February 24, 2010

Today was such an exciting day for me. Once again I was privileged enough to be invited by members of the PGC to accompany them on an adventure. This time it was trapping turkeys. Now I must admit up front I am not a turkey hunter. I find it much easier to go to the grocery store when I have a hunger for turkey meat. But I could not refuse the invitation, when it comes to wildlife and the things that a WCO for the PGC does I am always interested. You see, it is not always about writing tickets for folks who break the game laws and it definitely is not all about our whitetail deer.. They do so much more and this was one more chance to see how they gather information for research. This time on turkeys. I have posted the photos as thumbnails, so to see the larger version just click on that photo....

The day started at 6:30am, we met at an arranged meeting place and went to the place the trap was set on a local resident's property. The trap and bait were actually set-up Monday afternoon and the land owner reported 17 turkeys were coming into it every morning and afternoon after that. In the morning they were arriving around 7am and about 3pm in the afternoon.

The "rockets" were charged and set and everything was a "go" at about 6:45am. We did not have to wait long at 7:12am I spotted the first turkeys coming over the hilltop and straight at the bait.
The two guys in the blind waited until as many of the 17 birds were within range of the net as possible before firing the rockets and sending the net soaring into the sky and over the birds.
This was interesting and entertaining at the same time as some of the birds tried to take off they actually raised the net off the ground enough that by doing that it allowed the ones that tried running away to escape under the lifted net.. now it was time for everyone to spring into action.
Some of us ran to the edges of the net and stood on it to keep it from lifting any more and allowing more birds to escape. While others were assigned to get covers to lay over the trapped turkeys to get them to calm down and lay still, which actually worked great at doing just that.

One of the more interesting and challenging events came next trying to untangle the birds one at a time without hurting them. I could not begin to tell you just how tangled most of these birds became in a matter of a few moments. But I can attest to the fact that no birds were injured or harmed in the trapping, handling and tagging of them today. In total we managed to trap 9 of the 17 birds that showed up, not all of them were in range of the net when it was fired, but the "shooters" were noticing the birds were not eating very much and were afraid they may just walk away. The land owner told us they had stayed and fed until 5pm the night before. So we were happy they even showed up as early and quickly as they did and we did not have a long sit and wait period.
The break down of the birds was... 2 adult hens that received special treatment which I will detail shortly, 5 young hens, and 2 jakes.

The next step in the process was to carry the birds over to have a leg band placed on their leg. These leg bands have an ID number on them and the information for that particular leg band and bird are recorded. There is also a phone number to the PGC on them.The guys asked me to remind hunters that if you harvest a bird that has a leg band on it to call and report the harvest and the info on the band, in return for your cooperation the PGC will send the hunter $100 for taking the time to report the harvest of the banded bird.

When the bird is brought to the person that is going to place the band on its leg, a "hood" is slipped over the bird's head to help calm it while being handled. It works great !!!
The last step before releasing the bird is a general inspection of the bird to determine it's over all health and to make sure it has not been injured during the trapping.

The most exciting part of today's adventure for everyone was the chance to be involved in the first experiments in Elk County for placing transmitters on wild turkeys to allow a satellite to track them after being released. I hope the photos are not too boring but I was asked to take plenty of this activity since it is/was the first time for all in attendance.. so here they are... first the transmitter itself and then the first Elk County adult hen to get a transmitter attached to her back, much like a back pack a child wears to school...

I'd like to describe the process of attaching the transmitter then post the photos of the various stages, naturally it gets a leg band first, then the unit(transmitter) is place on the back and elastic "straps' are run around the bird behind the wings and then at the rear of the unit. Small knots are tied in the ends of the elastic straps and then the knots are super glued while a piece of plastic is held under the unit so the glue does not get on the bird. The ends of the straps are then trimmed off, a general inspection and the bird is set free to fly away.

I thought I would share a couple pictures of one of the lighter moments from this morning. I couldn't help noticing one of the last birds in the net was beginning to stir under the covers so I went over and two of us started to untangle it. I noticed pretty quick two things.. this bird was heavier and alot stronger.. It took only a minute to see it was a jake and he was not happy. Two of us struggled to get him free... Here is a photo of Bob holding that rascal and I think you can tell by Bob's expression that he is struggling to hold the bird still, and a photo of the beard on the fella...

The last adult hen was tagged and fitted with a transmitter and was taken to the landowner's wife who was standing near by watching the event. She was allowed to hold it and photos were taken and then the bird was released. That ended our duties of trapping and tagging, now it was time for clean-up and re-packing the net. The first job was to stretch out and straighten the net then slowly pack it back into the box. In the following photos you can see us stretching the net out then the guys packing it away and finally a photo of the three "rockets" that are used to propel the net into the air to trap the birds.

Once again I have been blessed with experiencing an event that not everyone gets to do . I thank everyone that was there today -- Bill, Doty, Bob, Ron,and Dick ...and especially the property owners who ended our day with hot coffee and "home-made" sticky buns.

Also thanks to YOU for stopping by and reading/viewing the page..