The people's voice of reason

Small Game Are A Great Way To Keep Everyone Active In The Outdoors, Regardless Of Age.

Now, if you've been listening to me for any bit of time, you've probably guessed what my favorite hunting season is; turkey hunting! Starting March 14th for everyone, and March 7th and 8th for youth season, turkey season is just around the corner.

This year, the season's starting a bit earlier than we're used to, but that suits me just fine! Since we're pretty darned close to the start of the season, make sure your shotgun or bow is in great working condition. Keep up with your ammo, gear, and everything else. You don't want to wake up early on opening morning, only to realize you don't have anything you need! Turkeys have excellent eye-sight, so you want to have full-body camouflage, facemask and all. Make sure you've got the right permission to hunt wherever you're thinking of going, and of course make sure you have your hunting license and harvest record.

Once you get in the woods it's feast or famine when it comes to finding a bird to chase. But in recent years, some parts of the state have seen a reduction in the number of wild birds. An article that ran in the Montgomery Advertiser a week or two ago cited a new study being conducted by Auburn University to band and track birds to get a better idea of where the population stands and where it's going. As mentioned in that article, written by Marty Roney, some places have seen better hunting, but others have seen that drop off. Predators are a major concern, like coyotes, as well as weather. Turkeys make their nests on the ground, leaving them vulnerable to predators and the elements, like early spring flooding. This study will be a huge help in trying to determine how to best manage the state's turkey population. If results find that the bird population is sliding way too quickly downward, they might start actions like reducing bag limit to 3 instead of 5. So if you find a band or transmitter on a bird this year, please return them to the university. We need to make sure we take care of the bird population while we can still do something about it!

I'm pretty heavy-handed on conservation and management, because I want to make sure the gift of hunting is something future generations can enjoy. As you get older and more seasoned in the woods, it

becomes more about getting others involved. That's why I always take a big interest in youth season. This year it's March 7th and 8th, and you can now hunt on private property as well as public management areas.

Years ago, I remember taking my son, Steven, my friend Jeff Yourman, and his daughter Jessica "Rootbeer" Yourman to the Lowndes County Management Area. Right off the bat, we got a tom gobbling at us and moving quickly. We set up a couple hundred yards from the truck, and waited just a minute. That bird was making a racket the whole way! As soon as it popped its head through the brush, Steven took his shot, and that bird was on the ground. Barely 6:15 in the morning and one bird down.

The rest of the morning, we searched high and low, Jeff and the kids talking about anything and everything with me, as we looked hard for a bird for Jessica to take, but the other toms were a little smarter than the first one.

Days like that are why I love this sport. It's time with friends and family that you can't replace, spent doing something we all love. It is teaching patience, discipline, and personal responsibility in a way that connects us with nature and the outdoors as much as it connects us with each other. Youth season is something I always hold close to my heart, as it has come to represent what I enjoy most about the

outdoors; sharing it with everyone else.

So my fellow hunters, let's get ready for what I think is the greatest time of year to be outside, doing what we love. Share it with everyone around you, and go make some of the greatest memories of your lives. Go get'em!


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