The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 8, 2013

Outdoors Insider, with Dale Sunderlin: Lampreys the target of program

By DALE SUNDERLIN
For the Star Beacon

— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sea Lamprey Control Program (SLCP) will be treating Grand River and Conneaut Creek between April 23 and May 16, 2013 to kill larval sea lampreys.

The sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) is a primitive, parasitic, jawless fish that feeds on blood and tissue fluids of its host fish.

Native to the North Atlantic, sea lampreys gained access and invaded the Great Lakes following the construction of the Welland Canal (Circa 1830).

This parasite, along with intense fishing pressure, nearly eliminated native lake trout populations (Salvelinus namaycush) and populations of other valuable commercial fishes in the lakes.

Control of invasive sea lamprey remains a critical component of fisheries management in the Great Lakes and is required for the conservation of highly valued, and in some cases, severely depressed, fish stocks.

Since the 1950s, a variety of control methods have been implemented to reduce the sea lamprey population. The most successful and primary control method is the treatment of tributaries with the lampricide TFM (3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol).

TFM targets larval sea lampreys buried in the streambed with little effect on most other fish species. A typical stream treatment last 12 hours at any given point along the length of a stream to ensure 9 hour of exposure at lampricide levels required to kill larvae.



Treatments

Conneaut Creek is a moderate producer of sea lampreys and has 52 miles of infested water. The stream has been treated 8 times between 1986 and 2009. The 2013 treatment will originate in Pennsylvania at Fish Road and end in Ohio at the mouth of the stream.

Grand River is a moderate producer of sea lampreys and has about 32 miles of infested water.

The stream has been treated 6 times between 1987 and 2009. The 2013 treatment application site (AP) will be at or just below Harpersfield Dam and the treatment will end at the stream mouth.

Conneaut Creek is typically a two-day treatment and the Grand River a one-day treatment. However, the duration of both treatments is dependent upon stream discharge.



Non-target stuff

Mortality of non-target organisms can occur when lampricide is not properly mixed downstream of an AP or there is an unexpected downward shift in stream pH and less chemical is required to kill sea lampreys.

A request of the State of Ohio is that non-target organisms that have died during stream treatments are collected when it is practical. While this is typically conducted on all streams that are treated, the level of effort depends on the number of staff available.

The additional volunteer effort will allow for greater coverage of the stream and a more comprehensive understanding of how the treatments affect non-target organisms. Each stream will be divided into sections that groups will be assigned to walk or canoe/kayak.



Help needed!

Volunteers are needed to help collect aquatic organisms killed by the treatment. Buckets, nets and data collection forms will be provided. Volunteers need to bring waders (chest waders preferred) or hip boots, polarized glasses, warm cloths and lunch/dinner and must be able/prepared to walk in the river for several hours and miles.

If you’re interested in volunteering or would like additional information, please contact Karen Adair at kadair@tnc.org (preferred) or cell (330) 687-2134.



Kids and marshes

Children can explore the wonders of a swamp, identify its inhabitants and learn about GPS mapping at Western Reserve Land Conservancy’s Kids in the Marsh event from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 20, at Ashcroft Woods Preserve in Ashtabula County. Ashcroft Woods is located on Johnson Road, west of Route 45, near Orwell.

You must register to attend. To do so, contact Kim Bihler at kbihler@wrlandconservancy.org or (440) 528-4162.  Details will be sent to you just before the event.

This is a new event in the Land Conservancy’s Kids In! series.  Kids in the Marsh will allow children to learn about the unique habitat of a swamp, with several stations to highlight a variety of marsh qualities.  Children will learn how to identify beaver dams, frogs and amphibians, discover vernal pools and get an overview of GPS mapping using wood duck boxes. A portable toilet will be on site, and there are additional bathroom facilities nearby.

Attendees should dress for the weather and wear rubber boots, preferably those that are knee high.  Also bring a water bottle.

To get to Ashcroft Woods, take I-90 to the state Route 45 exit in Austinburg. Head south (turn right) onto Route 45. Continue on Route 45 for approximately 14 miles. You will take a right onto Johnson Road, which is the second street past U.S. Route 6. Head west on Johnson Road for approximately one mile. The driveway to Ashcroft Wood is on the north side of Johnson Road.

You can also take state Route 322 east to Route 45.  Head north on Route 45 and left on Johnson Road.



Farmland turkeys

The wild turkey and its ever-expanding range represent one of America’s greatest wildlife success stories. Areas of the country that — coinciding closely with the arrival of the first European settlers — saw the loss of the wild turkey now lay claim to the big birds once again.

Where suitable habitat exists, the birds have prospered. Farm country is not exempt from this trend. The wild turkey has spread to the fields and small woodlots we associate with areas of agriculture. At such places, their numbers are on the rise.

The experience of hunting the farm country gobbler is every bit as exciting, and is as exacting, as is hunting toms living in large tracts of forested hills and mountains. In fact, the bagging of a farm-country tom often rises to a level of difficulty somewhat above and beyond that of taking a bird in big woodlands — added challenge that only adds to the reward of filling your tag with a farmland tom.



Habitat

Many farms are in lowland areas; others are on hillsides, even on mountaintops. But to hold turkeys, they all need to have one thing in common, a section of woods and it doesn’t have to be a large area, it just needs to be one that can provide the birds a roosting area. Tall trees with a mix of conifers offer the ideal enticement for turkeys to roost area.

Be it a spring, stream, water trough, lake or water-filled ditch, all farms have some source of water. And all farms where wild turkeys live provide the food sources that a turkey needs to survive. Otherwise, the birds simply wouldn’t be found there.



Scouting

For actually finding the birds, it’s paramount that you scout a farm area just as you would scout the forests for big-woods turkeys. Scouting can be done at any time of year, for turkey you see in the fall will most likely inhabit the same area come spring.

Locating a springtime gobbler requires spending some pre-season evenings listening for gobbles; it may also necessitate putting some miles on your vehicle as you search for birds. You may even want to spend some time spent knocking on farmhouse doors and asking the residents if they know of any birds on the property. This is also an excellent time to seek permission to hunt, as you’re in the process of introducing yourself and making a favorable initial impression, anyway.

Once you locate some toms, you’ll be much better off come opening day if you’ve spent some time watching the birds from a distance. Stay hidden as you look for little habits peculiar to a particular tom. Perhaps he leaves his roosting area late, or goes to water early; maybe he struts the morning away on a certain piece of ground, or feeds in a certain section of a field.

Any hint of a pattern that you can discern through such observation will increase your odds of bagging that tom come the time that you actually hunt him. Don’t expect a tom to come running across open land to your first calls — it just doesn’t work out that way. Your best chance for success is to scout him and learn his habits and patterns.



Dress for success

Full camouflage is a must, including gloves and facemask, but be careful here. Green-pattern, oak leaf, woodland and other camo designs one ordinarily associated with turkey hunting can make you stick out like a sore thumb in farm country. Wear the wrong color in the wrong place and you can pretty much forget about taking a bird.

The correct camo color and style will depend on where you eventually choose a set up point. If you hide and call in a woodlot, or call from one woodlot to another with open space in between, normal camo patterns will suffice, but if you have no other spot to sit in but in open territory, you have to match the colors surrounding you.

Corn stubble often remains in the spring season in farm country, as persistent foul weather sometimes prevents farmers from plowing those fields. If you hunt along the edge of corn stubble, you’d better match that color. Many waterfowl camo patterns incorporate corn stubble and yellow grasses, and these are thus smart choices for those setting up at such places. Setting up an ambush near a lone tree requires something dark in a tree-bark pattern.

The basic imperative here is to match the color of your hiding place, because hunting in farm country requires all the stealth you can assemble to fool these sharp-eyed turkeys.



Don’t under gun

Just as important is the correct choice of a shotgun and load. Ten- and 12-gauge shotguns with appropriate turkey loads are the top choices, simply because they pack more pellets and more wallop over a greater distance than do smaller gauges.

Some days are different, and you may call a tom in to close range, but that’s the rare occasion, not the norm. Most of the time you’ll be shooting in the 30-yard-range, or slightly beyond, because gobblers more often than not grow ever more suspicious as they close in on a position from which they hear turkey calls originate.

If you’ve hunted gobblers before and have seen the sight of their leaving strut accompanied by the quick change of head color from white to red, then you know either that you’ve either been picked off or, at the very least, that the tom no longer trusts the situation and is about to head for another piece of real estate. When that happens, and if the turkey’s within that 30-yard range, you’ll want to have enough gun to stop him.



Dupe ’em with deaks

Decoys may help you bring that bird closer. In fact, you’d better have some fakes on the ground if you hope to call in the big birds at all, especially in open-field settings.

Farm hunting conditions differ in many aspects from those in the big woods pursuit of toms, but the most obvious and thus most crucial is the fact that turkeys can easily zero in on your calling position. You can hide among trees in big woods and soften your calls to make that tom believe that you’re over the next little ridge or around the next point but not so in farm country. A call in open fields or small woodlots can be pinpointed and if a tom sees no turkeys making your love talk, don’t expect him to come in.

And more decoys are better than fewer. Boss gobblers are greedy when it comes to females; the more there are in his circle of receptive hens, the better he enjoys life. Two hen decoys will work nicely, but three or four will work better. Place a Jake in the mix, and you’ll have a bunch of "talking" turkeys that a tom can’t resist.

As mentioned earlier, lightweight decoys that move in the wind seem to be a preferred choice at present. Movement adds to the realism you endeavor to achieve with decoys, and that added realism will almost certainly vastly improve your chances of bagging a bird.



The setup

Farms can be surprisingly devoid of cover. Modern-day farming uses every available piece of land, leaving no weedy edges or fencerows as part of the landscape. If turkeys live in the small patches of woods near these farms, they’ll notice anything out of place in the open land. Fence posts are a setup choice, but it seems they never fully hide a human body, and a turkey knows that a fat post doesn’t fit among skinny ones.

Sometimes a small depression in the ground (even a small hole) is a better place for a hunter to set up his ambush. With decoys in place, and knowing the direction from which the tom will approach, lying on the ground is the logical choice. Whatever you settle on had better be comfortable, because you may be in that position for a long time — and it had better be safe (a topic that we’ll return to shortly).

To provide summer shade for livestock, farmers often leave solitary trees or small groups of large trees along field edges and in the middle of pastures. These are sensible places to set up with your decoys, especially if you’ve scouted the turkeys in these areas and know that they pass nearby.

Areas with water, in ponds or lakes or even troughs, can offer other smart setup points if a workable place to hide can be found there. A ditch would be a great place for your hideaway, as would a thick clump of brush, or crop fields already experiencing the growth of spring.



Alternatives

One other possible choice is to sneak into the woods in which the tom that you’re hunting roosts. Do so only after he has left the woods. To be successful with this strategy, you’ll have to have access to those woods from the side opposite the point at which the tom exited, and you’ll have to enter so that you’re not detected by your quarry. Also you’ll have to make all of these movements with safety in mind. But if a tom hears a hen back at the place that he thinks of as his bedroom, he’ll more often than not come back home for some fun.



Think comfortable

Make the place you choose to call from as easy and soft on your body as circumstance allows. Always keep in mind that you’ll have to be still and may have to hold your gun for a long time, and thus have really no margin for error with an approaching tom. Put some serious time into choosing a setup position.



Calling techniques

Calling to farm country toms requires the same assortment of yelps, clucks, purrs and cuts you make to their big-woods cousins, you simply have to sound like a turkey or, if you have multiple decoys, like multiple turkeys. If you have a jake in your decoy spread and have mastered the sound of a gobble, you’ll be ahead of the game, as a gobbling jake may be what it takes to bring in a mature tom when all other calls fail. But, this is one call you should only use if you know you’re alone in the area and use it sparingly at that.

It also helps to be proficient with a diaphragm call. The hand motion required to work a slate or box call is a no-no in farm country, especially as a tom closes in. You’ll want to have your gun aimed and be ready to fire when the first opportunity to do so presents itself.



Play it safe

Safety in turkey hunting can never be stressed too much, no matter where you hunt. When you hunt a farm, find out from the owner if anyone else will be hunting there while you do. Try to hunt the farm alone. Certain setups, such as lying in a depression with decoys all about you, can be an irresistible invitation to an unknowing hunter. Sneaking into woods or a field can put you in danger if another hunter is already there.

Know the layout of the property you hunt. If another hunter approaches your position without seeing you, always shout very loudly, letting that hunter know that you’re already there. Keep an orange hat close by too; you can wave it if needed, or wear it when moving about the property. No doubt some of these actions may spook a tom turkey, but no bird is worth risking your life for.



One tough bird

The wild turkey is a noble bird, and the farm tom is no pushover. In many ways, hunting the farmland tom requires hunters to bring forth their best hunting abilities. If you’re skilled enough, work hard at scouting and planning your hunt, and get downright lucky enough to bag a turkey down on the farm, then you’ll understand the unique feeling that is the reward of hunting the farm-country tom.

Remember, pass it on or it will surely pass on.

Sunderlin is a freelance writer from Geneva. Reach him at djss@roadrunner.com.