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For years, many states have had a youth turkey hunt. They have been successful at bringing new young hunters into the turkey world so why not here?

I made a few calls and got reports from our northern states — Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire — and they all have either a one day or a weekend of youth turkey hunting. Their programs are very popular and getting more popular every year.

According to John Hall of Vermont Fish and Wildlife, the youth of that state annually take some 400 toms from their weekend. It’s a great time for kids to not only get out from behind a computer but to learn about the outdoors and most importantly to spend time with a father, mother or mentor who will share some memorable excitement.

New Hampshire has had a hunt for well over a decade. They have not had any shooting errors and have had annual harvests of over 300 birds and climbing each year. The same can be said of Maine, too. The kids love to get out and it’s their weekend. So why not here?

Last year I spoke with Mass Wildlife turkey project leader Jim Cardoza, who has been at the helm since the very first turkeys were planted in western Massachusetts 30 years ago. His personal feelings are very strong and he is against the hunt. Cardoza said he feels it’s a good program in theory; however, he believes too many birds are harvested by the adult rather than the youth.

The programs in each state are run about the same way. The youth takes a hunter safety course and then heads out to the woods with their mentor. They are allowed just one gun. They cannot each have their own. It’s just one and the mentor can carry it, but the youth is the only one allowed to fire it.

Hunting for turkeys is very hard. It’s not a spot-and-stock type of hunt. It’s “find a tree that will hide you well” then you call the birds using a diaphragm mouth call or a slate call. Many hunters do not do well with either and will just sit and wait, moving about only after sitting for long periods of time.

You cannot just shoot any turkey, either. It must be a male, sporting a beard. If there is no beard it’s considered a hen and all hens are off limits in the spring time. This is breeding time and the hens are laying eggs fast and furious. Clutches of 12 or more eggs is normal. Protection of these hens is vital.

The good news in all of this is that a goodly portion of the clutch will be male birds. The first year males are called jakes. They typically weigh about 12 pounds and sport a 3-inch beard. A 2-year-old bird will have a 6- to 12-inch beard and huge spurs. They also have put on weight and will tip the scales at 16 to 25 pounds. The Massachusetts record is 27 pounds, taken in Georgetown about six years ago.

There is a fall hunt of just one week when you can take one bird of either sex. During the spring you are allowed two males, also known as toms.

With all the work at getting women involved in hunting and having youth programs from fishing to deer hunting held all over the region, isn’t it worth having a youth hunt here, too? It’s the youth of our state that will carry on the tradition of hunting and locking them out is not something we should do.

Trout fishing had a minor set back when the heavy rains came for a few days, but now the rivers have gone back to normal and the trout are hitting lures and bait once again.

Some of the best fishing is at Sandy Pond in Ayer where browns and rainbows to 15 inches are caught. They are taking power bait and worms — yes, good old-fashioned garden worms.

Baddacook and Knopps are also yielding some nice fish and you can do well from shore but these two bodies of water are best fished from a boat. Both have boat launches and they are free of charge. Parking is fair at best at Baddacook and decent at Knopps. Anglers should be trolling spoons and spinners for the best results for dinner.

Bass fisherman are starting to see some good action, too. The bass are getting ready to spawn and will fatten up a bit before they sit on their nests, which will occur over the next month. The females will be heavy, with some reaching 8 pounds or better in this area. Some of the best largemouth bass ponds are Bare Hill, Knopps, Long Sought For and Flint Pond and the Nashua River is great. So is Hickory Hills, but you will need a permit to fish that lake from a local resident who lives on the impoundment.

If you have plans on hunting for moose in any of our northern states, you need to get on your horse soon. The deadline to enter is by the end of this month and the latest is Vermont on June 3. Maine and New Hampshire are in two weeks, so enter now.

Bill Biswanger has been writing about the outdoors for over 30 years. If there is something you would like to comment on, feel free to e-mail him at bboutdoor1@aol.com.

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