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BOWMAN: Batavia teenager bags second tom turkey in as many springs

Morgan Kunert bagged 25-pound tom turkey with beard 10 ¼ inches Saturday opening morning for youth turkey hunting Illinois' north

Morgan Kunert bagged a 25-pound tom turkey, with a beard of 10 ¼ inches, on Saturday on opening morning for youth turkey hunting in Illinois' north zone. Credit: For the Sun-Times

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Morgan Kunert is turning bagging big toms in spring
turkey hunting into a
spectator sport. The Batavia teen followed up her success last spring with a 25-pound tom shot Saturday, the opening day of the youth-hunt weekend for Illinois’ north zone.

‘‘We had to work a little to get him, as we were competing with about 20 other hens in our first spot,’’ dad Mike Kunert emailed. ‘‘She got this guy at our fourth setup spot. [He] had another old tom with him that was a little bigger, but he stayed back about 70 yards and watched her shoot this guy!’’

Her tom, bagged in Warren County, was big enough, with a 101/4-inch beard and 25-millimeter spurs.

Toms are the talk of the month. Only tom turkeys (males or gobblers) may be shot in the spring seasons. Hunters generally call in toms by imitating hens. It is one of the great thrills and accomplishments in hunting.

The first season in Illinois’ north zone opens Monday. The first season in the south zone is already open, with its second season opening Saturday.

Weather, both the wind and the rain, is always a factor in spring turkey hunting. It especially affects weekend hunts, when the most hunters go afield.

Paul Brewer, the manager of the Wild Turkey Project in Illinois, indicated the record heat last spring might have helped.

‘‘Reports from our field staff and other observers indicate that a lot of turkeys hatched early in the spring of 2012, well before the worst of the drought,’’ he emailed. ‘‘By the time drought conditions were very bad, the young turkeys were large and mobile enough to get to permanent water sources and also to forage over larger areas. The dry spring seems to have improved production in most areas in Illinois and other nearby states.’’

This spring, obviously, has been vastly different from last year.

‘‘While this spring was colder than last year, it is below — but not far below — average temperatures for this time of year,’’ Brewer emailed. ‘‘Breeding activity is controlled primarily by amount of daylight . . . but it might be delayed somewhat by colder weather.’’

As for the impact of more traditional spring weather on hunters, Brewer emailed: ‘‘On cold and wet days, gobblers tend to be a little less vocal and active. However, that behavior can change and improve rapidly on warmer days.’’

Warmer days eventually will settle in (I think).

Buck bust

A black eye in Illinois hunting has concluded. Chris Kiernan of Minooka pleaded guilty to taking a 36-point buck, one of the greatest ever killed in Illinois, without obtaining permission and related charges, all Class B misdemeanors, Grundy County state’s attorney Jason Helland said.

Kiernan was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution and forfeit all contraband to the IDNR and pay a fine and court costs of $840. He also was placed on conditional discharge for 24 months and ordered not to hunt during that period.

Stray cast

Voting in the election Tuesday for the 2nd Congressional District was like fishing for stocked trout.

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