Hunter’s Corner: Good things on deck for hunters of all ages

For the Monitor
Saturday, April 15, 2017

Things are continuing to percolate at Fish and Game with the coming of Discover Wild New Hampshire Day, set for Saturday, April 29 at Fish and Game headquarters from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This is the biggest red-letter day for Fish and Game. It’s a family event allowing the exploration of New Hampshire’s wildlife resources and outdoor traditions. Live animals, big fish, trained falcon and working retrievers in full operating mode dot the landscape. More than 60 outdoor and conservation organizations from across the state will be on-hand with exhibits and demonstrations. The latest hunting and fishing gear will be in the expo tent. Numerous crafts and hands-on activities for the kids, including archery, casting, fly-tying and air rifle, will be available.

There will be the giant raffle of outdoor gear and other great prizes, plus a sale of used hunting and fishing gear at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation tent. All proceeds benefit the foundation, which is Fish and Game’s nonprofit partner.

Discover Wild New Hampshire is a rain or shine event. There will be limited sales of fishing and hunting licenses. Food concession will be available all day.

Dog owners take notice that no dogs, except service and working animals will be permitted at the event. This rule will be strictly enforced so please leave Fido at home.

Discover Wild New Hampshire began in New Hampshire in 1989 as an observance of Earth Day and a celebration of the state’s wealth of natural resources and outdoor recreational opportunities.

April 29 and 30 are also the 2017 youth turkey hunting weekend. To participate in the youth weekend, hunters must be age 15 or younger and must be accompanied by a properly licensed adult, age 18 or older. The adult may not carry a firearm or bow and arrow. Youth hunters do not need a hunting license, but they must have a valid turkey permit ($16 resident, $31 non-resident). Accompanying adults must hold either a current New Hampshire hunting or archery license and a turkey permit.

This special weekend provides youth and mentoring adults a quiet, non-competitive time in the woods, where they can focus on safety, ethics, hunting methods and exploring the natural world. Turkey Project Leader Ted Walski advises mentors to make sure that youth hunters with little experience pattern their shotguns on targets. Do not shoot at turkeys beyond range and do not take body shots, head shots only will take down a tom.

According to Walski, New Hampshire’s wild turkey population fared well during the winter of 2017 because of low total snow cover and significant periods of bare ground allowing good mobility and nutrition and fat from available acorns.

“There could be a record harvest for the upcoming May 2017 spring gobbler season (May 3-May 31,” Walski said. “The semi-drought conditions of spring/summer 2016 contributed to an above-average hatch, followed by a relatively easy winter.”

Just in time for the turkey season, Winchester has come out with 20 Gauge turkey loads featuring Shot-Lok technology. Why 20 Gauge? It is all about recoil. Three-inch and 12 Gauge shot shells offer the shooter shoulder bruising recoil. The 20 is easier on the shoulder. The sacrifice is the range of an effective kill. The new Winchester 20’s will probably be good to go at 35 yards, maybe 40. As with all turkey loads, patterning your shotgun will give you the answer as to how far you can shoot.

About 20,000 people hunt turkey in New Hampshire out of about 60,000 hunters in the state. Last year, spring turkey hunters took 3,882 birds. The key feature to be legal is the turkey must have a beard. This means that each year, bearded hens have been checked in.

Walski went on to report that gobblers displaying and fighting were common sights throughout February and March. Numerous flocks were observed, some made up of 50 to 75 turkeys. Statewide, New Hampshire is estimated to have about 40,000 turkeys. According to Walski, that’s about as many wild turkeys as the land can support, or, in biological terms, “the carrying capacity has probably been reached.”

On a different note, Fish and Game’s “Let’s Go Fishing” program is hosting it’s “Fly Fishing A-Z” on Saturday, May 6, from 8:30 to 4:30 and Sunday, 8:30 to 12:30 at Fish and Game’s Concord headquarters. There is no charge for this program but you must attend both sessions.

Designed primarily for first-time fly anglers, the workshop will cover the basics of equipment, fly casting, stream ecology, knot tying, safety and fish identification o Saturday. On Sunday, we’ll pull up our waders and head out to a local fishing pond where students will test their newly acquired skills.

The class is open to anyone age 13 and over; however, those 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Pre-registration is required. To reserve your spot go to fishnh.com/fishing/lets-go-fishing.html.

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