Outdoors: Nice start to turkey season

Mary and Chris Ryba pose with the double turkeys they nabbed on opening day.

Great birds, great opener on Wednesday.

Seems like I've always been too busy fishing this time of year to hunt the area's burgeoning wild turkey population. But with salmon fishing as poor as it is right now, why not.

I am about as non-expert as it gets, but put me in a can't miss situation and, well, sometimes I don't mess up.

So it was along the edge of one of those nearly-impenetrable, sanctuary swamps, which happens to have an island with a stand of roosting pines in its midst. A walk-about last winter revealed plenty of the expected deer sign in the 50-yard patch of solid ground, but it also wreaked like a barn yard — there was that much turkey scat and feathers beneath the evergreens.

Slipping into an old deer blind along the marsh's edge, I was startled by a great, booming gobble, which set off other booming gobbles in the darkness. Ever notice how birds stir a half-hour before the half-hour before sunrise when humans can see? In spite of all their oddities, turkey are still just big birds.

Part of the almost sure thing was two sides of the swamp were bordered by a road or open water and the third was a maize of underbrush and briars. The deer hide edged up against relatively open woods.

The first few turkeys whoop-whooped down while crackling small branches and crashing into the leaves. There is nothing subtle about a 20-pound bird landing in the woods. In the gloaming, they scratched away out of sight.

More coasted out of the pines, grounding out of range, noisily milling about then disappearing. Perhaps my attempts at yelps and chirps offended them.

Doubt was stalking when thoughts of backing out and circling for a ambush were interrupted by a turkey traveling, rather quickly, my way. I don't know what spooked him my direction, but he was big and had a beard and one loud boom later he was mine.

Back home, social media was abuzz with exploits and photos of dozens of gorgeous, opening-day toms. Last year, La Porte County hunters bagged 197 gobblers during the spring season and I suspect nearly one-third that many were tagged on Wednesday.

Best of which may of been Mary Ryba and her son Chris, who doubled-up on a pair weighing 24 and 22 pounds.

"Chris says take your pick, so I took the biggest one at 13 yards and Chris shot immediately afterwards," Mary said. “What an adrenaline rush."

Indeed, getting big birds to come that close can get anyone going.

"The turkeys — three jakes and three toms — flew down on the other side of a six-acre field from our ground blind," Mary said. "They played around for 15 minutes before hearing my son's calls and seeing the decoys, then they came running.

"The words 'take your pick' keeps going around in my head. What a fun hunt with my son."

Indiana's wild turkey season continues through May 14. The limit is one bearded turkey for the spring season. For more information on Indiana turkey hunting, see http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/8695.htm.

• Salmon contests: Break Time, with captain's Jim Bellman and Tony Wiatrowski, captured the first Michigan City tournament of the season, the Buffalo Bill Memorial, on Saturday. Break Time easily outdistanced the 17-boat field with 37.6 pounds, which included an eight-pound steelhead and nine healthy coho. Larry Richmann, Jr. (Just 1 More) took big fish honors with a 8.2 pound steelhead.

Mostly it was tough fishing, with salmon terribly scattered inside 200 feet. The top seven boats had 10 fish limits and all came 18 or more miles from port over the 200-250 foot depths.

"Gold Thin Fins on top and the Yellow Killer Stinger on bottom," Wiatrowski said of the winning baits. And yes, they were pulling shrimp-eating salmon off the bottom in 200-plus feet of water.

Complete Buffalo Bill results can be found at www.michianasteelheaders.com.

The Hoosier Coho Club Pro/Am is set for Saturday and features simple rules. Just weigh your best five salmon or trout, start at 7 a.m. and be at the weigh-in by 3 p.m. Entry is $100 in Pro, $50 in Am and 100 percent is paid to winners.

Late registration starts at 5:30 a.m. behind the Yacht Club at the Michigan City harbor. Complete rules are at www.hoosiercohoclub.org.

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