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Lake life

Turkey + tag = a new gun

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Justin Keen of Choudrant won the grand prize in the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Tag and Validate to Gobble Up Prizes Sweepstakes, it was announced this morning. Keen won a Mossberg Model 535 Triple Play 12-gauge shotgun. Two other hunters will be selected to receive lifetime hunting licenses.

An integral part of LDWF’s turkey management program is hunters reporting each harvested turkey, as required by Louisiana hunting regulations. During the 2016 turkey season, hunters had the added incentive provided by the Tag and Validate to Gobble Up Prizes Sweepstakes.

Hunters needed only to validate each tag for each turkey harvested during the 2016 season. Each validated tag equated to an entry in the prize drawing. Any hunter who validated his/her turkey tag information within seven days after harvest was automatically entered in the contest.

“Tagging information plays a vital role in our management of the state’s turkey population,’’ said Cody Cedotal, Wild Turkey/Small Game Program Manager for LDWF. “So we came up with the Tag and Validate to Gobble Up Prizes Sweepstakes as an extra incentive for turkey hunters to report their harvests.”

Turkey hunting is what Keen, 32, said he loves most. It’s a family affair and he often hunts with his wife, Laura. He schedules his vacation time around turkey season.

But he said he wasn’t sure he’d harvest his limit this season as he didn’t hear much when hunting.

“This wasn’t a good year for us as far as turkeys gobbling,’’ Keen said. “They weren’t very vocal this year. But I got lucky. On the first one, I didn’t hear any gobbling at daylight. But about an hour after daylight, I finally heard one just start gobbling in the clear cut. I was able to get a shot on him.

“The second one, I happened to go out one morning and he was gobbling right at the crack of dawn. I was able to set up pretty close to where he was roosted. Got him shortly after he flew down.’’

Keen said he’s seen first-hand how LDWF’s management of the state’s turkey population has helped numbers increase. He said he believes reporting harvested turkeys is a critical role in management.

“It’s really good where I hunt,’’ Keen said. “Over the years, I’ve seen the numbers go up. A lot of my buddies that hunt around the same area I do, they used to not have any birds and now they’re starting to see a lot more. Our birds are steadily spreading out. We’ve always had birds on our hunting club and in the area. We’re starting to see them in a lot of different spots now. They seem to be doing good in our area.’’

Turkey harvest validation, or reporting, provides parish-level data on the season harvest numbers, sex ratios and calendar information that illustrate trends in the state’s turkey harvest. That information plays a critical role in setting season lengths and bag limits. If harvest data is under-reported, LDWF biologists and managers cannot make accurate determinations on hunting success and turkey population parameters.

Prior to hunting turkeys, all turkey hunters, regardless of age or license status, must obtain turkey tags and have tags in possession while hunting. Immediately upon harvesting a turkey, the hunter must tag the turkey with the appropriate license tag before it is moved from the site, and the hunter must document the harvest on the attached report card portion of the turkey tag license.

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