The area's leading online source for news!
Louisa-Lawrence Co, KY

In God We Trust - Established 2008

Menu

By Kevin Kelly
Special to KyForward

Spring turkey hunting is slipping into position before daybreak and sitting still as the sun eases over the hills.

It is breaking the silence with a call and getting a response that sends a shock of excitement down your spine. It is coaxing a love-struck gobbler closer and keeping your wits as it struts into range.

“There’s something about that drumming, spitting, gobbling turkey in front of you that makes the ground shake,” said Jason Lupardus, Midwest Conservation Field Supervisor with the National Wild Turkey Federation who has regional biologist duties in Kentucky. “I live for those moments. Favorite time of year, by far. You can’t beat it.”

The spring turkey season is something of an obsession among hunters who have experienced those magical mornings many times over or dream about it happening their first time out this year.

In Kentucky, the 2017 season is right around the corner. Hunters ages 15 and younger are first up. The youth-only season is the weekend of April 1-2. The general statewide season opens April 15 and runs through May 7.

“I’ve got high hopes,” said Zak Danks, wild turkey program coordinator with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

The state’s turkey flock numbered fewer than 2,400 birds when restoration efforts began in 1978. The restoration continued until 1997, and today turkeys can be found in all 120 counties. The statewide turkey flock is estimated from 200,000 to 240,000.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife monitors turkey reproduction through annual brood surveys conducted every summer.

A wet spring and early summer affected nest success and brood survival in 2016. The number of turkey poults per hen averaged 1.6 across the state, down from 2.3 the year before. What that means for this spring is fewer jakes but a strong crop of older, more experienced gobblers.

“We should have plenty of 2-year-old birds out there gobbling and providing good opportunity for folks,” Danks said. “I’m pretty excited about it. Of course, we’re going to cross our fingers and hope for good weather. The early season weather really impacts things. If we get good weather, people will get out and should have some good action.”

Lupardus is even more bullish about the upcoming season.

“We may have our banner year,” he said. “There were reports last spring of lots of jakes running around. That tells me that banner production from two years ago was still in place. Therefore, we should have a lot of 2-year-old birds out there gobbling this year. I’m thinking this could be our 10-year high.”

Kentucky’s spring turkey harvest has remained stable since the 2010 season when hunters took a record 36,097 birds.

The average spring harvest for the six years before 2010 was 26,887. In the six years since, the average spring harvest was 31,600. Hunters checked 31,047 birds last spring.

Kentucky times its spring season to give gobblers ample opportunity to breed hens before subjecting them to hunting pressure. The mild winter and subsequent early green up this year has ramped up anticipation.

“I’m sure people have been seeing a lot of birds strutting, hearing some gobbling, and that may have them wondering why we don’t start hunting them sooner like some other states,” Danks said. “But we really feel like we have a good handle on our season. We’re trying to strike a balance between hunting opportunity and protecting the resources.”

A strong mast crop this past fall combined with the mild winter should translate into hens being in tip-top physical condition for the breeding season.

“Which hopefully could bode well for their clutch sizes,” Danks said. “When hens are in better condition, they lay better eggs with more yolk reserves and hopefully that leads to better poults. We would like to think that we’re coming into a really good spring in that respect.”

Hunters are allowed a limit of two bearded birds during the spring season. Any combination of male turkeys, or female turkeys with visible beards, may be included in the season limit. No more than one bird may be taken per day.

Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, but hunters may be in the field before and after shooting hours.

While many hunters focus their efforts on the early season and early morning hours, Bo Spencer does not overlook the mid-morning and late-season opportunities.

“I tend to really like mid to late mornings and the second half of our spring season,” said Spencer, who works in Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s Information Center and is an avid turkey hunter. “The first week or two of the spring season, hens are roosting with and staying with gobblers until mid-morning. After about 9:30 or so, the hens have left the gobblers. Often times this will result in a gobbler becoming more willing to answer and come to calls.”

For more outdoors news and information, see Art Lander’s Outdoors on KyForward.

He continued: “The second half of our spring season, hens are on the nest and those gobblers are still in breeding mode. Late-season birds can be more willing to work to calls. They might not be as vocal and gobble as much as pre-season and early season but they will come looking. These late-season birds can come in quietly and all of the sudden there is a gobbler in range that you didn’t know was even in the area.”

Hunters are encouraged to consult the 2017 Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide before the season or going afield. The guide provides information about current regulations, licenses and permits, legal equipment, safety tips and more. It is available online at fw.ky.gov and wherever licenses are sold.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife helps take the worry out of finding a place to hunt. It owns, leases or manages more than 80 public hunting areas across the state, and all but a few are open under statewide hunting regulations for the spring turkey season.

These exceptions are noted in the guide. A complete listing of public hunting areas can be found on the department’s website.

Be sure to tune in to Kentucky Educational Television (KET) on Saturday, March 25 for a special “Kentucky Afield” TV half-hour call-in show focusing on the spring turkey season. The live show airs at 8:30 p.m. Eastern/7:30 p.m. Central.

Danks and a representative from Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s Law Enforcement Division will join host Chad Miles to field phone calls from hunters across the state.

***************

K Kelly 1K Kelly 1Kevin Kelly is a writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. An avid angler with a passion for muskellunge and stream fishing, his journalism career has included stops at daily newspapers in Cincinnati, St. Petersburg, Fla., and Charleston, S.C. Get the latest from Kelly and the entire Kentucky Afield staff by following them on Twitter: @kyafield.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. For more information on the department, click here.

Kentucky Afield Outdoors...

 

By Lee McClellan
Special to KyForward

This is the second installment of the “Spring Fishing Fever” series of articles, detailing productive fishing techniques and opportunities across Kentucky. The series will continue until early summer. An archive of past articles is available on the department’s website at www.fw.ky.gov).

February days in the 60s make for crowded boat ramps and golf courses during a time of year usually spent indoors.

Everything, nature wise, seems a couple of weeks ahead of schedule. Buds show on lilac bushes, green grass already grows in bunches and the sound of lawn mowers permeates an afternoon backyard barbecue.

The rare winter temperatures may alter white bass spawning runs as well.

“With the weather pattern so far, I would be looking at the white bass getting going a little earlier than usual,” said Rob Rold, Northwestern Fisheries District biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “When we’ve had consecutive warm days, the white bass run up a bit into the headwaters above Nolin River Lake, but when it cools they go back down in the lake. They will do false runs until it gets right.”

Water temperatures are in the low 50s on Nolin River Lake, while other lakes such as Taylorsville Lake are flirting with water temperatures in the mid 50s.

“It should be getting close,” said David Baker, Central Fisheries District biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “We are doing a creel survey on Herrington and the white bass are staging in the upper one-third of the lake, waiting for the next temperature spike. A good warm front with water temperatures getting into the upper 50s, they will start moving to the shoals in the upper lake of both Herrington and Taylorsville.”

Baker said Herrington gets the nod for size of white bass.

“There are a lot of really big white bass in Herrington, many up to 14 inches long. For catching a big white bass, Herrington is better than Taylorsville,” he said.

Taylorsville Lake produces numbers of white bass, but less size.

Anglers may access the upper section of Herrington Lake and Dix River via Bryants Camp Boat Ramp in Garrard County. Bank anglers may access the Salt River above Taylorsville Lake via River Road on the Taylorsville Lake Wildlife Management Area until the opening of spring turkey season April 15. Boaters use Van Buren Boat Ramp on Taylorsville Lake.

Nolin River Lake holds arguably the best white bass population in Kentucky. 
Rold said the Cane Run area, known to locals as the “Three Fingers,” in the upper lake upstream to Broad Ford at the KY 1214 Bridge is usually where the white bass runs begin.

“The length of day really dictates when they will run, even if it is not the preferred water temperature,” Rold said. “They start staging around Cane Run. It is a bit early, but they will come on soon.”

Rold said bank anglers use the access at Bacon Creek for productive white bass fishing.

“Go to Bacon Creek ramp and walk the bank up or down,” he said. “The Corps property goes all the way up past Broad Ford. At winter pool, Broad Ford is the first shoal on Nolin River upstream of the lake.”

The tailwaters downstream of the locks and dams on the lower Green River also provide excellent white bass fishing.

“The water below Lock and Dam 1 at Spottsville, Lock and Dam 2 at Calhoun and Lock and Dam 3 at Rochester all have decent white bass,” Rold said. “The mouth of Pond River downstream of Calhoun at Jewel City has a big white bass fishery. They run up into Pond River.”

For more outdoors news and information, see Art Lander’s Outdoors on KyForward.

Anglers may access the mouth via a public boat ramp at Jewel City. The tailwater below Lock and Dam 2 has a boat ramp and limited bank access at the end of Second Street in Rumsey, across the river from Calhoun. The tailwaters below Lock and Dam 3 at Rochester offer excellent bank access just west of town on Boat Ramp Road via KY 70.

The smaller male white bass make the initial runs. You will catch many fish during this time, but most will be of similar size. You often catch fish on consecutive casts when the males are running.

“By the first weeks of April, the females show up and it is prime,” Baker said. “This is the best fishing of spring runs.”

Running white bass hit anything that resembles baitfish with abandon, one of the keys to their enduring popularity. When the spring white bass runs peak, nothing else compares to the furious fishing.

White, chartreuse or gray in-line spinners are hard to beat during the runs, but 2-inch white curly tailed grubs rigged on 1/16-ounce leadheads also produce many white bass. Anglers also suspend 1/32-ounce white and red, pink or yellow feather jigs from 18 to 24 inches deep under small bobbers and allow them to drift in the current. Some anglers tip the feather jigs with small crappie minnows to make them more attractive to white bass.

As the runs peak, small topwater propeller baits draw vicious strikes, but you get more consistent action with subsurface presentations.

The next long sustained warm front will get the white bass running. It is time for the most exciting fishing of the year. Remember to buy your fishing license. The new license year began March 1.

 

Lee_McClellanLee_McClellan

Author Lee McClellan is associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Get the latest from Lee and the entire Kentucky Afield staff by following them on Twitter: @kyafield

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. For more information on the department, click here.

When Murray resident Austin Gruner caught an 8.2-ounce largemouth bass bulging with developing eggs from Kentucky Lake on Feb. 10, he didn’t keep it.

Instead, Gruner took his trophy to Fisherman’s Headquarters in Benton, where employees held it for pick up by a Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources hatchery truck.

When Murray resident Austin Gruner caught an 8.2-ounce largemouth bass bulging with developing eggs from Kentucky Lake on Feb. 10, he didn’t keep it (F&W Photo)When Murray resident Austin Gruner caught an 8.2-ounce largemouth bass bulging with developing eggs from Kentucky Lake on Feb. 10, he didn’t keep it (F&W Photo)“Austin’s fish is the first donation we’ve received this year for the department’s Trophy Bass Propagation Program,” said Jeff Ross, assistant director of fisheries for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “We’re seeking additional donations of big bass caught in other lakes so we can increase the potential for oversized largemouths in Kentucky’s waters.”

Trophy bass donated to the program go to Pfeiffer Fish Hatchery near Frankfort for spawning. The department stocks the trophy offspring to the original lake and select other lakes in fall.

Anglers really don’t lose their trophy. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife gives participants professionally mounted, fiberglass reproductions of their fish in return for the donation. Photos of the four bass donated in 2016 – the inaugural season of the program – are viewable online at www.fw.ky.gov by searching under the keywords, “Trophy Bass Propagation Program.”

In spring, Kentucky’s program only accepts female bass weighing more than 8 pounds, and male bass weighing more than 6 pounds. Fish this size generally exceed 22 inches in length. In fall, the department accepts fish of any gender weighing more than 7 pounds.The seasonal program shuts down for the summer on May 31, because the higher temperatures are stressful to the fish and reduce the chances of survival.

Anglers should take their trophy bass to a participating bait shop as soon as possible, rather than leaving the fish in a livewell or stringer for an extended period of time. Bait shop employees will hold the fish in aerated bait tanks until a Kentucky Fish and Wildlife employee can pick up the bass and take it to a hatchery.

Look for more information about the trophy bass program, fish handling tips and a list participating bait shops on the department’s website, www.fw.ky.gov.

From Fish and Wildlife Communications