• Spring turkey and trout come a calling

    For local anglers and hunters, the past two weeks have been welcomed with open arms. Ontario’s spring turkey season has kicked off and the inland spring trout season is now underway. Whether you enjoy spending your time in the turkey woods or on a quiet Grey/Bruce trout creek, early May is a magical time.

    Drew Watson of Watson's Tackle & Guns in Owen Sound scores Jason Gow's wild turkey
    Wednesday morning as an entry in the Big Gobbler Contest.
    Gow hails from Springmount and is an avid outdoorsman.
    His turkey weighed 18.66lbs and scored in the mid 50 point range.

    Ontario’s wild turkey population currently hovers at around 80,000 birds and is the result of an incredible success story. This year marks the 25th wild turkey season in Ontario. Originally native to southern Ontario, wild turkeys were extirpated from the province about 100 years ago due to market hunting and unregulated habitat loss. Through the valiant lobbying of the OFAH and other conservation groups, as well as the dedicated work of the MNR, wild turkeys were reintroduced during the mid 1980’s. Further trap and transfer projects carried out by the MNR aided in expanding the range of these birds. The first regulated hunt in the province took place in 1987 in two Wildlife Management Units. Today, 46 Wildlife Units support a spring turkey season with 20 of these units offering fall hunts.

    In order to hunt turkey in Ontario, individuals are required to attend and pass a training course hosted by the OFAH on behalf of the MNR. This course covers the basics in turkey hunting techniques, sex identification, and turkey characteristics (both behavioral and biological). To date, over 117,000 hunters have received this training. The success of the wild turkey restoration project and turkey hunting in Ontario is incredible. Figures suggest that turkey hunting fuels $14 million in Gross Provincial Income. This is a prime indicator of the economic benefits that accompany this outdoor endeavor. The total population of birds and the popularity of hunting spring gobblers grew so significantly that in 2008, the MNR formulated an official plan dealing with turkeys and established a fall season in a number of WMUs.

    The popularity of spring gobbler hunting can be seen locally as Grey and Bruce counties support some of the best opportunities to harvest birds in the province. Spring turkey hunters are allotted a total tag count of 2 male birds each spring. Tags are purchased one at a time, and hunters cannot fill both tags during the same day. Diehard turkey hunters live for the spring woods when “Toms” boom thunderous gobbles off the morning roost. I have been chasing “Toms” for 15 years and I can attest to the excitement that a strutting and gobbling bird can inspire in a hunter.

    Locally, the success of turkey hunting has captivated outdoorsman and retail stores have begun to host annual “gobbler contests” where the largest harvested birds are scored. This year the 5th annual Big Gobbler Contest is hosted by Lake Huron Rod & Gun of Underwood, Watson’s Tackle & Guns of Owen Sound and the Rack and Roost located in Brussels. For a fee of $10, hunters can purchase a ticket to register their harvested birds. Turkeys are awarded a score based on a calculation including weight, spur length and beard size. Much like scoring trophy deer, wild turkeys can either be scored as “typical” or “non-typical” based anomalies such as double bearded Toms. The prizes for this local contest are attractive to say the least, and the best part is; all proceeds of the contest are donated to the Grey Bruce Eat and Learn Program which supports local school age children in the area. This contest presents yet another example of how anglers and hunters can be strong supporters of their communities.

    As of Tuesday May 8th Jason Clusiau of Kincardine leads the ‘Top 10 Typical Turkey’ category with a whopping bird that scores 74.8125. Jason’s Tom turkey sported a 10.5” beard, weighed 23.8lbs and had spurs of just over an inch and a half in length. The largest Tom in the ‘Non-Typical’ category was entered by Gene Johnston who’s double bearded gobbler scored 89.81. The largest ‘Youth Harvested’ bird to date was shot by Logan Droefke who entered an excellent gobbler that scores 69.375. Leading the ‘Ladies Typical Turkey Category’ is Lisa Scholl at 70.062. The contest runs until the end of season on May 31st. Over 1000 tickets for the contest have been sold, and as of May 8th, nearly 300 birds have been entered. Local contest host Drew Watson was excited about this year’s entries; he stated that “the mature birds did well over the winter and the average weight of local turkeys seems to be up”. Watson will be busy over the next few weeks as he works the scale and tallies scores at his store, all while trying to find time in the woods with his young daughters who enjoy the sport.

    I have purchased my ticket but so far I haven’t yet bagged a bird and one particularly lucky gobbler managed to duck a load of pellets from my shotgun. Like most other avid outdoorsmen, I will be leaning against a maple tree surrounded by a carpet of trilliums over the next few weeks, breathing in the scent of wild leeks while listening to gobblers ringing off their spring call in the woods. Good luck!

    Georgian Triangle Derby Results

    May 5th was the closing day for this year’s annual Georgian Triangle Spring Derby. This event coincides with the opening of the inland trout season and awards numerous prizes for local salmon, rainbow and brown trout. Meaford’s Brad Kingston took home top prize in the Salmon category with a Chinook that tipped the scales at 8.88lbs, but the big winners this year were definitely the young guns! 13 year old Will Hanna took home top prize in the Rainbow division with an 11.40lb trout and 8 year old Austin Bradley was not to be outdone as he took the largest Brown Trout of the event weighing in at 5.641. This event is hosted by the Georgian Triangle Anglers and proceeds from the derby go directly back into the resource through local fisheries enhancement.

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