March 31, 2003

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Wisconsin’s Outdoor Amendment

   Wisconsin’s legislature has overwhelmingly approved an amendment to that state’s Constitution "to provide that people have the right to fish, hunt, trap, and take game subject only to reasonable restrictions as prescribed by law," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


   On April 1, the referendum will be put to Wisconsin’s

voters, who will determine if it becomes part of the state’s Constitution.  Wisconsin residents are urged to vote in favor of the amendment. 

   Alabama, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia already have made outdoor recreation a Constitutional right.

Black Carp Found in Illinois

   Rob Maher, IL DNR Commercial Fishing Program Manager reports that a commercial fisherman fishing in Horseshoe Lake, Alexander County harvested a black carp (about 12 ¾ lbs.) Thursday March 28.  Horseshoe Lake is a part of the Mississippi River, located in southern Illinois about 15 miles south of Cape Girardeau, and 10 miles north of the Kentucky-Missouri state line.


   The USFWS, on July 30, 2002 published in the Federal Register a notice of intent to list the black carp as a

species of injurious wildlife.  On August 13, 2002 the Illinois DNR sent a letter to the Service fully supporting the listing of black carp under the Lacey Act as an injurious fish species.


   No specimens of black carp had been found previously in the wild in the Mississippi River Basin.  A half dozen or so were reported escaped from a private fish hatchery near Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri during the 1994 floods. The black carp is a mollusk eater and it is feared that they could harm native snail and mussel populations.

Minnesota Lead legislation proposals update

   Senator Yvonne Prettner-Solon, the senate bill sponsor reiterated her desire to put forth a re-write of the current bill. The House companion bill has been withdrawn. It was  pointed out that it was disingenuous of her to be re-writing a bill without any consensus from the stakeholders committee. While she didn't appreciate this, she did get the message.


   Lindy - Little Joe, Water Gremlin and Northland Tackle all expressed interest in moving lead free products to the market, but opposed any ban. It is clear that Minnesota will drive these companies to other states with a ban. 1000's of Minnesota jobs are at stake. These companies are very willing to participate in voluntary angler education.


   Audubon's hand in this proposed ban is becoming more visible, they see lead fishing tackle as an extremely toxic, lethal substance. Pam Perry with the MN DNR Non-game program Loon Watch, keeps pushing studies that don't seem to apply. In

the past 15 years Michigan has identified 42 (37 & 5) loons found on the great lakes (37) as possibly died from lead. But these birds are usually found in the late fall which leads one to

believe that they are migrating from Canada to the East Coast. Only (5 )loons in 15 years have been found in inland waters. It appears that some of these loons may be attracted to painted jig heads on the bottom of very clear hard bottomed lakes. In the soft bottomed lakes of Minnesota , this shouldn't be a concern.


   But the real damage that is being done, is portraying fishing tackle as toxic. No matter how much damage control we do, people are hearing that lead in fishing tackle is bad. I'm very concerned that the long range damage from this proposed bill will be in the form of youth lost from fishing. In this day and age young people are very sensitive to environmental concerns- tagging fishing as pollution is irresponsible..

Courtesy: Vern Wagner, Conservation Director  Minnesota Bass Federation, and  MOHA  Board member

Lake Michigan perch continue to decline 

Research finds yellow perch still not reproducing

   MILWAUKEE – Results from a year’s worth of assessment activities on southern Lake Michigan show yellow perch continuing to struggle.


   "Basically, the Perch drop is linked to the decline in food supply," said Senior Scientist John Janssen. "Hypothesis points to zebra mussel as likely culprit.  Zebra mussels are thought to be the reason for a crash in the population of a tiny crustacean that lives in the soft sediments that prevail on the lake bottom on the Michigan side. They are the top food of yellow perch once the perch reach 2" in length. "Yellow perch thought to be suffering from poor reproduction may actually be producing normal numbers of offspring."


   Underwater surveys conducted in June 2002 indicated that yellow perch are laying eggs in good numbers – at least compared to recent years. But surveys turned up low numbers of perch hatched from those eggs, continuing a 14-year-trend of paltry year-classes interrupted by "fair" year classes in 1995 and 1998.


   "We actually saw a fairly big increase in the number of egg masses we saw compared to some of the earlier egg deposition surveys, and those eggs probably hatched as they always have," says Brad Eggold, WI DNR southern Lake Michigan fisheries supervisor. "But that time between hatching and coming back to nearshore water and surviving that first winter – that seems to be doing them in. That’s the black hole."


   Assessment results, Eggold and other fisheries biologists say, support continuing DNR’s ban on commercial fishing

for yellow perch and a restrictive bag limit of five fish per day for sport anglers. More importantly, those results support a theory and subsequent research to help explain that "black hole" in the yellow perch life cycle.


   Janssen believes wind and water currents may be blowing newly hatched yellow perch across southern Lake Michigan to where they may have a limited food supply.  So, Janssen and DNR crews in mid-summer 2002 towed a large, fine mesh net behind boats to track the fates of newly hatched yellow perch. About 10 days after hatching, the young perch had drifted and were most abundant about 10 miles offshore. A few days later, the young fish were found in good numbers as far as 25 miles offshore.


   "We found that 10 -12 days after hatching in Wisconsin, we were getting good numbers of fish a third of the way to Michigan," Janssen says. The young fish find themselves far from home in an environment that may have little food, perhaps as a result of growing populations of the exotic zebra mussel.


   On the east side of Lake Michigan, which tends to have a soft bottom, zebra mussels eat phytoplankton, Janssen says. Phytoplankton that settle to the bottom, particularly diatoms, are the primary food of the burrowing amphipod, the main organisms young perch feed on where there are soft bottoms. Zebra mussels also may filter the water, increasing the clarity so other fish may more easily see and prey upon the young perch.


   "If you get fish blown to what is a food desert, you’ve got a problem," Janssen says. "Those fish have another problem in how do they find their way back home. It could be a substantial number of them don’t." Typically, after yellow perch in Lake Michigan hatch they swim up to the surface and get caught in the currents. "After 40 or 50 days, if they’re lucky, they manage to come ashore in Wisconsin where there is rocky habitat," Janssen says. If the fish are unlucky, they get blown to the Michigan shore, where there may be a growing lack of food, presumably because of the zebra mussels.

   Whatever the factors leading to the demise of young perch, the population assessments DNR and other cooperating agencies and universities did in 2002 seemed to point to the same trends visible since the mid-1990s. Young yellow perch aren’t surviving to enter the fishery; the 1998 year-class which is mainly contributing to sport fishing opportunities is declining fast.

Specifically, in 2002:

  • DNR crews using SCUBA gear to survey spawning sites in early June found the highest number of egg masses – 573 egg masses or 11.53 per 1,000 square meters -- since such sampling began in 1997. That total compares to a low of nine egg masses in 1997, and the second highest total of 223 in 2001, and likely reflects the 1998 year-class in its peak sexual maturity in 2002.

  • Crews in June captured a total of 1,812 yellow perch during the spawning season, including 167 females and 1,645 males in two lifts. The number of fish and of female fish caught was down from 2001. Of the 167 females, the majority of them had spawned already, 34 % were not yet ready to spawn, and 11% were ripe but hadn’t spawned.

  • Over summer 2002, DNR fisheries staff collected spines from 402 perch caught by anglers to determine the fishes' age. Of that total, 94 %were from the 1998 year-class.

  • Crews in August and September conducted young-of-the-year (YOY) sampling and found 1.3 yellow perch per 100' of seine haul, up slightly from the last two or three years, but considerably lower than in the 1980s. For the first time this year, DNR crews also used very small mesh gill nets to do additional sampling, building an index to assess the numbers of YOY yellow perch.

  • DNR winter assessments in December 2002 and February 2003 using gill nets with different size meshes hauled in only 81 fish, in some part a reflection of windy conditions in December, January and February that limited the amount of time the boat spent on the water. Again, the 1998 year-class showed up very well, with 88 percent of the fish from that year class. There were few numbers of young perch.

  • DNR analysis of creel surveys from 2002 showed that the Lake Michigan perch harvest of 97, 747 declined from 2001’s sport harvest of 133,660, but was still the second-highest since the five-fish bag limit was implemented in 1996. It was driven by Milwaukee County, which supplied two-thirds of the Lake Michigan total, and reflected the 1998 year-class.

  • In order to provide additional protection to the 1998 year-class, especially mature females, the closed season was changed from all of June to May 1 to June 15, effective 2002.


   "What these assessments and the harvest data show is that the yellow perch population definitely is still struggling," Eggold says. "The harvest and creation of future year classes has been dependent on this '98 year class and they’re going to be age five this year. They’re still capable of spawning quite effectively.


   The 2002 assessment results show that the yellow perch population has decreased 90 % since the mid-1980s. Eggold says that continuing the ban on commercial fishing and the low sport bag limit should provide the protection the fishery needs to recover, and he remains optimistic that the yellow perch population will bounce back – given the right conditions.


   "Historically, they have rebounded from very low numbers in the past," he says. "But it’s going to take a set of environmental factors to come together to produce good year classes."

Another Lake Michigan forecast for 2003

   Wisconsin DNR Fisheries biologist John Kubisiak and Bill Horns, DNR’s Great Lakes specialist, are cautious about predicting what 2003 will bring. For starters, the fantastic chinook fishing during the last two years was fueled mainly by the extremely good survival and growth of the 1999 year class. Most of those fish have finished their life cycle, and the fish stocked in subsequent years have produced only average-sized year classes. Those year classes will provide the fishery for 2003, and while catches of chinook should still be good for 2003, Kubisiak says, "we won’t see the phenomenal catches of 2001 and 2002."


   During any year, the success of the fishery depends on factors, including the amount of natural reproduction by salmon and the availability of alewife, the main prey for chinook, that are subject to the whims of nature," Horns says. "We’re very happy about the quality of fishing in recent years, especially in 2002, but we realize that it is not totally within our control."

One reason Horns believes the chinook fishing has been so strong in recent years is that Wisconsin and the other Great Lakes states took steps to assure a sustained supply of alewives. They reduced stocking of chinook by 27 percent, from 6 million to 4.4 million fish in 1999.


   "Even with that action, we’re still trying to monitor the alewife population and are continuing to review the question of how many predator fish, especially chinook, can be sustained by the available forage fish population," Horns says. "That continues to be the central fisheries

management question on Lake Michigan."


   The other key question involving fishing prospects on Lake Michigan revolves around the ability of the state hatchery system to continue stocking Lake Michigan at current levels. Lake Michigan’s trout and salmon fishery is sustained largely by stocking because natural reproduction is limited.


   Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery, the century-old facility that produces more than one quarter of the trout and salmon stocked in Lake Michigan, is aging and its failing water systems and outdated facilities are struggling to keep pace with current production demands. The failure of an artesian well last year that supplied the hatchery required chinook production to be shifted to other state hatcheries. The Natural Resources Board has approved a feasibility plan that calls for a $22.5 million renovation of the facility, one of the state’s most cost-efficient because of its central location and ample groundwater supply.


   Kubisiak’s creel survey charts are available online, on the DNR’s Lake Michigan fisheries page. Go to, then scroll down the lefthand side to the heading "Fisheries Program," and then go to "Lake Michigan" and look under "Management Reports."


For more info: Bill Horns 608-266-8782 [email protected]  John Kubisiak 920-892-8756 ext. 3052  [email protected]

Indiana's J.C. Murphy Lake to be drained, restocked

DNR to hold Open house on the renovation April 3 at Willow Slough

   Indiana DNR plans to temporarily drain Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area's J.C. Murphy Lake to renovate the fishery, enhance waterfowl habitat and improve the lake's 50-year-old dam.


   Murphy Lake in Newton County was once known as one of the best bluegill fishing holes in the state.  Willow Slough's records indicate that the lake was a massive panfish producing machine, known for its spectacular slab-sized "Slough-gill" fishing.  Ice anglers caught more than 15,000 bluegills in one day in 1982, and it was not uncommon to have daily catches surpassing 10,000.


   Good catches this season were only a few hundred fish per day.  Winter fish die offs and proliferation of carp and shad have gradually diminished fishing quality.  The lake's massive surface area and 3-foot average depth make it ideal for bluegill abundance, but also make it susceptible to die offs in severe winters.


   The 1,200-acre lake has been drained and restocked three times since it was built in 1951.  It was last renovated in 1989.  After each renovation, the lake's bluegill and bass populations have flourished.  Waterfowl habitat has also improved after each renovation since vegetation thrives on the temporarily dry lake bed, providing

excellent nesting and feeding cover when the area is re-flooded.


   "We hope to reincarnate Murphy as a world-class panfishing lake and a top waterfowling spot.  In a few years, the lake will again produce stringers of slab bluegill and flocks of ducks and geese," said Mike Schoonveld, Willow Slough assistant property manager.


   DNR staff will begin draining the lake in late April. Size limits will be waived and daily bag limits will be doubled from March 21 - Aug. 31, 2003 to allow anglers to harvest fish.  DNR biologists will also salvage fish as the lake drains and stock them in smaller ponds on the property.  The lake will remain dry while the dam is renovated. Work may also be done on the lake bed to rebuild islands and deepen holes. Murphy Lake will be refilled and stocked with fish in the fall of 2004.


   Details of the lake draining and renovation will be available at a DNR open house on April 3, 6-9 p.m. at Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area near Morocco, Ind.  DNR fisheries and wildlife staff will be on hand to discuss the project and answer questions. Individuals who need reasonable modifications to participate in the event should contact Dave Spitznagle at (219) 285-2704. A 72-hour advance notice is requested.


For more info:

Renovation plan Ok'd for Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery

Updates to meet environmental laws, replace worn-out facilities

   The century-old Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery would receive a $22.5 million overhaul under a feasibility study approved by the state Natural Resources Board in fall 2002. The renovation would allow the aging hatchery, a critical component of Wisconsin’s fish stocking program, to meet environmental laws written since its construction, replace worn out facilities, and allow for expanded production of trout, salmon, walleye, northern pike and lake sturgeon.


   "We’re pleased the board has approved the plan and we will be working in coming months to secure the funding necessary to update this critical facility," says DNR Fish Chief Mike Staggs. "Wild Rose is very important in providing fishing opportunities, in fueling the state’s economy, and in generating tax revenues for critical services such as education and health care for Wisconsin’s elderly citizens."


   Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery now produces 27 percent of the trout and salmon, 64 percent of the northern pike, 100 percent of lake sturgeon and Great Lakes strain spotted musky stocked statewide.


   But Wild Rose’s ability to continue meeting the demand for fishing opportunities is threatened by its aging facilities and a groundwater supply system that fails to meet state environmental standards, according to Al Kaas, statewide propagation coordinator. A system of flowing springs and artesian wells naturally bring groundwater to the surface, allowing DNR to avoid the high cost of using electricity to pump water to the surface.


   The facility is under a compliance order from DNR’s groundwater program to correct all groundwater well issues," Kaas says. "In addition, these water supply problems are now contributing to decreases in fish production and fish health."  Current well code does not allow these wells to be replaced with a similar system.

In addition, output of the current water supply wells has diminished over time, and water quality problems that include pathogens, siltation, debris, excessive dissolved nitrogen, and storm water runoff have limited fish production and caused disease problems, Kaas says. The failure last year of one of the artesian wells supplying the hatchery with water forced DNR to shift production of 200,000 chinook to other state facilities.


   Another problem driving the renovation is that many of the facilities built since the state bought Wild Rose State

Fish Hatchery in 1908 have reached the end of their useful life and are not functioning as they should despite regular maintenance.


   "The pond walls and bulkheads leak water and some allow fish to swim from one raceway section to another," Kaas says. "This situation makes it impossible to keep different species and strains separate. The deterioration of the raceway and pond walls pose safety concerns for staff who work at the hatchery and the people who visit it."


   Kaas and other DNR propagation officials identified overhauling Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery as the top priority in the action plan they were required to develop after a Legislative Audit Bureau review of Wisconsin’s propagation system. Renovating Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery ranked as the hatchery system’s top priority because of its location in central Wisconsin, near many inland and Lake Michigan stocking sites, and its abundant land and groundwater resources. These benefits make the hatchery one of the state’s most cost-efficient facilities.


   A feasibility study conducted by Liesch Consulting of Madison and Fish Pro of Springfield Illinois in 2002 calls for a $22.5 million investment in Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery to meet state groundwater laws and replace the worn out facilities.


   The renovation would require building essentially two new facilities – a cold water hatchery for trout and salmon and a warm water hatchery for northern, musky, walleye and sturgeon. The project would preserve for use as a visitor center a portion of the historic hatchery, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s.

Some existing buildings would be demolished and the former wetlands they’re now located in would be restored, Kaas says. Once completed, the project gives the hatchery the potential to expand production of trout and salmon fingerlings by 200,000, walleye by 460,000, northern pike by 40,000, and sturgeon by 70,000.


   The Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery renovation project would occur over two biennia because of the project size, bonding costs, and the importance of maintaining fish production and stocking program during construction, Kaas says.


   Other strategies Wisconsin plans to pursue to ensure the hatchery system can do its part to meet the growing demand for fishing include rehabilitating other aging state hatcheries, increasing the use of private hatcheries and cooperative agreements with sporting clubs to raise fish, and increasing the efficiency of the propagation system to help meet the stocking needs.

U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance To Defend Hunting on National Wildlife Refuge

   (Columbus) – The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance today moved to intervene to fight the anti-hunters’ suit to ban hunting on the National Wildlife Refuge System.


   At issue is a lawsuit filed today by an anti-hunting organization, The Fund for Animals and twenty individuals, which challenges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s opening of hunting on 39 National Wildlife Refuges since 1997. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.


   The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance maintains that the suit is arbitrary and capricious in that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acted well within its authority when opening the hunting programs.


   The Alliance’s intervention is critical to ensure that hunters’ interests are directly represented before the court.

   “The suit is another example of the grandstanding for which the anti-hunters have become famous,” said Walter

P. Pidgeon, president of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. “They filed their case the day prior to the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the National Wildlife Refuge System being held at Pelican Island, Florida.”


   What is more, Pidgeon said, the suit flies in the face of the Congress’ intent as made clear by the 1997 National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act.  The law firmly established hunting as a priority use of the nearly 100 million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System.


   “Hunting has taken place on the National Wildlife Refuges since the earliest days of the system,” said Pidgeon.  “Anti-hunting interests are merely turning to the courts because they have been patently unsuccessful in convincing Congress to change the law.”


   The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance protects the rights of hunters, anglers and trappers nationally in the courts, legislatures, at the ballot, in Congress and through public education programs.  For more information about the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and its work, call (614) 888-4868 or visit its website,

Anti-Hunters Determined to Disrupt Celebration of Conservation

   Anti-hunters are working to foil the celebration honoring one of this country’s crown jewels, the  nearly 100 million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS).


    The Fund for Animals, a national animal rights organization, and local anti-hunting activists organized a protest at a USFWS office in Arlington, VA to disrupt the National Wildlife Refuge System Centennial Celebration.  Anti-hunters carried signs that read “Stop Hunting and Trapping, National Wildlife No Refuge System” and distributed leaflets directing the public to tell Interior Secretary Gale Norton, , to ban hunting and trapping on the NWRS.


   The protest comes one day after the Fund for Animals filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s opening of hunting on 39 National Wildlife Refuges since 1997.  The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, the nation’s leading sportsman advocacy organization, has moved to intervene in the case.


   According to federal law, the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, the restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.  Hunting is one of four priority public uses of refuge system lands. Others are fishing, wildlife viewing,

and environmental education.


   "The refuge system is a model of how conservation can work in conjunction with multiple-use activities on public lands," said U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Vice President for Government Affairs Rob Sexton.  "Because of their anti-hunting bias, the Fund for Animals is attacking a proven conservation success story."


   From the beginning, sportsmen have been America’s number one conservationists.  As the Washington Post reported today, "In an era predating wildlife protection agencies, hunters were in the best position to notice and protest dwindling wildlife populations."


   Modern sportsmen are the reason refuge land continues to be set aside, protecting critical wildlife habitat.  Hunters have provided more than $600 million through the federal duck stamp program.  These funds have added nearly 5 million acres of habitat to the refuge system. Hunters and anglers are the primary funding source for wildlife conservation in the United States.  Wildlife species are now more abundant in more areas of the country than at any time during the last century.


   "To remove hunters from the National Wildlife Refuge System would be killing the goose that laid the golden egg," said Sexton.  "Hunters willingly pay the lion’s share of conservation funding in the United States and play a key roll in America’s thriving wildlife."


Riverwatch volunteers needed for spring

   Michigan DNR officials are recruiting volunteers to assist Conservation Officers monitoring spring steelhead and walleye spawning runs on the Allegan and Hamilton Dams in Allegan County.


   "Riverwatch Patrols," scheduled in Allegan for April 7-20, help protect fish during critical spawning activity. The Riverwatch Program allows citizen volunteers to assist conservation officers by providing a visible presence on the waterways and reporting illegal activities such as snagging, improperly hooked fish and other violations. The program is especially effective near dams, where spawning

fish tend to congregate.


   "This program has grown throughout Michigan as it has proven an effective deterrent to illegal behavior," said Lt. Raymond Boehringer, DNR Law Enforcement Division. "A growing number of Allegan-area residents have reported illegal activities at the Hamilton and Allegan dams in recent years. This spring, volunteers will have an opportunity to actively help curtail this behavior here."


For more information, contact Lt. Raymond Boehringer at 269-685-6851.

Angler help needed for trout & salmon study

   Michigan DNR officials are reminding anglers that their participation is needed again this year in lakes Huron  Michigan with an ongoing trout and salmon study. 


   DNR fisheries workers annually distribute nearly one million chinook salmon in the Great Lakes. These fish are marked with a coded-wire tag and clipped adipose fin. The tags are implanted into the snout of the fish and are not visible to the angler.


   Trout or salmon with only an adipose fin missing may contain such a tag. Anglers who catch these fish are asked to record the following information: angler's name and address, species of fish, length, weight and sex of the fish, along with the date of capture and capture location.


   Anglers are asked to freeze only the head and take it with the requested information to the nearest MDNR Fisheries Division office or participating drop-site location. A list of drop-sites and the tag recovery form are available on the MDNR website, .

   "This research is a vital part of our effort to maintain healthy, plentiful populations of trout and salmon for Great Lakes anglers to enjoy," said DNR Fish Chief Kelley Smith. "This information has been used in selecting stocking locations and evaluating the performance of different strains of trout and salmon. Providing this information will help determine the course of Michigan's fishing future." 


   Participating anglers will receive a letter describing the stocking history of the fish they caught and possibly a reward lure.


   Between 5,000 and 7,000 salmon and trout with CWTs are processed annually. Rainbow trout, Lake trout, and Chinook salmon accounted for the majority of fish collected for CWT processing in 2002.


For more info, contact the MDNR Charlevoix Fisheries Research Station at 231-547-2914.


2003 Wild Turkey Hunting Season

   Indiana's 2003 spring wild turkey hunting season runs from April 23 to May 11 in every county except Rush and Shelby counties, where Department of Natural Resources biologists continue to establish wild turkey populations. To hunt, Indiana residents need a resident turkey hunting license and a valid game bird habitat stamp, or a lifetime or youth license.


   Wild turkeys may be hunted from 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset. All Fish and Wildlife areas and Huntington,

Mississinewa and Salamonie reservoirs have hunting hours 1/2 hour before sunrise to noon. Some DNR properties only allow reserved turkey hunting. Call property for details before you hunt.


   More information is available in Indiana's free Hunting and Trapping Guide, available wherever hunting licenses are sold or at:


A 2003 turkey hunting season forecast is available at:

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