Spring turkeys waiting a call

Chester, Ill. – He calls it the easiest gobbler he’s ever called
in.

The biggest, too.

During last year’s third week of the spring hunting season, Mike
Korando, frustrated at his inability to coax a tom he’d roosted the
night before, spotted three turkeys a quarter of a mile across the
Randolph County field he was stalking.

“I started hitting my glass call and they came a running,”
Korando, of Chester, recalled.

If 20 years of turkey hunting has taught the 40-year-old
anything, it’s that he may never kill another one as large. The
bird is currently No. 2 on the “Best Overall Eastern in Illinois”
list maintained by the National Wild Turkey Federation. It’s
overall score of 128.5 includes five beards, the longest measuring
11.25 inches. The 24.5-pound turkey had 1.25-inch spurs.

Hunters around the state will be hoping to come face-to-face
with a tom the size of Korando’s when the season opens April 5
(south) or April 12 (north).

DNR wildlife program manager Paul Shelton reported that Illinois
– and the Midwest in general – has had a number of years of
substandard reproduction. The 2009 Brood Surveys indicated low
production for the third straight year, based on the “poults to hen
index.” The prior 10-year mean (1999-2008) PHI was 2.71. The 2009
index was 2.08 – the same as it was in 2008.

Regions with a poults to hen index higher than the statewide
average were east-central Illinois (2.44), west-central Illinois
(2.18) and southern Illinois (2.31). None were higher than the
10-year mean.

How will this affect hunting success?

“We’re going to be a little shorter than we would like to be in
younger adult birds, which tend to be easier to call in than the
more experienced adults,” Shelton said. “However, Illinois turkey
populations have continued to do very well in spite of limited
reproduction, and we don’t expect to see a significant change in
harvest.”

Including the Youth Turkey Hunts, hunters in Illinois bagged a
statewide total of 15,488 turkeys during the 2009 spring turkey
season, a slight decrease from the 2008 spring turkey harvest of
15,792.

The 2009 total was higher than the 2007 statewide turkey harvest
of 14,766. Hunters took a state-record 16,605 turkeys during the
spring season in 2006.

Breaking it down, south zone hunters killed 6,353 turkeys during
all seasons in 2009, an increase from the 2008 harvest of 6,287.
North zone hunters took 9,135 turkeys, down from the 2008 total of
9,505.

“Given the poor turkey reproduction the past few years, and wet
weather through the spring, our harvest totals were as expected,”
Shelton said.

The top five south zone counties in 2009 were: Jefferson (363),
Randolph (352), Pope (332), Marion (329) and Wayne (325). Top north
zone counties: JoDaviess (612), Pike (549), Adams (421), Fulton
(417) and Macoupin (351).

As for Korando, who bagged his big turkey on April 17 last year
– the first day of the third season – he’ll be hunting the third
week again this year.

“In my part of the state, it’s been the perfect time,” he
said.

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