Windham: Coronavirus protocols vs. hunting and fishing activities

The spring turkey season is upon us. Are you ready? Archers begin their season this week. Shotgunners should be out scouting their huting spots now. Good luck on your turkey hunt this spring.

I’m sure you have seen and heard a lot about the coronavirus and how you are supposed to protect yourself. Keeping away from people and places where people congregate is the order of the day. The experts are now saying that the need for maintaining “social distancing” may need to extend a couple months. That is going to be tough for a lot of people.

As far as fishing and hunting activities go, they may actually be some of the few activities you can do and meet the intent of social distancing expressed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Think about it — anglers and hunters always practice social distancing, even the current recommendation of maintaining a six-foot separation between people. Most anglers and hunters I know easily do this in the field.

Keep this in mind when you feel you just have to get out of the house.

Our spring turkey season is rapidly approaching. Archers will hit the field Wednesday. A youth shotgun season begins April 11 and the regular shotgun season starts April 18.

Spring turkey hunting is addictive. It can combine the anticipation of deer hunting with the excitement of calling and possibly point-blank shooting of waterfowl over decoys. In either case, it is a guaranteed adrenaline rush.

For all the shotgunners out there, you should be scouting your hunting area right now. Like all other creatures, turkeys need good habitat. Good turkey habitat includes a steady food source, water and roosting areas.

Finding the feeding areas may be the quickest ways to locate turkeys. Areas with new plant growth left over grains from previous harvests and mast crops like acorns are good places to begin scouting.

Scout along the edges of fields or tree lines and look for tracks, feathers, droppings, scratch marks and don’t forget simply listening for the sounds of turkeys. If you hear birds, you’ve hit the jackpot.

If you intend to hunt public ground, the first step is to find the ideal areas to hunt. Not all public ground is suitable to turkey hunting. Something I have done in the past is search out the smaller and more out-of-the-way tracts of land that may be overlooked by other hunters who don’t want to make the effort to get there. Those types of spots often provide some great hunting.

Using the Internet and something like Google Earth is an excellent way to do some pre-scouting. Look for public land that may be almost surrounded by private land. If access is limited, many hunters won’t even look at it. Public ground that is more difficult to get to, like spots that may only have access by river or require more than 100 yards to hike into, are good places to check out; Chester Island and Wapiti Wildlife Management Areas are good examples.

Once you have located a piece of ground you want to explore more, get out there. The sooner you can scout the better. I know a few serious turkey hunters that feel you are already too late for pre-season scouting. The more you know about the property and geography you intend to hunt, the more likely you will be successful.

Art contest

I know area schools are closed due to COVID-19 concerns. If you have an aspiring artist at home, in grade k-12, the National State-Fish Art Contest deadline has been extended until April 30. Any k-12 student can enter this free art competition.

Sponsored by Wildlife Forever, Bass Pro Shops and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, young artists can compete for state and national honors and great prizes. Entry forms and additional learning resources are available at statefishart.org.

Winners will be selected by the NGPC. State winners will advance to the national competition to be judged for top honors such as the Best of Show. State-Fish Art serves as a one-of-a-kind recruitment, retention and reactivation program to grow youth participation in fishing.

“We hope this art competition becomes a learning opportunity for Nebraska students now doing their schoolwork remotely,” said Larry Pape, outdoor education specialist with the NGPC. “We hope students learn about Nebraska’s fish species, combining science and art class in one assignment while also growing their connection with the great outdoors.”

To enter, students from Nebraska should submit their entry consisting of an original horizontal 9-inch by 12-inch piece of artwork featuring any fish from the “Official Species List,” a piece of creative writing no longer than one page about the chosen species, and a Nebraska State-Fish Art Contest entry form, attached to the back of the artwork.

Completed entries need to be postmarked by April 30 to: Nebraska State-Fish Art Contest, Attention: Larry Pape, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, 2200 N. 33rd St., Lincoln, NE 68503.

Do you know the official state fish?

Firearm sales

Looking at raw data taken from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, shows that February 2020 was a peak in firearms sales. Firearms sales in the United States were 1,357,643 units. This is 17.3% increase over February 2019. Single handgun sales were 793,301, 19.5% over last year and long gun sales were 441,516, 12.4% than a year ago.

And — the official state fish for Nebraska is the channel catfish.

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