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Hunter’s Corner: Hunters should benefit from good winter for turkeys

Turkey season started yesterday and I think it may be another record-setter.

The turkeys wintered well, according to Turkey Project biologist Ted Walski. Significant snowfall did not occur until late February, and then the freezing rains of Feb. 21 and March 12 formed a hard crust for turkeys to walk on. The public reported 1,400 turkey flock observations statewide. This is an internet turkey flock survey that happens during January, February and March.

In past years with milder winters, toms started to present – that is to say puffing up and fanning their tail feathers to impress the ladies in February. With a severe winter and heavy snowcap, the toms started to display – the active part of the mating season – in late March. Toms breeding hens were recorded on camera on March 28 in Marlboro and April 6 in Marlow.

In the early mornings in April and May you are greeted with a symphony of mourning doves cooing, grouse drumming, woodcock singing just before daylight, and turkeys gobbling. In years past, by the time opening day finally came, the hens were all nested up, making it all the more challenging for the turkey hunter. Not so this year; anticipate active toms in the early part of the season.

The 2014 winter turkey flock survey recorded 25 turkey pox observations (avian pox viruses). Given the number of flocks observed, this is not a very high percentage. Hunters are asked to report pox turkeys seen during this spring. Any pox gobblers should be recorded on hunting registration forms. The wart-like growths on the head and upper neck will be noticeable. Notify one of the regional offices in Concord (271-2462), Keene (352-9669), Lancaster (788-3164), New Hampton (744-5470) or Durham (868-1095). Hunter observations can be a major tool in determining the prevalence and distribution of the turkey virus in the state. The virus is not harmful or transferable to humans.

So, what is Walski’s take on the prospects for this spring season? Walski is highly optimistic that 2014 could be a record-setter.

What’s new this year? The current buzz is coming from Winchester with the introduction of Long Beard XR. The Long Beard is designed to give the turkey hunter extended range (XR). These are traditional copper-plated lead pellets in shot sizes 4, 5 and 6. What sets the XRs apart from the rest of the offerings is the hardened resin encasement that fits inside a typical shot cup. The resin encasement serves to prevent deforming the shot and providing a tighter pattern down range.

In terms of price, when compared to other turkey loads at $2 per shell, it can be seen as a bargain. I like the concept and can’t help but wonder if they used the same encasement technology with non-toxic shot if they might have a waterfowl winner.

Both Remington and EnvironMetal utilize Hevi shot and these shells are pricey. That said, Hevi shot has been a long-time winner when it comes to downrange patterning. We’ll see how the Long Beard XR stand up to Hevi shot in this year’s competition.

An alternative for youth and slightly built hunters is the Federal Mag-Shot Heavy-weight shells. These are 20-gauge, 2¾-inch shells in number 7 shot. The Federals hold 1 1/8 ounces of number 7 shot that have the knockdown power of number 5 shot. These are reduced recoil loads and are perfect for the first-time hunter.

A few years back when I went antelope hunting in Montana, I was introduced to the use of shooting sticks. The shots are taken at long ranges with no rests available. The shooting stick is a fixed “y” device that provides the stability to reliably take a 250- to 400-yard shot.

Primos have come up with what they call a Trigger Stick Gen 2. This provides a stabilized “y” shaped rest that is fully adjustable to accommodate a sitting or standing position. So why would you need a Trigger Stick for turkey hunting? One of the strongest defense mechanisms a turkey has is its vision. It is imperative that you do not disclose your location through movement. By anchoring your shotgun on a Trigger Stick, you eliminate the movement problem and employ a stable way to hold position for your shotgun while the bearded turkey comes into range.

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In a normal April, Fish and Game’s stocking trucks would start stocking one million trout. It didn’t happen this year because road conditions were so poor that the stocking trucks couldn’t navigate to the ponds to be stocked. Stocking rivers and streams is a different matter. Rivers and streams must recede from their peak flood levels, the water temperatures must be in the mid-40 range, and the stocking crews must be able to safely stock the trout.

There are six New Hampshire hatcheries. The Berlin Fish Hatchery provides the three primary trout species to the North Country, including Coos County and the northern reaches of Grafton and Carroll counties. Twin Mountain and Warren hatcheries provide trout to the White Mountain Region. Powder Mill Hatchery in New Durham provides trout from the seacoast through the Lakes Region and into Carroll County. Power Mill Hatchery also provides the Lakes Region with rainbow trout and landlocked salmon for New Hampshire’s large lakes. The southwest region is covered by the Milford Fish Hatchery. The New Hampton Hatchery in responsible for providing trout from the central New Hampshire region up to the White Mountains.

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I had the opportunity to license up recently, which brought me in contact with the new computerized licensing system. Fish and Game had the choice between the system it adopted and a system utilized by other states that produces a laminated license. You are told to fold the letter-sized paper in thirds and it will fit in the plastic baggie provided. The problem is that it does not easily fit in your wallet unless you have one of those big rectangular ones with the silver chain securing it.

Whoever is responsible for acceptance of this ill-designed system should be terminated immediately. When the initial contract is up, it should not be renewed. You often hear of the New Hampshire advantage. There is no advantage to this system and it should be changed at the earliest date.

(Bob Washburn can be reached at hunterscorner@aol.com.)

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