New York's spring turkey hunting season opened May 1, but it was the young guns that had first crack at them during the April 26-27 Youth Turkey Hunting Weekend. When the big boys took the field May 1 there were plenty of camouflaged hunters staked out long before the sun came up, but more than twice as many were hiding in hedgerows or sitting with their back up against a tree this past weekend. Turkey hunters can kill two birds during the spring campaign, but unlike the fall only the toms are legal, and they can't be taken the same day.
Speaking of the fall hunt, one of my most reliable sources in Albany tells me there is a better than good chance fall turkey hunters will be limited to one bird, because the population has steadily gone down over the past five years. Since fall turkey hunters can take a bird of either sex, limiting the kill to one will increase the number of hens available for breeding in 2015.
That makes sense to me. Giving up one hen will definitely increase nesting, and I'd rather give up a hen in the fall than see the population decline any more.
According to a study conducted by DEC wildlife biologists 60-70 percent of hens nest successfully under good conditions but only about 40 percent of a clutch survive cold temperatures and abnormally wet weather. Those same poor conditions can have a high mortality rate (about 50 percent) on poults.
The study concluded that in years with violent storms the poult mortality can reach 70 percent, especially among birds around 10-20 weeks of age. That's the age when young birds are too large for the hen to effectively brood them.
The walleye, pike and pickerel season opened May 1, but if you want to get in on some reel action you should include at least one trip to the Hudson River estuary for striped bass. You have until March 2015 to hook into a walleye or pike, but striped bass are a seasonal species and only in the Hudson River estuary for a short time, with the next three weeks being prime.
These fish are showing up in greater numbers right now, with fish running between 25 and 30 pounds. Just last week one shore angler landed a 50-pound linesider on chunk bait. As with most fishermen, he wouldn't say exactly where.
Depending on water temperature, striped bass enter rivers and brackish areas of estuaries to spawn. Along the Hudson River that can happen anytime between late April and early June, and usually occurs between Poughkeepsie and Catskill, with the greatest activity when the water warms to about 65 degrees.
These fish can live up to 40 years and can reach weights greater than 100 pounds, although individuals larger than 50 pounds are rare. Females reach significantly greater sizes than males, with most bass over 30 pounds being female.
The New York state inland striped bass record is 55 pounds, 6 ounces. It was taken May 9, 2007 trolling a minnow-like plug near the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge. That's a huge fish by any standard.
The daily limit along the Hudson from the Tappan Zee Bridge to the Federal Dam in Troy remains one fish 18 inches or longer. Shore fishermen on both sides of the river are doing almost as well as boaters.
TICKING ME OFF
Old Man Winter didn't do much in the way of killing off ticks, those small arachnids that suck the blood out of you without your knowledge, often causing damage to joints, heart and nervous system. You would think a winter as severe as this last one would kill most of them off, but it seems all the snow we had served as a blanket protecting the little buggers.
A 2012 study co-authored by Cary Institute of Ecosystem Disease Ecologist Rick Ostfeld examined the probability of tick mortality in winter in Millbrook and Syracuse. Located in Millbrook, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem is a private, not-for-profit environmental research and education organization.
Ostfeld reported, "The study found that exposure to subzero temperatures increased mortality slightly. However, the increased death rate only occurred at super-cold temperatures and it wasn't a clear die-off, just an increased probability of dying. Indeed, more than 80 percent of the ticks survived at both sites, regardless of the winter conditions."
Unless anyone who spends any amount of time in the out-of-doors wants to end up with Lyme disease, the best thing they can do is spray their clothing with insect repellent -- preferably one containing permethrin -- keeping in mind not to spray the chemical directly on your skin.
You can use a repellent that contains Deet on your skin; studies have shown that as long as concentrations are 30 percent or less the chemical is safe for children and women who are pregnant. Keep it away from your eyes, regardless of the concentration.
Maybe I'm being a bit contemptuous, but when the DEC recently announced the ban on hunting or trapping free-ranging Eurasian boars, there was nary a mention that targeting them was part of Gov. Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative intended to improve recreational opportunities for sportsmen and to boost tourism activities throughout the state.
The DEC adopted the new ban to ensure maximum effectiveness of the agency's eradication efforts. "Hunters have offered to assist our efforts by hunting for boars wherever they occur, but experience has shown this to be counter-productive," Commissioner Joe Martens said. "Eurasian boars often join together to form a 'sounder,' the name for a group of pigs that can number 20 or more individuals. Shooting individual boars as opportunities arise is ineffective as an eradication method and often causes the remaining animals to disperse and be more difficult to remove."
Anyone who observes a Eurasian boar (dead or alive) in the wild in New York should report it as soon as possible to the nearest DEC regional wildlife office or to firstname.lastname@example.org and include "Eurasian boar" in the subject line.
Because it is sometimes difficult to distinguish a domestic pig, potbelly pig or Eurasian boar based solely on a description, reporting of all free-roaming swine is encouraged. Report the number of animals seen, if any of them were piglets, the date, and the exact location (county, town, distance and direction from an intersection, nearest landmark, etc.). Photographs of the animals are especially helpful, so try to get a picture and include it with your report.
Dropping anchor 'til next time.
To contact Dick Nelson email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.