The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


May 3, 2014

Don Steese outdoors column: Trackin' turkeys

— There’s lots of gobbling going on in them thar’ hills — and a lot of it isn’t being done by turkeys!

Spring gobbler season began yesterday here in Pennsylvania and it continues until the 31st.

I’ve never hunted turkeys, but I’ve been told many times that if you’re able to sucessfully call in a big gobbler just once, you’ll be hooked for life!

Everyone agrees that it’s a very exciting sport, and it’s certainly a lovely time to be out there in the Pennsylvania woods. I’m sure that I’d love turkey hunting if I tried it, but the older I get the more one-dimensional I become. It’s hard to get me fired up about anything if it doesn’t involve a pointing dog.

I hunt other things, and enjoy doing so, but if I had to I could give it up. However, take my dogs away from me and you might as well head for the cemetary and start digging the hole!

For more than 20 years, Pennsylvania spring gobbler hunters have killed more than 30,000 birds during the spring season. Turkey populations have been in decline for the past few years, some say as much as 30 percent, so it’ll be interesting to see if the harvest numbers begin to fall off a bit.

No one seems to have the answer as to why the numbers are declining, but I’m sure there are a lot of people trying to find out.

Pennsylvania spring gobbler hunters have, for the past few years, had the opportunity to buy a license to kill a second bird.

The theory is that by the time the season starts all the hens have been bred and therefore there’s no real need to protect the remaining gobblers. They’ve done their job, so to speak.

From now through the 17th hunting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise until noon and from the 19th through the 31st closing time is one-half hour after sunset.

The thought is that by the 19th there is less hunter pressure and nesting hens are less likely to abandon their nests when disturbed.

The baby house finches that were being raised atop a wreath on our front door have left the nest. After the babies were born we weren’t seeing the mother at all and we wondered whether something had happened to her or whether she’d abandoned her nest.

The babies kept getting bigger, though, so we figured it likely she was bringing them food and not hanging around the nest for any exteded amount of time. Anyhow, my wife went out the other morning and discovered the nest empty. Glad to see they made it!

Most of my bird hunting buddies are getting increasingly concerned about the future of bird hunting on the prairies.

The high price of corn, driven largely by the ethanol mandate, has caused a lot of landowners to take their land out of the CRP program and put it back into production.

This increases the pressure on public land and causes more landowners to charge a fee for access to their land. A sign of the times I guess, and not a good one.

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