LifestylePublic Lands/WildernessSports

Getting Started Turkey Hunting

By Don Mallicoat- Our regular hunting season ends in a couple of weeks as small game like rabbit, squirrel and grouse hunting ends. I hear a lot of folks talk about the growing population of turkeys in the mountains. Well, here’s your chance to get that population in check.

If you’ve never hunted wild turkey before they are a challenge! Despite getting skunked last year that challenge calls me back to the woods this spring.

If this is the year you want to get started, the WRC and National Wild Turkey Federation are here to help.

They are offering free turkey hunting seminars across the state in March. The seminars, which will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., are open on a first-come, first-served basis and participants 16 years old and younger will need parental permission to register.

Pre-registration is required and participants must register online at www.ncwildlife.org/Learning/Skills-Based-Seminars.

The closest one in our area is on March 20, 6 – 9 p.m., at the Mountain Horticulture Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River.

Topics will include biology, hunting methods, calls and decoys, firearms and ammo selection, camouflage clothing, and turkey processing and cooking techniques. Each seminar will conclude with a Q&A session and a brief overview of R3 (hunter recruitment, retention and re-activation) initiatives.

According to Walter “Deet” James, the Commission’s hunting heritage biologist, “Although open to all skill levels, this ‘all-in-one’ seminar is specifically created for those who are interested in turkey hunting, but don’t know how to get started. It’s especially suited for people who lack an existing hunting mentor.” If you don’t have that hunting mentor, but want to get started chasing these elusive birds this is a great opportunity.

The annual firearms industry show, SHOT Show, wrapped up in Las Vegas, NV about a month ago. Again your intrepid reporter didn’t go because of budgetary constraints. There’s also the fact I’ve been to Las Vegas and have no desire to return. But I did follow the news coming out of the show with new product releases and upgraded guns.

Everything I saw and read indicates the firearms industry is still focused on the tactical market both with firearms and accessories (particularly optics) with a lot of interest in tactical long range rifles. If that’s your gig the firearms market is your friend.

There were very few new product roll outs compared to previous years. Mossberg, historically know for its shotguns, has introduced a new concealed carry handgun, the MC1sc in 9mm. That’s another thing I noticed in firearms news from the show.

Other than the MC1sc, there wasn’t much new out there. Most of the new firearm introductions were essentially redesigns or upgrades of existing models. That said, it does seem like the concealed carry, compact, inexpensive handgun is still the dominant force in the handgun market.

Most of the buzz was generated by Winchester with introduction of the new 350 Legend cartridge. It’s a .357 caliber bullet in a straight wall .223 cartridge. Yes, it is designed for deer hunting and will be initially offered in the Winchester XPR bolt action rifle. On the shotgun front, the gun getting most of the attention was the new Benelli 828U Sporting over/under. It’s basically the clay target model of the 828 Field they rolled out a couple of years ago.

As long as we’re talking about the firearms industry, one of the indicators of health in the firearms world is adjusted NICS (National Instant Background Check System) numbers. This is the system gun stores use to do federally required background checks.

There is both good and not so good news on estimated firearms sales. Since July we have seen an upward trend in background checks, usually an indicator of a firearms purchase. Not so good news is that December 2018 checks were nearly 150,000 below last December’s figures.

In fact, only one month exceeded the number of background checks against the previous year number.

Over the past year background checks are down by 7.8%. What this says is the market is changing and I would say tightening within certain firearm categories, particularly in hunting rifles and shotguns. This is reflected in the SHOT Show offerings.

Other than the new Winchester cartridge, most of the emphasis was on tactical and long range rifles, long range optics, and tactical shooting accessories.

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