No cure for turkey hunting disease but to hunt
By JOHN K. FLORES
Leon Atkins, a good friend in Natchez, Miss., said to me, “Old turkey hunters called it, ‘the disease.’ Once you catch it, you are required to have two things — an understanding wife and boss.”
My friend was right, because I caught the disease, and unlike other afflictions, I’m not the least bit concerned with finding a cure for it. In fact, while you’re reading this column, Mrs. Flores and I will be in Wellington, Texas, hunting Rio Grande turkeys this week.
Unfortunately, for those like myself who live in St. Mary Parish and have the disease, we have to travel to find a place to hunt them. This year, I decided to go out west.
Though Louisiana has a growing population of eastern turkeys where there have been plenty of good turkey reports on private land around the state, some public areas are still feeling the effects from flooding a couple years ago. One area hit hard and still feeling the impact is Sherburne Wildlife Management Area.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Biologist Manager and Region 6 WMA Supervisor, Tony Vidrine said, “On Sherburne, the season again this year was extremely slow. We’re still recovering from some of the setbacks we had from the 2011 flood. This year we cut the season down to just five days and cut the numbers of hunters we had on our lottery hunts to 50. We had two birds killed on the lottery youth hunt and a total of ten turkeys killed overall this year. And seven of those were jakes (young birds).”
Other Wildlife Management Areas impacted by the 2011 flood were Red River, Three Rivers and Grassy Lake according to the biologist. Only 23 turkeys were reported harvested from these public areas that normally have good turkey hunting.
“It’s going to take five or six years to recover and get back to where it was,” Vidrine said. “But, it will be back, and until then we’ll probably keep the turkey seasons short and we’ll be real conservative on our hunting regulations until they recover a little more.”
Lonnie Arville has hunted turkey in Louisiana since 1970 and though he hunts deer, he, too, is afflicted by the disease and says what he really lives for is turkey season. The Marksville resident says he’s been hearing a good many gobblers this year and killed a 24-pound bird with a 10-1/4 inch beard, with 1-1/2 inch spurs — in other words, a big old gobbler.
But, early in the season that started March 23, the 59 year-old hunter said they seemed to be in bachelor groups and what he referred to as being “hemmed” up.
Arville said, “When the season started, some of them hadn’t broke up yet. When I went the first weekend of the season and called, there were five gobblers together, and I killed one. They were all mature birds — together at the same time. So I figured they weren’t broke up good yet. It’s just like deer hunting; during certain parts of the season, your bucks still hang around together. And come the breeding season, they go to busting up and get apart and getting on their own. It’s the same way with turkeys.”
Arville successfully hunts both public and private land. Though he hunts his own 2,000-acre lease, recently the timber was cut and pushed many of the turkey on the property to other lands and clubs. As a result, he’s been hunting more on public land this year.
Arville said, “I do a lot of hunting around Leesville in the Kisatchie National Forest and on Fort Polk. Kisatchie joins Fort Polk and often it’s open when Fort Polk is closed because of military maneuvers. But, they’ve got a lot of birds and good hunting around Leesville. Peason Ridge is good too.
I’ll look for good hardwood flats and bottoms, because that’s mostly where birds are going to be. The first time I went to Fort Polk and was learning it, I heard seven gobblers. When you go somewhere like that and the first time have success getting seven gobbles from the pickup truck, it’s good.”
Kisatchie remains open through April 14. Fort Polk and Peason Ridge are military reserves and both remain open through April 21. For those interested in hunting Fort Polk and Peason Ridge, a military permit is required and can be obtained by calling 337-531-5222.
Other wildlife management areas that remain open through April 21 are Clear Creek, Hutchinson Creek and Walnut Hills.
In summing up the 2013 turkey season so far, Arville said, “It’s been about average this year. I’ve heard more birds gobbling this year but less coming to me. Some of the hens have already gone to sitting. I found a hen sitting on eggs, so I know they have. But, it seems like when things start getting right is when they close the season down.”
If you wish to make a comment or have an anecdote, recipe or story to share, contact Flores at 985-395-5586 or firstname.lastname@example.org