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OPINION | ARKANSAS SPORTSMAN: Outdoor Calendar makes return

by Bryan Hendricks | May 6, 2021 at 2:08 a.m.

After a year's absence, the Outdoor Calendar is returning to this section as wildlife conservation groups begin meeting again and outdoors events resume.

It's sobering to think that for more than a year there have been no Ducks Unlimited banquets, no Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation banquets, no National Wild Turkey Federation banquets or any of the other events that drive the state, regional and national conservation engine.

Those events are more than mere fundraising vehicles. That's where people with shared interests and passions break bread, exchange stories, and cultivate personal, professional and recreational networks. That was taken from us, and although we all expressed confidence that we would resume our regularly scheduled programming when the pandemic ends, it was always in the back of our minds that it might not.

Meanwhile, the continuing omission of the Outdoor Calendar was a glaring reminder of all that was lost during the pandemic. We are very happy to have it back. More to the point, we are very happy to have events to publicize again.

Let's fill it up. Email your events to bhendricks@adgnewsroom.com. Include the date, the name of the event, the location and venue, as well as a contact person, phone number, email address or web site to provide more information.

Turkey season update

Since April 23, I have not seen or heard a wild turkey in any of my south Arkansas hunting spots.

I spent half of Tuesday in one of the prettiest patches of forest I have seen in a long time. Most of the morning and early afternoon looked as if it would rain, but the sun finally came out about 3 p.m. A stiff wind pushed the clouds away, but it also made it very hard to hear.

The last time I hunted in those conditions, in the first week of the 2019 spring season, I called up a grizzled old warrior of a gobbler that fell at 10 paces. Hoping for a replay, I played my usual array of calls whenever the wind abated.

I congratulated myself for the spot I chose. It was on a high, flat table, almost like a tiny mesa, that sloped into shallow ravines on all sides. I placed an Avian-X hen decoy in an open spot on one side that offered a clear view of about 100 yards to one side, and I placed another decoy on the opposite end side of the mesa that offered a long clear view from a different direction.

This setup was ideal because a gobbler approaching from below wouldn't see either decoy until he was almost even with it. That would prevent a gobbler from seeing a decoy from a distance and hanging up far out of range. Instead, a gobbler would most likely come up the slope looking for the source of the call and display when it saw the decoy. If that happened, I was 25 yards away, but I also had unobstructed views for very long distances in multiple directions.

My eyes shifted for hours expecting to see a gobbler sneak in silently, but my expectations were unmet.

As pretty as those woods are, I think I'm done with them. I have a couple more spots to try before the season ends on May 9.

Gobbling report

I have not heard a turkey gobble the entire season. On the other hand, they are gobbling very well in the Ozark region, especially in Sharp and Fulton counties.

It was like that during the 2020 season, as well. I did not hear a gobble south of I-30 in 2020. I hunted in Marion County the last two days of the season and heard raucous gobbling from multiple gobblers.

Quite a few gobblers have evaded hunters in the mountains this season, but at least the gobblers participate in the conversation. If you hear a gobbler, you feel like you have a chance. When they don't gobble, a hunter can only hope he sees a gobbler creeping in before the gobbler sees him.

Our season started late this year, but my journals show that the early dates coincided with high levels of gobbling activity in past seasons. Turkey hunters offer a lot of reasons for why turkeys don't gobble. In his book, "The Season," author Tom Kelley noted similar periods during his turkey hunting career in south Alabama. An old gentleman that was president of Kelley's hunting club silenced discussion by declaring, "Some years they just don't gobble!"

That explanation satisfied nobody, but since the old man also owned the property, it was imprudent to dispute him.

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