Another victim of COVID – Wild Turkeys

Had your COVID vaccine shots? I have and I’ve let my guard down a bit. Masks are a nuisance and I don’t wear one much anymore, unless I go into a store where it’s mandatory. Things were a lot different today than they were this time last year. When we were told – ordered – to stay home, lock down and keep away from other people, it didn’t take long before boredom and stir craziness began dictating a new normal that we hated but were afraid to violate.

We had to do something to keep from going loony and we began looking for things to do other
than sit and stare at the walls. Fishing seemed to offer a respite because masks weren’t necessary
and you could easily meet the “social distance” mandate. It just so happened that the pandemic hit around the time that turkey season opened and this, too, offered something to do that would keep the virus at bay. Herein, however, an unexpected problem emerged as turkey hunters and others who have never turkey hunted decided to hit the woods and give it a try.

I just read an interesting and rather disturbing article in the May/June 2020-21 issue of Turkey Country magazine that pointed out the effect COVID had on wild turkey populations. The article co-written by Dr. Michael Chamberlain of the University of Georgia and Dr. Bret Collier of LSU noted that initial restrictions brought on by the pandemic resulted in increased outdoor recreational activities, including hunting.TWO CREEKS FOUR GOBBLERS

“A wave of hunters, old and new, hit the turkey woods with incredible zeal,” the article
noted.

At first blush, getting to get out of the house and hunt turkeys seemed to provide a refreshing change from being cooped up at home. The authors, however, noted potential for problems.

“Many COVID restrictions came just as wild turkey seasons were opening nationwide. Increased hunter numbers and their time spent hunting wild turkeys significantly increased harvest totals,” according to the authors.

Also of concern is the fact that wild turkeys are the only gamebird in the US that are hunted primarily before and during the onset of their breeding season.

“Those unexpected changes in hunting activity last year – hunter numbers and effort – may have immediate and potentially longer implications for wild turkey populations,” they noted.

According to research and reports from around the southeast, it has been well documented that there has been a long-term decline in the abundance and reproduction of Eastern wild turkeys – the sub-species that make their home in the southeast.

“We are concerned that COVID-19’s impact on human behavior, especially increased hunter numbers and increased hunter effort, may impact current and future wild turkey populations across the species’ range,” according to the article.

There is something else the pandemic may have done to contribute to the decline in turkey numbers. Land management practices such as timber harvesting, prescribed fire and such was discontinued in 2020 because of the shutdown. Turkeys select areas disturbed by such activities for nesting and brood rearing. Put it all together and the virus created more than problems for people; wild turkeys may likely feel the impact for years to come, and what a shame that would be.

FISHING REPORT

CANEY LAKE – Bass have been fair to good fishing off the deeper points with crank baits and soft plastics while some are being caught around the grass edges fairly shallow. Crappie fishing has been best fishing submerged tops with shiners or jigs. Bream are starting to move to shallow spawning areas with both chinquapins and bluegills being caught on worms and crickets. Catfishing has improved tight lining cold worms. For information contact Bateaux’s on Caney Lake at 259-6649, Hooks Marina at 249-2347, Terzia Tackle at 278-4498 or the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
BUSSEY BRAKE – Some bass are being caught around the trees on soft plastics and spinners.
Crappie are scattered while the bream are starting to hit worms and crickets. No report on catfish.
For latest information, contact the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
BLACK BAYOU – Bass fishing has been fair around the shallow grass on spinners, jigs and Rat-L-Traps. Crappie are scattered; bream fishing has been fair to good on crickets. Contact Honey Hole Tackle Shop 323-8707 for latest information.
OUACHITA RIVER – The river is finally falling but is still too high with too much current for fishing to be good. No fishing report this week. For latest information, contact the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
LAKE D’ARBONNE – Crappie fishing has been fair on the flats on shiners and jigs. Mixed sizes have been reported from small to large fishing 10-15 feet deep in 18-25 foot water. Bass are in the creeks with some caught on crank baits and soft plastic lures. Bream fishing is just getting started on worms and crickets. Catfishing continues to be good off the banks on night crawlers and cold worms. For latest reports, call Anderson’s Sport Center at 368-9669 or Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.
LAKE CLAIBORNE – Crappie are moving from the shallows with most caught on shiners and jigs around planted brush in 15 foot water. Some good catches are being reported below the spillway as well. Bass have been fair around the banks with spinners and worms working best. Bream are moving to the shallow beds and are beginning to take crickets and worms. No report this week on stripers or catfish. For latest information, call Tim Loftin at Kel’s Cove at 927-2264.
LAKE POVERTY POINT – Catfish and bream fishing have both been good this week. Crappie and bass are fair. For latest reports, call Poverty Point Marina at 318/878-0101.
LAKE ST. JOHN – No report. For information, call Ken Mahoney at 318-201-3821.
LAKE YUCATAN – The water is falling but still too high. No fishing this week. For information, call Surplus City Landing at 318/467-2259.

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