluded spring turkey-hunting season I went fishing eight times for everything from steelhead to crappie to channel catfish. Did right well, too, if you must know.

Thing is – and I enjoy using this riposte in half-jest to needle my angling buddies – fishing is just an excuse between hunting seasons.

Unfair it is but please note I did say the comment has always been given as a gentle poke in the rib cages of my fishing friends.

Anyway, on the last morning of the spring turkey season's last day I was in that woodlot; you know the one I spoke about earlier. It edges that run-down old corn field with its stiff stock of prickly corn stubble.

I chose this particular woodlot because there for the previous three days I'd been watching a flock of nine turkeys. Among them being a mature tom along with a subordinate jake. The rest were hens, including a boss hen, I reckoned.

Each of those times the turkeys gave me the slip.

Finally I believed a pattern to their behavior was uncorked.

Only it wasn't, of course, these being turkeys and all.

Arriving at the corn field even earlier than ever before I then wasted no time in making my to the woodlot. Finding the narrow ATV track I walked to a tree.

Here I anchored myself at the beech's base, the tree set at the peak of a low spot, exactly where I had observed the flock enter the corn field and return following their breakfast.

Using only slightest, sweetest purrs, yelps and clucks I did my best to coax a reaction from I flock I just knew was there, somewhere. To no avail.

After more than 90 minutes of employing this tactic I stood, shook the soreness from my legs and tried to keep from groaning due to back pain. Then I approached the edge of the woodlot where it tucks into the corn field and a strand of trees whose back scrapes the bruise left by a clear-cut.

From this location I spied the small flock cruising through the corn field-south and toward another moldering corn patch.

I was sucker-punched again.

Though my woodlot set-up and location were logically deduced the turkeys (for whatever reason) decided against logic and filtered into the corn field from the woodlot maybe 150 yards further away.

Certainly they would have heard my calling. For sure the low spot was a better funnel. Absolutely my plan was spot-on.

But turkeys are turkeys, and just as I didn't expect the two opening day jakes to come running in moments after the season began I also was not anticipating a small flock of their relations would disobey the same book either.

My turkey-hunting decoys are now stored, my stash of calls and hunting vest put away while the shotgun is cleaned and stacked toward the back of the gun vault.

I mentioned Dick Pierce earlier and I'll mention one more thing he liked to say at the conclusion of the spring turkey-hunting season.

Dick would opine as to how he was always was touched by a little melancholy when the hunting year ceased and months stood in the way of the next one.

Yep, that pretty much sums up my feelings as well.

Here's to Sept. 1 when it starts all over again; the “it” being another hunting year, of course.
Final 2013 spring wild turkey-hunting season results as provided by the Ohio Division of Wildlife:
Ohio’s wild turkey hunters checked 18,391 birds during the 2013 spring hunting season, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
The statewide total is a four-percent increase from that seen in 2012 when hunters harvested 17,646 birds. Note the final county figures combine the youth turkey season and the spring turkey season results.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife also estimates more than 70,000 people hunted turkeys during the spring wild turkey season.

Prior to the start of the spring hunting season, Wildlife Division biologists estimated Ohio's wild turkey population at 180,000 birds.
Here is county-by-county tally of the wild turkeys checked during the 2013 spring turkey hunting season. The first number following the county’s name shows the harvest numbers for 2013 while the 2012 figurers are in parentheses:
Adams: 418 (420); Allen: 43 (45); Ashland: 236 (237); Ashtabula: 766 (762); Athens: 331 (335); Auglaize: 31 (34); Belmont: 471 (456); Brown: 348 (350); Butler: 197 (184); Carroll: 373 (385); Champaign: 96 (87); Clark: 19 (18); Clermont: 339 (338); Clinton: 58 (60); Columbiana: 425 (410); Coshocton: 530 (492); Crawford: 93 (77); Cuyahoga: 5 (2); Darke: 44 (52); Defiance: 205 (218); Delaware: 104 (126); Erie: 62 (60); Fairfield: 92 (111); Fayette: 11 (6); Franklin: 24 (21); Fulton: 102 (92); Gallia: 360 (289); Geauga: 296 (276); Greene: 23 (20); Guernsey: 541 (495); Hamilton: 111 (119); Hancock: 34 (23); Hardin: 82 (88); Harrison: 479 (450); Henry: 51 (32); Highland: 332 (402); Hocking: 315 (296); Holmes: 266 (259); Huron: 186 (152); Jackson: 311 (291); Jefferson: 426 (365); Knox: 469 (451); Lake: 67 (84); Lawrence: 170 (179); Licking: 363 (380); Logan: 145 (166); Lorain: 149 (177); Lucas: 61 (46); Madison: 5 (1); Mahoning: 236 (238); Marion: 41 (49); Medina: 107 (120); Meigs: 398 (366); Mercer: 16 (20); Miami: 23 (12); Monroe: 486 (417); Montgomery: 14 (20); Morgan: 343 (292); Morrow: 208 (212); Muskingum: 530 (486); Noble: 320 (333); Ottawa: 5 (9); Paulding: 91 (99); Perry: 277 (247); Pickaway: 26 (26); Pike: 264 (280); Portage: 259 (234); Preble: 87 (91); Putnam: 61 (50); Richland: 375 (393); Ross: 328 (333); Sandusky: 25 (13); Scioto: 229 (210); Seneca: 154 (165); Shelby: 64 (42); Stark: 266 (213); Summit: 48 (42); Trumbull: 478 (428); Tuscarawas: 527 (531); Union: 36 (38); Van Wert: 17 (11); Vinton: 324 (263); Warren: 111 (90); Washington: 439 (390); Wayne: 116 (96); Williams: 253 (261); Wood: 30 (19); Wyandot: 114 (88). Totals: 18,391 (17,646).

Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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