- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Local spring turkey hunting seasons are now under way or about to begin. In Virginia, the season started last Saturday. In Maryland, a youth hunt will start Saturday, with the regular spring gobbler season opening Monday.

The return of the wild turkey in the Middle Atlantic States is an incredible success story. With state game departments and chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation often working hand in hand, the bird that Ben Franklin thought should be honored much as we do the bald eagle nowadays is multiplying and thriving throughout our region.

In my home county of Charles, in Southern Maryland, it wasn’t long ago when the only turkey you were likely to see was the frozen domestic variety in a grocery store. That has changed drastically. It is not unusual these days to spot a flock of the large, wild birds crossing a country road or roosting in hardwood trees. In fact, I had five turkey hens in my backyard a few weeks ago.

Because of such sightings, the hunting of these sharp-eyed, wary birds is growing more popular every year. They present a wonderful woodland challenge and can make for memorable dining.

Maryland’s DNR is encouraging adult hunters to take a youngster afield on Saturday’s Junior Turkey Hunt day. This hunt allows kids 16 or younger to hunt wild turkeys when accompanied by an unarmed adult (at least 21). Both hunter must have valid hunting licenses unless they’re exempt.

Bob Long, turkey project leader for the DNR, said wild turkey populations are near record levels throughout most of Maryland, so this season should be exciting and productive. After two consecutive years of poor reproduction, the DNR’s annual brood survey suggests last summer was a banner year for turkey poult production throughout much of the state.

This means young gobblers, known as jakes, should be exceptionally abundant this spring. However, hunters who want to bag a mature tom may have to work harder, said Long.

By the way, if you’re hunting on public lands in Maryland and Virginia, it is a wise safety move to wear a fluorescent orange cap while moving about and to tie a hunter-orange ribbon on a branch above an area where a hunter sits and tries to attract a male turkey with a box call or a diaphragm call.

Deer changes in Western Maryland — Maryland forest game managers are proposing a change in the deer hunting seasons and bag limits for Garrett and Allegany counties, and the DNR will accept comments on these changes through Tuesday.

Because of recent high deer density levels in the two westernmost counties of the state, liberal antlerless deer seasons were the rule. However, hunters did better than expected, especially on public lands, and the latest analysis calls for changes that will slow down the deer kill in the counties.

Any changes would apply only to the 2005-06 deer hunting seasons, and any new regulation proposals would be opened to public input through the normal regulatory cycle in early 2006.

It is hoped a 30 to 35 percent reduction in the antlerless deer kill rate can be achieved by changing bag limits and season lengths for bow, modern firearm and muzzleloader users, plus shortening of the “either sex” hunt at the end of the season to one day. It also would eliminate the 3-day antlerless-only muzzleloader season on private lands.

Sporting Clays Classic — Join the National Kidney Foundation at the picturesque Pintail Point Resort on Maryland’s Eastern Shore for its annual Sporting Clays Classic on April 30. It will be a day filled with tournament shooting, breakfast, lunch, live entertainment, more shooting and then a cocktail if you wish.

The cost is $250 a shooter, or $1,000 for a four-man team. The fee takes care of shooting (including targets and shells) and all festivities. To register online go to kidneywdc.org or call 202/244-7900.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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