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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wildlife officers: tough job of finding poachers

Omak, Wash. (AP) - In an office building in Omak, Dan Christensen sits in front of two computers. On one, he's filling out a damage complaint for deer that got into a nearby orchard. On the other, he's recovering digital photographs erased from a memory card that may contain important evidence. The $4,500 thumbdrive that helps him reconstruct a photograph was developed to investigate child pornography.

But Christensen isn't looking for people who make and distribute child porn. He's trying to find the people who poach deer, bait bear, or kill wolves.

As a law enforcement officer for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, he uses the same tools available to other police. He sets up stakeouts, gets search warrants, gathers DNA and fingerprint evidence, and uses a variety of surveillance techniques. He's one of two Wildlife officers in the state trained in computer forensics. Some of the cases he investigates are as complex as major crimes..

"People think we're driving around through the woods, talking to the deer. That's really not the case,'' Christensen says. "Most all of us have worked everything from homicides to missing children.''

The 150 commissioned officers who work for Fish and Wildlife cover everything from commercial fishing in the Columbia River and Puget Sound to hunting violations in the wilds of Eastern Washington. They respond to cougar complaints and marijuana grows. Their reach extends from the Canadian border to the international waters with Mexico, where they have jurisdiction over any vessel registered in Washington state

"Our law enforcement officers have more authority than any other in the state of Washington,'' says Mike Cenci, the agency's deputy chief of enforcement.

As general authority police, his officers have jurisdiction to enforce all state laws, and the authority to inspect boats or containers without a warrant, similar to that of a U.S. Customs agent.

It's one of the most dangerous police jobs because nearly everyone they come in contact with is armed. And, they are often alone, with the nearest backup sometimes hours away.
"If someone has the inclination to hurt you in this field, the risks of that happening are very high,'' Cenci says.
Christensen says people who violate fish and wildlife laws usually know they're breaking the law. It's surprising how many are arrogant about it. "We are not out arresting people who are trying to feed their family,'' he says. "It's about that person who thinks they're above the law.''

To find those people, Wildlife officers do patrol rivers and lakes and hunting grounds. But they also rely on the public to provide tips about poachers or other people violating wildlife laws. And with today's technology, those people use cell phones to take photos of the evidence, or the violator's license plate to provide them with proof.

Often, Christensen says, the violators themselves provide the best evidence.In the case against a Western Washington man who was baiting bears to his cabin near Winthrop so he could shoot them from his porch, Wildlife officers used photos from his own trail camera to show what he'd been doing.
Unlike many other crimes, wildlife offenders often document their crimes. "They've got to take a picture to brag,'' Christensen says.

He says people often ask why they aren't out arresting the real criminals. But wildlife crimes are real crimes, he says. The 10 percent who violate the law make it unfair for the 90 percent who follow it. "We really just seek fairness,'' he says.

As part of the job, Wildlife officers gather a lot of evidence, and try to submit a thorough case to the prosecutor. That's partly because they're competing with other agencies to get their cases charged and heard by a judge.

"For me to get something into court, I know I have to have a really good case,'' Christensen says. "If somebody smacks his wife, it's a no-brainer. But I'm having to compete with a case where the state's the victim,'' he says.

Clay Hill, a deputy prosecutor for Okanogan County, says he's impressed with the level of investigation of the wildlife cases he's prosecuted. "They set up sting operations with dummy wildlife. They use undercover cops to infiltrate hunting camps,'' he says. "That's more than your average traffic cop. It's some pretty high-level detective work.''

One case involving a taxidermist practicing without a license required them to break a code he was using to keep records. "They traced receipts back to Oregon,'' he says. Wildlife cases tend to be more complex than other district court cases he prosecutes because they often involve multiple parties, and can include hundreds of recovered photographs. A poaching case to determine who shot a deer in the field may start with gathering DNA evidence and the bullet, continue with canvassing the area to find out if there were witnesses, and end up with search warrants, seized computers and rifles for ballistics tests.

"Metal detectors, DNA forensics, seized digital images, multiple search warrants _ those sorts of cases are becoming commonplace for Department of Fish and Wildlife officers in our detachment,'' Hill says.
Wildlife officer Dan Klump graduated from Cascade High School in Leavenworth, and growing up, he often rode along with his father, Larry Klump, a game warden for 32 years.

He remembers using his first tranquilizer gun as a senior in high school, when he helped his father sedate a bear on Blackbird Island. He knew then that he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps, and went on to get the law enforcement training he needed. Today, he has his father's badge and number, Wildlife 101.
But the job he has now is quite different from his father's. "If you saw the vehicles that game wardens had back in the early `70s, compared to what we drive today, you'd say, `You guys are expected to drive on those roads with that?''' And it's not just the trucks. "From pay and benefits to equipment and training, they have come around tenfold,'' he says.

Klump says one of the biggest changes has come with computer technology. That means more time writing reports, he says. Even an easy citation - someone fishing with two poles without an endorsement - will result in about 20 minutes of writing reports. And a case that's just a little more complex _ someone who shot a deer in an orchard - will take two to four hours of gathering evidence and writing reports. That includes taking photos, gathering shell casings and DNA evidence, getting witness statements, writing it up and entering it into the computer.

But that pays off when he's trying to find out if someone is a repeat offender. "If a guy here gets a ticket in Western Washington, it shows up on this central system,'' he says. He credits his agency's Enforcement Chief Bruce Bjork with turning the agency from a ticket-writing to an investigative one, with a focus on solid police work.

Cenci says the changes are largely a result of changing priorities. People are more environmentally conscious today, he says, and they want their natural resources protected. "Remember, there were times when certain species were considered varmints, and today they've got a completely different status,'' he says. "I'm sure when Lewis and Clark came through the Washington Territory, they looked at our vast expanses of forests and thought, `This is endless. You could cut trees down forever and never have an impact.'''
But although the title has changed, and today's wildlife officers are better trained in law enforcement, the public's perception hasn't caught up.

Indeed, many people still call them game wardens, a term they haven't used for years. It's a name that's linked to a far simpler time, Cenci says, adding, "This isn't the Wild West anymore, where anything goes.''

Monday, April 29, 2013

Action plans for 16 species ready for review

Florida’s wildlife diversity is reflected in the 16 species of birds, mammals, fish, frogs and snakes whose draft action plans are ready for public review and comment.

The Florida burrowing owl, Florida sandhill crane and Big Cypress and Sherman’s fox squirrels are included in the third group of plans to conserve imperiled species unveiled this year by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The brown pelican, gopher frog, Florida pine snake, Florida mouse, Sherman’s short-tailed shrew, short-tailed snake, Florida bog frog, Georgia blind salamander, Atlantic sturgeon, key silverside, saltwater top minnow and mangrove rivulus are also in this group.

The draft plans and the opportunity to provide input online can be accessed at MyFWC.com/Imperiled. The deadline for commenting on these plans is June 7. The fourth and final group of draft species action plans is scheduled for release in May.

The FWC will revise a total of 49 action plans covering 60 species based on the public’s input. While individual species’ action plans will not be approved by the Commission, they are the first step in identifying individual species threats and needs. The next step will be developing integrated conservation strategies that address shared priorities in areas such as wildlife management, habitat conservation and research that will benefit many species. Ultimately, the outcome will be an Imperiled Species Management Plan providing a set of tools that the FWC can use to work with the public and partners to ensure all 60 species are conserved as part of Florida’s wildlife legacy. The final Imperiled Species Management Plan is scheduled for approval by the Commission in spring 2015.

“Conserving Florida wildlife requires attention to the diversity of species that inhabit our waters, land and air,” said Claire Sunquist Blunden, the FWC’s stakeholder coordinator for the Imperiled Species Management Plan. “We are excited about the public’s opportunity to review these 16 draft action plans and suggest ways to improve them.”

The Florida burrowing owl population, for instance, is projected to decline. Conservation guidelines are suggested in the draft plan to help this pint-sized species averaging 9 inches in height. The only subspecies of burrowing owl east of the Mississippi River spends most of its time on the ground or taking refuge in its burrow. It is often found on farms, airports and golf courses that have replaced its historic Florida prairie habitat. The principal range of the Florida burrowing owl is peninsular Florida, but it can be found in isolated pairs and colonies as far west as Eglin Air Force Base and as far south as Key West.

For the Florida sandhill crane, which can stretch to nearly 4 feet tall, a key priority in the draft plan is to stabilize and grow its population by maintaining shallow wetlands for roosting and nesting and open habitats for foraging. Florida sandhill cranes are particularly at risk because of their low annual reproductive rate. Their population is concentrated in peninsular Florida, from Alachua County southward to the Everglades’ northern edge. Available habitat has declined in those areas by 42 percent from 1974 to 2003. While this species is a candidate for federal listing, the FWC’s proposed conservation actions may preclude the need for that.

There are two subspecies of sandhill crane in this state. The Florida sandhill crane, with an estimated population of 4,000 to 5,000, is a year-round resident that nests here during late winter and spring on mats of vegetation about 2 feet in diameter in shallow water. It is joined every winter by 25,000 greater sandhill cranes – larger migratory birds that nest in the Great Lakes region.

The plan for the Florida sandhill crane proposes working cooperatively with ranchers, whose private lands are a stronghold of this species, and using traffic-calming measures such as caution signs to prevent vehicle collisions with cranes, which often forage along roadways.

Meanwhile, the Big Cypress fox squirrel is experiencing loss, degradation and fragmentation of its southwest Florida habitat, which is increasingly urbanized.

The Sherman’s fox squirrel has similar habitat challenges over a wider swath of Florida, with its range extending from the Big Bend in north Florida into most of peninsular Florida. Biologists are in the process of gathering genetic information about the Big Cypress and Sherman’s species of fox squirrels. Significant information about where fox squirrels are in Florida came after citizens responded to the FWC’s request to report fox squirrel sightings online, resulting in 4,221 sighting locations logged from August 2011 to April 2012.

For more information on the Florida burrowing owl, Florida sandhill crane and Big Cypress and Sherman’s fox squirrels, including the fox squirrel survey, go to MyFWC.com/Wildlife and click on “Species Profiles.”

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Detector dogs trained to sniff out illegal wildlife shipments

Miami — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a message for would-be wildlife traffickers: There’s a new dog in town, and if you try to bring illegal wildlife parts into the country, there’s a good chance he’s going to sniff you out.  And there are more just like him.

Last week, the first class of “wildlife detector dogs” and their handlers graduated from training in searching for protected species. In coming weeks, they will be stationed at key ports of entry around the country, searching for wildlife smuggled across U.S. borders. The four retrievers – named Viper, Butter, Lancer and Locket – have been trained as part of a national effort to stem the growing trade in threatened animal parts such as elephant ivory and rhino horn.

“The recent rapid growth in the global trade in protected wildlife is pushing some species perilously close to extinction. Elephant and rhino populations in particular are declining at alarming rates,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement Deputy Chief Ed Grace. “The battle to stop wildlife smuggling is one we simply cannot afford to lose, and using dogs and their phenomenal sense of smell to catch smugglers will give us a real leg up in this effort.”

The use of dogs in law enforcement isn’t new.  Dogs are already used to detect illegal fruits and food products, bombs and drugs.  Some have even been trained to track down pythons that are invading Florida’s Everglades.  Training dogs to find smuggled wildlife products was the next step.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforces the nation’s wildlife laws, such as the Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act, and is responsible for U.S. enforcement of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  This agreement between 178 countries restricts cross-border trade in protected wild animals and plants, from elephants and rhinos to Brazilian rosewood and wild orchids.

Service inspectors monitor declared wildlife shipments and work to intercept smuggled wildlife and wildlife products.  Inspectors examine imports and exports at U.S. international airports, ocean ports, border crossings, international mail facilities, and FedEx and UPS processing centers. Using dogs will give inspectors a whole new capacity to quickly scan air, rail, and ocean cargo, as well as international mail and express delivery packages, declared or not, without the time-consuming need to open each crate, box, or parcel.

The four graduating dogs and their Service Wildlife Inspector-Handlers completed the 13-week training course at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Detector Dog Training Center in Newnan, Ga., half an hour southwest of Atlanta. The center normally trains detector dogs to sniff out fruits and plants to interdict potential insects or diseases that could hurt U.S. agriculture. For the Wildlife Inspector-Handlers, this is a new and exciting venture.

“This gives me a chance to combine my two great loves, wildlife and dogs,” said Amir Lawal, Wildlife Inspector at the port of Miami.  “I can’t wait to get started in the field with my new partner to stop illegal wildlife shipments.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Don't adopt a 'lost' fawn, it's illegal and likely not abandoned

If a deer fawn is found alone in the woods, leave it there, advises a state wildlife biologist. Its mother has not abandoned it; she is probably nearby. Removing a fawn from the forest is also illegal because the animal is being taken outside the legal season for taking deer, which is the hunting season.

"Many people who come upon a solitary spotted fawn in the woods or along a roadway mistakenly assume the animal has been deserted by its mother and want to take the apparently helpless creature home to care for it," said Charles Ruth, Deer/Turkey Project supervisor for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR). "Young fawns like this have not been abandoned but are still in the care of a doe."

The apparently "helpless" deer fawns born during April, May and June in South Carolina will begin daily movements with their mothers in about three or four weeks. Human handling and disturbance of fawns can cause a doe to shy away or even desert her offspring. Also, a bleating response by the fawn can summon nearby predators.

"It’s part of nature’s plan for a doe deer to leave her fawn or fawns alone for their first few weeks of life," Ruth said. "The reason for this unusual maternal action is that the fawn at this age is better protected away from the doe. The presence of the doe nearby would attract predators because the doe lacks the protective coloration of the fawn, and the older and larger doe has a much stronger odor."

A fawn that appears abandoned is merely awaiting a visit from its mother, according to Ruth. A doe, after brief periods of feeding and grooming her fawn, will spend much of her day feeding and resting somewhat removed from her young. The fawn ordinarily stays bedded down as if sleeping, but will occasionally move short distances to new bedding sites.

"Each spring and summer the DNR gets many calls from people who have discovered these ‘lost’ deer," Ruth said. "Young fawns are without a doubt cute and cuddly, but if taken into captivity they grow into semi-tame adult deer that can become quite dangerous." Adult buck deer, no matter how they were raised, are especially dangerous during the breeding season. Even does raised by humans are unpredictable. Occasionally "tame" deer seriously injure people, according to Ruth, and in cases where the deer are a threat to humans, the deer sometimes have to be killed.

People often ask the DNR if it needs deer fawns for its research projects. Ruth said although the DNR is actively engaged in deer research, current studies do not use captive animals.

Monday, April 22, 2013

White-Tailed Deer Management Zones

Research indicates the prior 4-point law allowed the harvest of better quality yearling bucks, while protecting older-aged spikes and 3-point bucks. The result has been a decrease in antler size within age classes of older bucks. The combination of the 4-point law, high hunting pressure, and lower reproduction results in the over-harvest of bucks and a decrease in antler size. To prevent these problems, yearling bucks must be allowed to reach older age classes.

These current antler criteria will protect almost 100% of the 1½ year old bucks. This protection will prevent over-harvest of bucks and will improve antler size as bucks get older. These protected bucks will improve skewed buck:doe ratios, resulting in higher reproduction. Zone lines are based on soil regions using highways and interstates as dividing boundaries.

Hill Zone

Private and open public lands east of I-55 and north of I-20 plus areas south of I-20 and east of U.S. Highway 61, excluding areas south of U.S. Highway 84 and east of MS Highway 35.

Southeast Zone
Private and open public lands south of U.S. Highway 84 and east of MS Highway 35.

Delta Zone
Private and open public lands west of I-55 and north of I-20 plus areas south of I-20 and west of U.S. Highway 61.

Bag Limits
Antlered Buck Deer: The bag limit on antlered buck deer is one (1) buck per day, not to exceed three (3) per license year. Legal bucks must meet the antler criteria within the appropriate deer management zone. For youth hunters fifteen (15) years of age and younger, hunting on private land and authorized state and federal lands, all three (3) of the three (3) buck bag limit may be any antlered deer. Antlerless Deer: The bag limit on antlerless deer is one (1) per day, not to exceed five (5) per license year. Spotted fawns are not to be killed or molested at any time.

Spotted fawns are not to be killed or molested at any time.
 


LEGAL BUCKS

Hill and Southeast Zones
A legal buck is defined as having either a minimum inside spread of 10 inches or one main beam at least 13 inches long.


 Delta Zone
A legal buck is defined as having either a minimum inside spread of 12 inches or one main beam at least 15 inches long.





Special Deer Hunts
The Commission finds there is a surplus deer population in the State of Mississippi. Special primitive weapons and archery deer hunts are established pursuant to the authority granted the Commission in Sections 49-7-37(2), (3), & (4), Mississippi Code of 1972. All archery and primitive weapons hunters must wear hunter orange while these special hunts are in effect.

Special Primitive Weapons Hunt
This season is for Antlerless Deer Only on private lands and open public lands. Legal weapons are primitive weapons and crossbows. This hunt is not on MDWFP Wildlife Management Areas.

Special Archery Hunt
These hunts allow archery hunters the ability to legally use archery equipment during gun and primitive weapons seasons. For years, the MDWFP had the impression that it could allow the use of a “lesser weapon” like bow and arrow and/or primitive weapons during the regular gun seasons. An Attorney General’s opinion was issued in June 2010 that stated the Commission does not have the authority to allow the use of bow and arrows during any other deer hunting season, such as primitive weapons or regular gun season. However, the Commission does have the authority to have Special Hunts which gives archery hunters the ability to hunt during the gun seasons.

Legal Weapons
Archery: Longbows, recurves, and compound bows. There is no minimum or maximum draw weight. There is no minimum arrow length. Fixed or mechanical broadheads may be used.

Primitive Weapons
Weapons legal for use during the Primitive Weapons season are crossbows, by Special or General Permit, and primitive firearms. “Primitive firearms,” for the purpose of hunting deer, are defined as single or double barreled muzzle-loading rifles of at least .38 caliber; OR single shot, breech loading, metallic cartridge rifles (.35 caliber or larger) and replicas, reproductions, or reintroductions of those type rifles with an exposed hammer; OR single or double- barreled muzzle-loading shotguns, with single ball or slug. All muzzle-loading primitive firearms must use black powder or a black powder substitute with percussion caps, #209 shotgun primers, or flintlock ignition.

“Blackpowder substitute” is defined as a substance designed, manufactured, and specifically intended to be used as a propellant in muzzleloading or other black powder firearms, excluding modern smokeless powder. Metallic cartridges may be loaded with either black powder or modern smokeless powder (cartridges purchased at sporting goods stores).

Telescopic sights are allowed while hunting with any primitive firearm during the primitive weapon seasons.

Gun
There are no caliber or magazine capacity restrictions on firearms. Crossbows, by Special or General Permit, and primitive firearms may be used during Gun seasons.

Hunter Orange
When hunting deer during any primitive weapon or gun season on deer, all deer hunters must wear in full view at least five hundred (500) square inches of solid unbroken fluorescent orange. Note: Mesh-style or orange-camouflage is not considered unbroken and does not count toward the five hundred (500) square inch minimum. This requirement shall not apply to a hunter while the hunter is in a fully enclosed deer stand.

Federal Lands–Youth Hunts and Antlerless Harvest
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managed lands which designate the youth deer season in their regulations and open U.S. Forest Service National Forest lands are authorized to provide youth hunting opportunities.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Army managed lands are authorized to harvest antlerless deer on days designated by Federal Regulations. Contact local National Wildlife Refuge, Corps of Engineers, or U.S. Army for details.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Deer and turkey check-in changes for 2013 hunting season

COLUMBUS – The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) encourages hunters to educate themselves about Ohio’s new game tagging and checking procedure for the 2013-2014 hunting seasons.
These changes provide a more consistent tagging process between exempt landowners and those using a permit. The new game check process applies to spring turkey, fall turkey and white-tailed deer hunting seasons.

A new feature this year is that hunters will need to make their own game tag to attach to the turkey or deer. Game tags can be made of any material (cardboard, plastic, paper, etc.) as long as it contains the hunter’s name, date, time and county of kill. The ODNR Division of Wildlife has a blank game tag available at wildohio.com, which is suitable for the tagging and checking process.

Follow these steps when tagging wildlife during the upcoming spring hunting seasons:
Protect permits and game tags from the elements by placing them in a plastic bag or protective pouch before hunting.

Landowners and permit holders must complete a game tag immediately upon harvest and prior to moving the animal. The game tag must include the hunter’s full name, date, time and county of kill. Hunters need to make their own tag from any material they choose, and write legibly with an ink pen or permanent marker.
Attach the game tag to the animal immediately upon harvest and prior to moving it.

Permit holders must complete the spring turkey permit with the date, time and county of kill. Those exempt from purchasing a permit can ignore this steps. Complete the automated game check process and receive an 18-digit confirmation number. Permit holders must record this number on the permit.
The 18-digit confirmation number must also be attached to the animal. Hunters may also choose to write the number on the game tag. All hunters must report their turkey harvest using the automated game check system.

Hunters have three options to complete the game check: Online at wildohio.com or ohiogamecheck.com;
By telephone at 877-TAG-ITOH (877-824-4864). This option is only available to those who are required to have a permit to hunt turkeys; and At all license agents. A list of these agents can be found at wildohio.com.
Game-check transactions will be available online and by telephone seven days a week including holidays. License agents’ locations will be available for turkey check-in during normal business hours. Hunters can call the license agent for specific hours of operation. All turkeys must be checked in by 11:30 p.m. the day of the kill.

Landowners exempt from purchasing a turkey permit, and any other person not required to purchase a turkey permit, cannot use the phone-in option.

More information, including a pamphlet explaining the process, is available at wildohio.com. Hunters with questions can also call 800-WILDLIFE (800-945-3543).

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Turkey Hunting Safety

Turkey hunting is a pleasurable sport enjoyed by Hoosiers for more than three decades. During this time, Indiana has never had a fatal turkey hunting accident. However, a few Hoosier turkey hunters are injured in shooting accidents every year.

 Surprisingly, national studies show that most turkey season shooting incidents on persons involve experienced hunters who accidentally fire on their own hunting partners. The studies also show most turkey hunting shooting accidents occur on private land.

Did you know...
  • Most shooting accidents take place at 11-50 yards when the shooter failed to properly identify the target.
  • About two-thirds of all incidents occurred on private land.
  • Shooters involved in these incidents were, on average, 45 years old with 30 years of hunting experience and 16 years of turkey hunting experience.
  • Victims, on average, were 43 years old with 13 years of turkey hunting experience.
Review and follow the Turkey Hunting Safety Rules as part of your annual spring turkey preparation. Make a copy for your camp or hunting vehicle. Review them frequently before and during the season.

It is the responsibility of each hunter to help make our state one of the safer places to hunt wild turkeys in the spring.



  • Select a calling position where you can see for at least 50 yards in all directions and where you are protected from the backside.
  • Whistle or shout to alert approaching hunters of your position. Never wave or stand up.
  • Never sneak in on a turkey or use a gobbler call near other hunters. Never crowd another hunter working a bird.
  • Never shoot at sound or movement.
  • Use a flashlight when walking in the dark.
  • Be aware of turkey "fever" and its prevention. Disregard peer pressure to bag a bird.
  • Be extremely careful using turkey decoys.
  • Do not wear red, white, or blue outer wear or exposed inner clothing.
  • Make sure your headnet doesn't obscure your vision.
  • Don't assume you are the only hunter in the area. Be certain of a companion's location.
  • Know and identify your target and what is beyond.
  • Discuss safety techniques with companions.
  • Never assume that other hunters are responsible.
  • Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction.
  • Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  • Always keep your gun unloaded until ready to use.
  • Never use alcohol or drugs before or while hunting.
  • Respect property rights and secure permission before hunting.
  • Hunters should unload their guns when crossing fences, climbing into stands, jumping ditches or traversing steep ravines.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Sly Coyote Becomes a Bounty Hunters’ Target in Utah

 OGDEN, Utah — Spencer Glauser, who started hunting as a boy perched on his father’s shoulders, is an unabashed coyote hater. “One’s too many” to have roaming the mountains and encroaching on towns, he said. 
 
Mr. Glauser is not alone in his aversion or in his desire to do something about it. Last year, the Utah Legislature enacted a “Predator Control” incentive program as a way to jointly curb coyotes and safeguard their occasional prey, the mule deer. Under the law, the state now pays civilians to hunt coyotes. 

So this winter, when Mr. Glauser, 18, spotted a coyote on a patch of ice, he ably called it to him, and shot it. Then he made his way with the carcass to a Division of Wildlife Resources office here, where a government pickup truck served as a repository for parts. Ears, jaws, scalps and nose-to-tail pelts were deposited in an iced-over flatbed as hunters pulled up with garbage bags carrying the animals’ remains. In orderly fashion, their hauls were documented. 

One veteran trapper came with a cargo of a dozen skins. Others, like Mr. Glauser, proudly carried one capture. They lined up to qualify for their bounty: $50 per coyote. 

Coyotes are considered a persistent menace in the West, where they and a highly adaptable neighbor, humans, have been encroaching on each other’s territory for decades. 

“I’ve seen them pull down animals, and they’re vicious,” said Chase Hufstetler, 29, who has been hunting coyotes for 15 years. “I think they are a nuisance.” 

He arrived at the collection point here, one of dozens around the state, with numbered brown paper bags containing the remains of eight coyotes. 

The new bounty program represents one of the nation’s largest hunter-based efforts to manage predatory wildlife. Though no one knows how many coyotes there are in Utah, the law allows for as many as 10,000 animals to be killed. (The state is also home to the country’s only coyote research facility financed by the government.) By early March, six months into the collection, the remains of 5,988 coyotes had been turned in. 

Utah residents pride themselves on the state’s natural beauty, its wildlife and the acumen of its hunters, and so the bounty program also represents an experiment in managing the competing agendas of conservation and culture, scientific and economic development. So far, hunters are enthusiastic, environmentalists are crying foul, and state wildlife administrators are stuck in the middle. 

“I want to have these predators on the landscape,” said John Shivik, the mammal program coordinator for the state’s Division of Wildlife Resources. “We’re not trying to kill them all off, but we’ve got to figure out ways to manage the damage they do, to keep them tolerated. 

“Is it going to work? We don’t know,” he added. “But what we’re doing is, we’re giving it the best shot. Nobody’s tried anything this big before.” 

Officially, the aim of the program is to protect the mule deer, a symbol of Utah. Larger than white-tailed deer, with distinctive oversize ears and impressive antlers, the mule deer is a favorite of hunters and hikers here. Coyotes prey on the fawns, so the Mule Deer Protection Act allots $500,000 for bounties. Gov. Gary R. Herbert, a Republican, signed the bill last March at a shop that manufactures hunting bows, as a way to emphasize the $2.3 billion that hunting and wildlife appreciation bring to the state economy. But environmentalists argue that there is little scientific evidence that curbing the number of coyotes actually helps mule deer rebound. (A six-year study published in 2011 found that coyote removal did not effectively increase the mule deer population in neighboring southeastern Idaho.) 

“The argument that coyotes have much impact on mule deer populations is speculative,” said Mark Clemens, the manager of the Utah chapter of the Sierra Club. His organization, along with the state Humane Society and the Western Wildlife Conservancy, opposed the bill. “It was a terrible bill, we’re really distressed by it,” Mr. Clemens said. “It’s mainly about protecting livestock owners.” 

Carl Arky, a spokesman for the Humane Society, went further, suggesting that the program was an economic boondoggle with an intentionally misleading name. 

“It’s just a way to sell it,” he said. “And honestly, who’s going to care? The coyote is not an animal that a lot of people have a lot of sympathy for.” 

Ranchers are keen to swap stories of coyotes taking out an entire herd of young sheep or cattle, and some have complained to legislators about coyote attacks. But the animals are unpredictable creatures, and not all prey on livestock, said Julie K. Young, a supervisory research biologist for the federal Department of Agriculture. 

Count Dr. Young, who has spent her career studying coyotes, as a defender. She runs the coyote research facility in Logan, Utah, where 100 adult coyotes are studied in every aspect from behavior and reproduction to whether they are right- or left-footed. (It is relevant for trapping, and they are about half and half.) Along with scientists from Brigham Young University, Dr. Young, who is also a professor at Utah State University, is involved in a four-year study, independent of the bounty program, on how curbing coyotes affects mule deer. The study is largely financed by the Division of Wildlife Resources, which is also separately collecting data from hunters. 

Though coyote populations are notoriously hard to track, estimates put the number of mule deer at about 300,000, a decline from a generation ago, said Anis Aoude, the big-game program coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. Aside from factors like weather, the biggest threat to mule deer is not predation, he said, but changing habitats. 

Still, hunters relish the opportunity to eliminate coyotes to give mule deer a better chance.
“We’re just doing what we can to help the deer population and be responsible stewards of the land,” said Blake Downey, 28, a hydrogeologist who came to the collection point in Ogden toting the jaws, ears and scalp of a coyote he bagged while bird hunting with his dog. 

Mr. Hufstetler, who sold the pelts of his eight coyotes to a fur copany, is keen to get them off the land — except, he said, “I love to hunt them.” 

And Mr. Glauser, who is involved with Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, a nonprofit lobbying group, saw the coyotes’ natural predation on fawns as a threat to a Utah way of life. “At some point, I want my kids to be able to hunt deer, and be able to kill big deer,” he said. 

The incongruity of killing one animal to spare another, only to kill the second animal for sport (or food), is not recognized here. More confounding are studies that suggest that coyotes are so hardy, and so reproductively able, that they will rebound even from large-scale slaughter. Killing coyotes may not result in fewer coyotes. As Dr. Young put it, “The only truth about coyotes: they’ll make a liar of you every time.” 

By and large, though, the public does not seem to want more coyotes. “The public wants more deer,” Dr. Shivik said. Nature may not cooperate, but authorities parsing legislation must.Wildlife management, Dr. Shivik said, “is as much about managing people.“And sometimes,” he added, choosing his words with care, “what people want isn’t easy to do, biologically.” 


Written By: Melena Ryzik

Monday, April 15, 2013

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is reminding hunters that the 2013 Connecticut spring wild turkey hunting season runs from April 24 to May 25. In addition to the regular season, there are two special Saturdays which provide an opportunity for youth hunters to learn safe and effective wild turkey hunting techniques. The first one will be held this Saturday (April 13) and the second one will be held on April 20. On these days, licensed junior hunters (ages 12-15) with a valid spring season turkey permit can hunt while accompanied by a licensed adult mentor. The mentor may not carry a firearm, and juniors may hunt any state land open to turkey hunting or private land where they have obtained written consent of the landowner.

This year will mark the 33rd consecutive year that sportsmen have hunted turkeys in Connecticut. The statewide turkey population is estimated between 35,000-38,000 birds. Healthy and numerous wild turkey populations exist throughout the majority of Connecticut’s woodlands. During the 2012 spring turkey season, 8,615 hunters took 1,364 bearded turkeys.

“In addition to longer and warmer days, spring brings a special treat for many Connecticut hunters – turkey hunting. Our mixed hardwood forests and adjacent agricultural lands offer ideal habitat and plentiful forage, which in combination provide for some of the finest turkey hunting in New England,” said Rick Jacobson, Director of the DEEP Wildlife Division.

During the 2013 spring season, two bearded turkeys may be taken on state land and three on private land. Hunting is permitted from one-half hour before sunrise until noon each day, except on the designated junior hunter training days when the hunting hours have been extended until 5:00 PM.

Tagging and Reporting Requirements: All harvested turkeys must be tagged immediately and reported to the DEEP on-line (www.ct.gov/deep/hunting) or by phone (1-877-337-4868) within 24 hours. Hunters must use 2013 Harvest Tags to record information about turkeys they harvest. Copies of the 2013 Harvest Tags and instructions are on page 25 of the 2013 Connecticut Hunting and Trapping Guide and also are available on the DEEP website at www.ct.gov/deep/hunting. Hunters are no longer required to mail in a harvest report card. After reporting their harvest via the Internet or by telephone, hunters will be given a confirmation number to write on their Harvest Tag. This confirmation number serves as proof that the harvest was legally reported.

Recommended safety precautions for spring turkey hunting:

· Become familiar with two or more areas to hunt, so if someone is already hunting in one of those areas, you can move to another site.

· If another hunter is encountered in the woods, remain still and speak in a loud clear voice to announce your presence.

· Eliminate the colors red, white, and blue from your hunting outfit. These colors are associated with a gobbler’s head and could be mistaken as a turkey.

· Hunters must be sure of their target and what is beyond it, prior to taking a shot.



“Common sense and patience are required for maintaining a safe hunting experience and harvesting a gobbler,” added Jacobson. “Spring turkey hunting requires preparation. Scouting, calling, and hunting techniques unique to this effort can be learned by attending seminars, reading articles, watching videos, and talking with experienced turkey hunters.”

Turkey hunters who hunt on private land are reminded that written landowner permission, on a form provided by the DEEP, is required. Hunters may obtain both a private land and state land permit type during the spring season. Private land and state land permits may be purchased on-line (www.ct.gov/deep/sportsmenlicensing) or over the counter at some DEEP offices, town clerk offices, and commercial vendors that sell hunting, fishing, and outdoor equipment. More information on the spring turkey season, hunting regulations, junior hunter training days, and tagging and reporting requirements is contained in the 2013 Connecticut Hunting and Trapping Guide, which is available wherever hunting licenses are sold and on the DEEP’s Web site (www.ct.gov/deep/hunting). 



By Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Dog Deer Hunts Still On Schedule … For Now

 ACCOMAC — The earliest Accomack County could see any change in regulations regarding the practice of deer hunting with dogs would be 2014, according to the county attorney.

Accomack County Attorney Mark Taylor recommended the Board of Supervisors consider holding a public hearing either this summer or next summer on the issue of whether deer hunting with dogs should be banned in the county.


Supervisors took no immediate action on the recommendation.


A ban would have to be accomplished by amending Virginia’s hunting regulations.

The Board of Supervisors agreed to revisit the issue, a decade after that body last discussed it, after three men spoke against the practice during a public comment period in February.


It is too late to try to add Accomack County to the list of Virginia counties where dog deer hunting is prohibited this year, because the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries, the body that decides hunting regulations, already met earlier this month to formally receive staff recommendations on changes for this year, Taylor said.


“They like to get that kind of request along about September,” he told the board, adding the BGIF “would like to see it come to them as a request from the locality, preferably based on public input.”


If officials were to hold a public hearing this summer and make a recommendation by September, it would be the 2014 deer hunting season before any changes took effect.


The issue generated vociferous debate back in 2003 when, after a crowded public hearing, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-2 to recommend the state continue to allow the practice in Accomack County, but prohibit it during the first 10 days of deer season and also extend the season by 10 days.


State hunting regulations currently allow dogs to be used for deer hunting in Accomack County, without those restrictions.



Northampton County is among 12 localities east of the Blue Ridge Mountains where it is not allowed. Deer hunting with dogs is not allowed anywhere west of the Blue Ridge in Virginia.



Madison and Greene counties prohibit dog hunting during the first 12 days of the firearms deer season.



Written By:  CVVAUGHN

Thursday, April 11, 2013

View strutting sage-grouse, April 13

The "bloop, bloop" sound that male sage-grouse make, as they strut on their breeding grounds, is one of the most unique sounds you'll ever hear in nature.

And the sight of the grouse strutting is pretty unique too!

You can hear and watch this ritual yourself at a free wildlife-viewing event in east-central Utah. The event will happen April 13 at Emma Park, about 13 miles north of Price.

The Division of Wildlife Resources is sponsoring the event.

To see and hear the spectacle, you need to be at the viewing site early. Viewing is best before the sun comes up and just after the sun has risen. Grouse leave their strutting ground within an hour after sun up. Sunrise will be about 7 a.m. so attendees should plan to meet at Emma Park at or slightly before 7 a.m. Look for one or more vehicles with a state emblem.

Before making the trip, please remember that several things can force the grouse to leave the viewing site early or to not visit the site at all. For example, eagles or coyotes near the site can scare the grouse away. Wind, rain or snow can also keep the grouse under cover and out of sight.

After the birds leave their breeding ground, the grouse spend the day feeding and resting in stands of sagebrush. They remain mostly out-of-sight until the following morning at first light, when they congregate at their strutting ground again.

DWR biologists will be at the viewing site with spotting scopes and binoculars. They'll help you find the grouse. They'll also answer any questions you have.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mechanical, Electronic Turkey Decoys Illegal in Alabama

Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Director Chuck Sykes reminds all turkey hunters in the state that certain decoys are illegal to use or possess while hunting in Alabama.
 
“I’ve had several people contact me about the use of the latest technology in decoys, which are mechanical,” Sykes said. “Alabama’s game laws strictly prohibit those type decoys while you’re hunting.”
 
Regulation 220-2-.11 states that “it shall be unlawful for any person while engaged in hunting turkey in this state to use or have in his possession a decoy which has mechanical or electronic parts, which makes the decoy capable of movement or producing sound or which can be manipulated to produce movement or sound.”

Sykes also said several hunters in Alabama have run afoul of the regulation that requires the harvest of the state’s big-game species of white-tailed deer and wild turkeys be written on the appropriate harvest record before the animal is moved.

“That regulation has been in effect since 2007,” Sykes said. “Hunters are required to have the harvest record with you so you can ‘note it before you tote it.’”

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.outdooralabama.com.


Outdoor Alabama 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Antler hunters: stay on roads and trails

 The warmer weather is bringing more and more people into Utah's backcountry. But many of these folks aren't hiking or mountain biking — they're "hunting" for shed antlers.

Every spring, shed antler hunters comb Utah's backcountry, looking for antlers that have dropped from the heads of deer, elk or moose.

These animals shed their antlers every winter as part of their life cycle. Finding their antlers is a fun way to beat "cabin fever" and enjoy Utah's backcountry in the spring. If you decide to look for shed antlers this spring, remember to look for them only on foot. Keep your off-highway vehicle and truck only on roads and trails that are open to their use. If you take your OHV or truck off of legal roads and trails, you can do serious damage to the habitat that deer, elk and other wildlife rely on.


Muddy and soft

Because the ground is muddy in the spring, it's easy for vehicles to leave deep tracks this time of the year. Those tracks erode the soil. And that erosion reduces the ability the land has to support deer, elk and other wildlife.
The scars that are left also take years to heal. The tracks are an eyesore that causes people to further oppose OHV use and shed antler gathering.

Look for sheds on foot

If you'll follow some simple rules provided by the Division of Wildlife Resources and its partners in the RIDE ON Designated Routes Utah campaign, you can have fun collecting shed antlers without damaging the landscape and stressing animals that are in the area:
  • Once you arrive at your shed antler hunting area, park your vehicle and hunt for shed antlers on foot.
  • Once you've found some antlers, pack them to the nearest road. Then, leave them near the side of the road until you can drive back to pick them up.
Please leave the area as good as you found it. Don't be responsible for more land closures and vehicle restrictions in Utah.

Don't pick them up

As you're collecting antlers, please remember that you may not collect antlers that are still attached to the skull. This restriction was enacted after DWR conservation officers discovered people were shooting trophy animals on their winter range. In the spring, they'd return and retrieve the heads and the antlers of the animals they had poached. If officers stopped and questioned them, they would simply say that the animal the head and antlers belonged to must have died of natural causes, and they were lucky to find its antlers.
Telling a shed antler from an antler that's still attached to a skull plate or that's been broken off of a skull plate is easy:
  • Shed antlers — which are legal to possess — have a rounded base, commonly called a button or burr.
  • Antlers that are attached to a skull plate, or that have been broken off of a skull plate, do not have this button or burr. You may not possess them.




Free shed antler course

If you want to gather shed antlers in Utah between now and April 15, you must complete a free shed antler gathering course. If you wait until April 15 or later to gather antlers, you don't need to complete the course.
The free course is available online. After you finish the course, make sure you print your certificate of completion before heading outdoors to gather antlers. "And make sure you carry your certificate with you," Fowlks says. "By law, you must have your certificate with you while you're gathering shed antlers."
If you have children who are 17 years of age or younger, and you've completed the course, your children don't need to complete it — your certificate will cover your kids too.

Fowlks says if you complete the course, you can gather antlers across Utah. "Please remember, though, that many of the state's wildlife management areas are closed in the winter and spring to protect wildlife," he says.
For more information, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR's Salt Lake City office at 801-538-4700.

RIDE ON Designated Routes campaign

RIDE ON Designated Routes is a new statewide campaign that has united land management agencies to educate outdoor recreationists who use motorized vehicles on Utah's public lands.
The campaign, created by Tread Lightly!, has united the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration in an effort to spread a consistent OHV message throughout the state.

Monday, April 8, 2013

How to Live with Wildlife

What makes an animal a “nuisance?”  Most wildlife never comes close to people.  In fact, many people enjoy seeing such animals and believe that having them nearby adds to the value of their land.  However, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division animals such as deer, coyotes, bears, raccoons, foxes and skunks often get labeled as a nuisance due to their sometimes intrusive and destructive habits in suburban settings. 

“You can make a huge difference on whether or not that animal truly becomes a nuisance,” says Alex Coley, assistant chief with the Game Management Section.  “With just some simple preventative measures, you can find a way to still enjoy nature in your backyard, without presenting an all-access pass to your yard and home.”

Following are basic tips to help keep wildlife from becoming a nuisance:
  • Don’t feed wildlife. 
  • Keep items, such as grills, pet food or bird feeders, off-limits. Clean and store grills when not in use, keep pet food indoors or feed pets indoors, and refill bird feeders infrequently and in small amounts.
  • Make trash cans inaccessible. Keep lids securely fastened or store trash cans in a secured location until trash pick-up. 
“Wildlife can, and will, take advantage of ‘easy food’ opportunities.  So, it is our job, as homeowners, to ensure that we are keeping these non-natural foods away from wildlife – for our safety and for the animals,” says Coley.

Options for handling nuisance wildlife (including a list of professional nuisance trappers), fact sheets, wildlife rehabilitator information, tips on managing land for wildlife, guides on rabies and much more can be found on the Wildlife Resources Division’s webpage www.georgiawildlife.com/nuisancewildlife.


GA-DNR

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Gobblers On Your Home Turf:

 If you know where a bird is standing when he gobbles, you have an advantage that ups the odds of success on a spring morning.

If you’re like most turkey hunters, you’ll work a gobbler anywhere you can find him. When you strike a bird, the game is on and where you, or the gobbler, are standing at the time doesn’t matter. Lots of times the particulars of the property doesn’t come into play until some time has passed and the hunt begins to grind to a slow-paced battle of unknown maneuvers by you or the bird. More times than not, particularly if you are on hunting grounds that you aren’t overly familiar with, you will find yourself wishing you knew a little more about where the bird was standing the last time he gobbled and what was between you and him.

That’s why I prefer to get into it with a longbeard on my home turf. I don’t own a big chunk of property, but that hasn’t kept me from learning some public pieces of ground like the back of my hand. Knowing where birds like to roost, where they like to go after fly down and where they like to spend the day is valuable information. That kind of information can only be known by the hunter who is willing to learn these things through time spent in the woods over a period of time.

My home turf has expanded gradually over the years. When I strike a bird in one of these areas that I know so well, I have an advantage. On the other hand, I have missed out on opportunities to even get in the game with birds simply because I had no idea where to even begin the hunt, much less end it.

Let’s look at the valuable points of turning a piece of property into your personal stomping grounds and how to do it.

Find the birds: I think it’s safe to say that at some point in our turkey-hunting careers we have all been a little shy about jumping into a piece of public ground with any real confidence. That could come from the amount of other hunters that might frequent the spot or simply just because you have no idea where to begin. You have to start somewhere, so you might as well dive in and start putting the pieces of the puzzle together. The best way to go about it is to find the birds first. This is better done in early March when birds are pretty much where they will be come opening day. That isn’t to suggest that you don’t need to spend any time in the turkey woods before March though. You can learn an awful lot about your hunting grounds just by poking around.

By early March the birds are generally in the area you will find them in when the season opens up. From there you can learn where they like to roost and which direction they like to travel when they fly down. Once they vacate the area, you can find the best places to set up on them once the season opens. It’s not enough to just get somewhere you might hear a bird gobble in the morning because it generally doesn’t do too much good to hear birds in the far distance. You want to be tight enough on them to get in on the first-light conversation. It’s always a plus to hear birds gobbling, but if he’s a half a mile away, you’re probably not going to have a lot of luck getting him interested, at least not while there are plenty of hens at his disposal.

Where are they going? Once the birds have flown down, it is important to pay attention to where they are going; first the general direction and eventually where that direction is going to take them. Turkeys are rarely creatures of random habit. They have a reason they travel in certain areas. It could be anything from something as simple as the food supply is better up one side of the creek or the terrain is more suitable in one direction than the other.

Pay attention to detail here. If a flock continuously heads in one direction, find out what the reason is for doing so. There may be a pine thicket in one direction and an oak ridge bordering a green field in the other. Common sense tells you where the birds are more apt to go. Of course, you don’t want to put all your faith in common sense when dealing with a wild turkey, but it pays off sometimes. Once you learn where birds like to go, you have really discovered a great place to get in their way in the process. As the season fades, along with the surplus of hens, gobblers will continue to frequent areas that netted him romance in the early season. They will be more apt to be on the move to cover as many areas as they can, so the more of these areas you can locate, the better your chances of scoring. These areas can produce gobblers at all times of the day.

Why did he do that?
I remember hunting an area of Cedar Creek WMA one morning where I had located a group of birds a day or so prior. I won’t overdo the details here, but I got my fanny whipped. Not to be discouraged, I tried the birds again the next morning, and the same results followed. A couple of days later, I tried them again, and again I was the loser. I had gotten the gobbler going each morning and had pulled him to within easy hearing of his drumming but never saw his face. Each morning, as I retreated to my truck with my tail tucked, I cursed the hens for ruining an otherwise beautiful spring day.

I was unable to hunt the spot for the next week, and when I finally got to hunt it again, nobody was home. I sat up in the same location as the previous hunts, and when the uneventful morning was over, I walked over the hill to see where the birds had been roosting. Once I cleared the hill, the old embarrassing “dunce” feeling hit me right between the eyes. There was a gully, just over the rise approximately 8 feet in depth and a good 4 feet wide. Not a huge obstacle for something with wings, but I have seen much less prevent a gobbler from dying.

I believe it was this gully and not the hens that ruined those previous morning hunts. I simply didn’t know what was over the hill and had never bothered to investigate. A little homework likely would have given me a passing grade on this bird before he decided to skip town. I have been guilty of being hard-headed on a turkey hunt or two, and this was just another case of it. I was bound and determined that he was going to die “my way.” I was wrong.

Sometimes it’s not enough to simply know what a bird did to whip your tail. It’s a good idea and can pay huge dividends later if you find out why he was able to do it so soundly. Most turkeys aren’t of the genius stature, though we are quick to label them as such at times. Also, I would imagine that most gobblers aren’t even aware that they are whipping your backside when they do it. They simply have their own set of rules, and sometimes they refuse to bend them. I think we are a little too quick sometimes to give a gobbler all the credit when we lose the battle. We just accept it as “he whipped me” and go to the house. The truth of the matter is if we try to figure out why, he may be a little less fortunate the next time we meet him.

I also believe if you have gained “home field advantage,” you are more likely to learn a particular turkey’s habits than if you just hunt an area every now and then. Some turkeys in certain areas will do the same things, travel the same routes and roost in the same areas as their ancestors did years before. If you know an area well enough, you will soon realize how true that is, even on public ground. And you will understand why it is so.

A good example of habits passed down occurred last spring while hunting with longtime friend Jake Hill. We were hunting a very familiar piece Cedar Creek WMA property one early April morning. The daylight chorus we had hoped to hear was nonexistent. After setting up and going through the motions for an hour or so, we finally heard a gobble a few hundred yards down the creek. He sounded as if he was on the other side of it, and I was pretty happy about it, too. Usually I’m not too happy about a bird on the opposite side of a creek, but this bird had gobbled from a spot I heard birds many times over the years. It was also in close proximity of a place where I knew birds liked to cross this creek. In fact, I had called birds across it several times over the years.

We hurriedly made our way toward the area I normally worked birds from across the creek. The first call I made got jumped on by two birds. One bird was on the hill above and behind us a couple of hundred yards away, the other bird was across the creek. I told Jake to pay close attention, and watch for the bird to slip in from across the creek. Five minutes passed when I called again, and the bird across the creek hammered it. He had cut the distance nearly in half and was probably only 150 yards or so away. The only thing between us now was the creek.

Ten minutes passed when Jake spotted the bird slipping in from his right. We watched as the bird stood strutting and drumming at 30 yards for the next several minutes before he gave in and strolled by Jake at just less than 30 yards on our side of the creek. This was his last stroll as Jake rolled the good 3-year-old.

It was a case of knowing what birds like to do in a certain area. It was history repeating itself.

Growing your own: When I first started turkey hunting, I had nothing but public ground to hunt. That’s fine, and I was proud to have that. I still am, but there was always a piece of me that wished I had the luxury of occasionally being able to hunt some unmolested private-land birds. Sometimes I will get an invitation to join someone on a piece of private property, but most of my turkey hunting takes place on public ground. My family owns roughly 160 acres and is made up of a slightly diverse landscape. A few different ages of pine make up the majority of the property, and there are four or five sections of hardwoods. I grew up deer hunting the property, but I decided a few years ago to try hard to get the turkeys to take notice.

Three years ago I planted eight food plots. The turkeys found it pretty much immediately, and last year I called up the first turkey that ever died on our property for my 10-year-old nephew, Walt. Last year, prior to the season, I conducted a controlled burn, and the results have been as hoped for. My youngest son, Andy, and I both killed birds on the property last year.

Not only is it rewarding just hearing a bird gobble on your own property, it should be a piece of ground you know better than any other.

One morning in March of this past spring, Devereaux, my oldest son, and I headed to a particular field on the property where Andy had taken a bird a couple of days earlier. We were set up well before daylight, and I can’t explain how excited I was to be hunting there that day. We didn’t have to wait long before a gobbler began cranking it up in a small hardwood head on another field about 150 yards away. He was where we thought he would be, but he was in a spot the birds liked to roost often, and as a result, we have decided not to hunt that particular field. So, I did a fly-down cackle, and he humored me with a hearty reply. He too was soon on the ground, but within a few minutes it was clear he had hens with him.

“No big deal,” I remember thinking. “He’s going to come over here anyway.” That’s when he threw me a curve and headed off in the opposite direction. He went silent for the next 45 minutes or so and then gobbled about eight or 10 times in a period of about 10 minutes from about 300 yards away. Then he went silent again. I thought about moving at this point but talked myself into staying put.

Thirty more minutes passed when I decided to call to see where he was. He answered from about 300 yards away, but this time he had traveled in a direction that made me think he just might be coming to see us. Ten minutes passed when the bird hammered again inside 100 yards. I knew he was likely to show up soon. I answered him, and within a couple of minutes a big white head came bobbing up the roadbed that leads into the field. Two hens passed him and made their way into the field in front of us. Five minutes later, he was flopping on the ground at 40 yards. I had killed my first bird on my own property! It was one of the most rewarding hunts of my career. When I was standing over the bird I remember thinking that every time he had gobbled, I knew precisely where he was standing. That’s some valuable information.

Now, I won’t try to convince you that you can live in downtown suburbia and own an acre of land that you can turn into a turkey-hunting paradise. I will tell you though that if you have a piece of hunting property and you want the turkeys to take notice, you can work toward that goal and maybe make it a reality. Food plots and control burns are great ways to grab a turkey’s attention. If you are low on budget, managing openings just by bushogging alone can help. Control burning is still one of the cheaper wildlife-management tools there is. Managing openings and creating more open understudy and promoting new growth through control burns will make your property more attractive to wild turkeys. Remember, generally, turkeys aren’t real crazy about thickets.

If money isn’t a concern, control burns and plot planting is the way to go. The same plots you plant in the fall for deer are often planted in the same things a turkey enjoys eating as well. Clovers, wheat, rye and other seedy head plants are turkey pleasers. However, my No. 1 choice for turkey plots would be chufa. It isn’t called turkey gold for nothing.

It’s all a matter of what you are willing to do to create home-field advantage. Whether you own 50 or 1,000 acres, or hunt thousands of acres of public land, you can create an advantage that will pay dividends for years to come.

Written By: Donald Devereaux Jarrett

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Get Your Buck Scored For The State’s Records Program

In conjunction with AON’s Truck-Buck deer-scoring event on Saturday, April 20, Alabama DCNR folks will be on hand to score racks for its Records of Alabama’s White-tailed Deer (RAWD) program. The RAWD program is open to antlers from all free-ranging bucks legally taken or found dead in Alabama, regardless of the year the deer was taken or found. The minimum scores for the program are 140 typical (net) and 165 non-typical (net). If a deer has been officially scored for Boone & Crockett, Pope & Young or Longhunter’s purposes, sportsmen can bring the official score sheet with their mount to a RAWD scoring session.

The scoring will take place at the Holiday Inn Express in Irondale (Exit 133 off Highway 20) on Saturday, April 20, 2013.

Truck-Buck Scoring: For AON’s contest only, no mounted deer will be accepted. Bring only the rack attached to the skull plate. No racks with split skull plates will be accepted.

Deadline to drop-off a Truck-Buck rack is noon on Saturday, April 20. Racks are defined late at 12:01 p.m. and will not be accepted under any circumstance. This is why you have a three-hour window.

We welcome and encourage all Truck-Buck entrants to have their racks scored. However, please understand that the scoring day is an undertaking for AON and its scorers, and we ask for your patience until we can score your rack and return it to you.

Expect to drop your rack off, leave and come back a minimum of several hours later to pick it up. There is no way to release racks back in any kind of order in which they were received.

To see the competition for the week you’re in, go to www.aonmag.com. You will have to register a user name and password, which is free, before viewing this year’s Truck-Bucks. You can do a search by week.

Entrants are not required to deliver or retrieve their racks in person. However, if the person retrieving the rack is someone other than the entrant, they must show their picture ID and a letter signed by the entrant saying who is picking up the rack. Everyone will be asked to show photo ID during pick-up.

Written By : Brad Gill

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April brings great fishing before May flowers

April showers bring May flowers, but in Florida there is already an abundance of blooms and a bonanza of freshwater fishing opportunities that began earlier this spring. All across the state, anglers have reported great catches of a  variety of freshwater fishes. Anglers especially target sunfishes moving into the shallows to spawn in spring.

Black crappie (specks), redbreast sunfish and largemouth bass begin spawning when water temperatures get over 62 degrees. Crappie will stop spawning before bass, which continue to work the beds until it warms up to about 75 degrees. They are followed by redear sunfish (70- to 80-degree waters) and bluegill (75-85). Research and angler lore indicate these fish key their peak activity to a few days before and after full and new moons during spring.

April is a favorite time of year for freshwater anglers, not only because fish congregating in the shallows provide great catch rates with lots of quality-size fish, but also because temperatures tend to be comfortable for an outdoor expedition. Another reason is that the first Saturday in April each year (April 6, this year) is a license-free freshwater fishing day across the state. People are exempt from needing a license that day, so it is a great opportunity to reach out to people who don’t have a freshwater fishing license and show them how much fun a day on the water can be. Or, perhaps you have children who have been bugging you to go, and you haven’t wanted to buy a license to accompany them. Now is your chance.

In Florida, nearly everyone is within 45 minutes of a fishing hole. For help finding a location or fishing tips and seasonal fishing forecasts, check out MyFWC.com/Fishing (under “Freshwater Fishing,” choose “Sites & Forecasts”). Quarterly forecasts by biologists are supplemented with links to local bait-and-tackle shops, marinas or guides for even more timely updates.

Florida’s Big Catch Angler Recognition Program provides an opportunity for anglers to commemorate impressive freshwater catches with a certificate and having their photo posted online. Thirty-three different species are included in the program, and all it takes to participate is a photo of a fish that exceeds either a specified length or weight. It’s a great incentive for youth, who can qualify by catching fish that are roughly 25 percent smaller than qualifying measures for adult anglers. Visit MyFWC.com/BigCatch for more details and to enroll.

However, the ultimate challenge is the race for the biggest trophy bass of the year. Florida’s fame as a bass-fishing destination lies in an abundance of lakes and rivers that consistently produce trophy-size bass. To document locations and frequency of bass catches over 8 pounds, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) launched TrophyCatch (TrophyCatchFlorida.com) in October with support from industry partners. The goal is to enhance and sustain trophy bass fisheries and to promote Florida as the Bass Fishing Capital of the World, based on documented catches.

To participate, catches must be verified by the FWC for the angler to earn awards. For Lunker Club (8 to 9.9 pounds) and Trophy Club (10 to 12.9 pounds), verification requires photos of the entire bass showing its length and weight, and then the bass must be released. Photos are submitted via the website. For Hall of Fame bass, which earn for the angler a free replica valued at $500 and an additional $500 in other prizes, the fish must be caught before the end of April and weighed on certified scales by an FWC representative. If you catch one, keep it alive and call 855-FL-TROPHY. From May through September, bass over 13 pounds can still be photo-documented as Trophy Club bass, but they won’t be entered into the Hall of Fame, to prevent undue stress from warmer waters.

The biggest bass of this season (ending Sept. 30) verified by TrophyCatch will earn a $3,000 championship ring provided by the American Outdoor Fund. The biggest bass caught in Osceola County and verified by TrophyCatch will take home $10,000, courtesy of Explore Kissimmee. If a registered guide helped, the guide earns a $2,500 bonus (see website for details). So register now, check out the rules, grab a rod-reel, camera, scale and tape measure, and go catch yourself a lunker, document it and then release it. By the way, just registering gets you into a drawing for a Phoenix bass boat powered by Mercury.

The biggest fish of the year currently is a 13-pound, 14-ounce monster caught by Bob Williams, while fishing wild shiners on Rodman Reservoir, with guide Sean Rush (Trophy Bass Expeditions). Check out YouTube.com/TrophyCatchFlorida to see a video of the current leaderboard, including Williams’ catch.
Now it’s your turn! Enjoy the great freshwater fishing Florida has for you this spring. Make memories and celebrate them through Florida’s angler recognition programs at TrophyCatchFlorida.com, and if you release a lunker bass, you’ll be able to say “My Trophy Swims in Florida!”

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