In Apr. 3-9 issue
By Derek Aaron
Times Journal Reporter
With the spring wild turkey season less than two weeks away, Russell County turkey hunters are gearing up for what should be another successful season in the woods, according to state turkey biologists.
With opening day for turkey season slated for Sat., April 12, now is the perfect time for hunters to scout the backwoods for that wary old gobbler.
As spring temperatures increase and the days get longer, toms (male turkeys) will begin to search for mates throughout the Lake Cumberland area after breaking from their winter flocks.
This can prove to be a fatal mistake for them when lured into shotgun or bow range by a hunter's slate, diaphragm or box call.
Finding the location of a bird worthy of your shot takes time and effort and Russell County offers a wide array of areas ideal to harvest your turkey. Asking private landowners permission to hunt on their lands is a must. If you don't ask you are trespassing.
Wild turkeys are deceptively cunning and can spot irregular movements in the woods with their great eyesight and hearing. When they have spotted you they will leave the area immediately by swiftly flying to a safer location.
Many hunters find themselves in stealth mode when turkey hunting, heading out early in the morning before the birds have left their roosting areas.
Listening for and hearing that first gobble of a tom can give even the most experienced hunters goosebumps, for they know it could only be a matter of time before they are set up on an once-in-a-lifetime bird.
Based on the weather as daylight approaches, turkeys will fly down from their roost but have been known to stay in the tree several hours after daybreak if the woods are still dark due to an overcast sky or dense fog.
Back on the ground, hunters who locate a bird next face the challenge of setting up on them without being detected. This part of the turkey hunting experience can become extremely difficult.
When a tom gobbles, he is calling for a hen in hopes of finding a mate. Interested hens will let out yelps to let the tom know they are in the area and are interested. These sounds, along with clucks and purrs can be imitated by the three turkey calls mentioned earlier.
Because you want to get as close to the bird as possible, you always run the chance of spooking the bird and ruining your morning in the woods.
These birds are classified as omnivorous, meaning they mainly eat acorns and other nuts such as hazel, chestnut or hickory. Turkeys also have a diet of pine and beech seeds, assorted berries, roots and small insects.
Since Russell County is an agriculturally rich area, turkey here tend to also feed on corn, wheat and sunflowers along with other foods.
Kentucky hunters had a terrific spring in 2007, harvesting more than 24,000 wild turkeys. Those numbers were down slightly from 2006 due to bad weather when nearly 29,000 were taken but still were at exceptional levels, according to Kentucky wildlife biologists.
According to Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, 24,019 birds were taken with a firearm, 203 taken by a bow and arrow, 83 taken by a muzzleloader and 15 taken by a crossbow last season.
Those same statistics show that 159 turkeys were taken last spring in Russell County with 135 of them having beards longer than three inches.
Youth Hunt this weekend
Kentucky's annual youth turkey hunt will be April 5-6 and is open to residents and nonresidents that are 15 years old or younger
Hunters between the ages of 12 and 15 need a $5 youth hunting license and a $10 youth turkey permit.
The $25 youth sportsman's license includes a license and turkey permit. Hunters 11 years old and under are not required to have a license or permit. Youth hunters need to be accompanied by an adult who can take immediate control of their weapon during the hunt.
General season begins
The general season for turkey is April 12-May 4, according to the KDFWR.
All hunters that harvest a bird must check it in at 1-800-245-4263 and fill in the hunter harvest logs on the back of their hunting license for the kill to be legal.
It is illegal for a turkey hunter to harvest more than two birds during the spring hunting seasons. All birds should be males or females with visible beards, according to the department.
Hunters can use modern and muzzleloaders no larger than 10-gauge and no smaller than 20-gauge while turkey hunting. Shotguns must be plugged to hold a maximum of three shells. Other weapons such as bows and crossbows may also be used.