March Outdoor Column

Did you know; That the wild turkey population, nation-wide is estimated at 7 million birds? This is up from 1.3 million birds estimated in 1973. Illinois has an estimated population of 150,000 birds while Indiana has an estimated population of 120,000 birds.
These figures would just boggle a turkey hunter’s mind as these birds are wary and offer a challenge to any hunter. When I grew up there were no turkey or deer in Illinois so that should give you an idea of my age. There were pheasants, rabbits, and quail as well as squirrels, ducks and geese but no deer or wild turkey. It would seem that hunting the wild turkey would be a simple process; find where they roost and where they feed and place yourself somewhere in between to take your turkey.

Not so! These birds well adept at finding a way to avoid the hunter and this is what makes hunting these wild birds such a difficult challenge. Those hunters that can mimic the sound of an old “Tom” are those hunters that have the most success. Learning to work a turkey call properly is a skill not possessed by many hunters so getting a good turkey call and learning to use it is a must for hunting these birds.

I remember several old turkey hunters telling me some great stories of their experiences with wild turkeys. I have written an outdoor column for our local newspaper for forty years so I get a lot of stories from local hunters and anglers. One story I recall dealt with the speed of these elusive birds.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources were releasing some wild turkeys on this man’s property so he went out to watch the release. They had released four of the five birds when he decided to take a picture of the last bird, the only “Tom” in the bunch. He told me he had his camera focused on the box the bird was in and told them to release it. As soon as they opened the box, the birds jumped out and he snapped the picture; all he got was the box! He told me that bird was the “fastest bird alive”!

Another story was about the intelligence of these birds. This guy told me that he had a small field behind his home with three stumps in the field. An old “Tom” would come in there every morning so he spent the winter hollowing out an old stump which he could hide in. The first few mornings of the season he hid in his old stump waiting for the turkey to come in; it never did! This went on through the week-long season without the guy ever getting the turkey to enter the field. The day the season was over he took the stump back to the barn and the next morning, there was the turkey. He told me that old “Tom” knew that there were three stumps in that field and not four. The bird came back in the field every morning thereafter!

Check out Big R Stores sporting goods department for all your hunting needs. Retail locations in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin


December’s Outdoor Column

The month of December brings us Christmas and sends many of us scrambling to find the right Christmas present.

If you are buying for that person in your life that spends time in the outdoors, the number of possibilities for a Christmas present are tremendous. The upcoming months are going to be cold so outfitting your outdoor person may revolve around the purchase of something that will keep him or her warm in the outdoors. The obvious present is simple; a pair of gloves, boots, jacket, etc.

I encourage everyone to ask before they buy thus making sure the present is what is needed and, don’t forget, your local Big R Stores will have lots of nice items to make your Christmas shopping easy. December makes up a big part of the waterfowl season which is expected to be about the same as last season. Some duck populations have fared well over the years while others have not done as well.

The mallard, the number one duck in the hunter’s bag in this part of the country, is well known to most Americans. Often called “Green Heads”, the mallard is one of the largest ducks using our flyway. The hen mallard is mottled brown with black markings to allow it to hide from predators. The teal, the smallest ducks which come through our area in early September, is a fast flying bird that gives hunters a great challenge.

Waterfowl hunting is tough hunting and requires a lot of time in the cold. Nasty days are many times the best days as is the case many times with early spring fishing. Inexperienced waterfowl hunters need to spend some time with veteran hunters to learn the ropes as, not only is it a tough and cold hunt, but it can be a dangerous hunt.
Which blinds to use and the proper setting of decoys are just some things a novice needs to learn. Staying warm and dry, training dogs, and o shooting techniques are best learned from experienced hunters.

The dangers of hunting around water include drowning and hypothermia so proper care and calculating each move is more important than similar activities done during the warmer months. Being a survivor rather than a statistic is most important to you and your family, so making foolish moves while around water is something you need to consider before you make them. No animal, deer, duck, goose, fish, etc. is ever worth you not coming home so learn the ropes necessary to stay safe while in the outdoors and don’t stray from them!