Nothing like tagging out for the spring gobbler season in one weekend, and Beth Shank did just that with two birds during the third annual Wheelin' Sportsmen hunt on the 2,500-plus acres of Toledo Express Airport.
Shank was among 15 mobility impaired hunters who were selected to participate in this special event. A veteran of past hunts at the airport property, Shank dropped a dandy longbeard on Saturday and returned Sunday for a try at a second bird for the season and killed a jake.
"She won the distance award, too," said hunt chairman Brad Christensen, noting that Shank loaded up herself, her wheelchair, and hunting gear and drove solo from Newton Falls, Ohio, near Akron.
"We got her a hotel room, gave her a gas card, and when she got her bird Saturday, we bought her second license," said Christensen, a member of the Maumee Valley Chapter, National Wild Turkey Federation.
The NWTF chapter teams up with the Ohio Division of Wildlife and Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority to produce the hunt, part of which is aimed at controlling wild turkey numbers within the confines of the airport property. The big birds could pose problems for aircraft landings and takeoffs.
This time around, 15 mobility impaired hunters went afield with local guides. The field included Crystal Hammond, of Rossford, who killed the first longbeard on Saturday while guided by her husband, Ben.
Other hunters who scored included Alex Beck of Archbold, Jeff Radabaugh of Toledo, and Larry Wasielewski of Toledo. In all the group ran from very junior to senior - from 10-year-old Blake Walters of Swanton, to Floyd Stewart of Toledo, "who's up in his 70s."
Christensen said all five longbeards bagged were stamped out of a mold - two to three years old, 19 to 22 pounds, 8 to 9 1/2-inch beards, inch-long spurs.
About 125 individuals attended a welcome dinner and fund-raiser Friday night. The high point for the many volunteers, Christensen said, came at the close Sunday, when all hands collected for a group photograph.
That's when hunter Bob Phillips of Waterville, wheeled out front unannounced and said, "You have no idea what this means to us."
Wayne Butz of Hobart, Wis., and Don "Freddy" Frederick of Appleton, Wis., the reigning Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit team of the year, hauled in 53.01 pounds of walleye to win the first event in the MWC East Division for 2009 at Trenton, Mich. over the weekend.
Based at Elizabeth Park on the Detroit River, the pair bested a field of 64 teams and earned a total of $14,600, including sponsor contingency bonuses.
The key to their success was adjusting to the different weather conditions. On Saturday strong wind kept them from heading down to Lake Erie to troll, so they headed back to the river to vertical-jig in 14 feet of water by the Two Rocks at the Steel Mill on the Michigan side. They used 5/8-ounce jigs, chartreuse or orange, tipped with an artificial ring worm and a minnow. They weighed 22 pounds even, good for seventh on day one.
The men checked Internet satellite photos at noaa.gov on Saturday night and based on the forecast and the improved water-clarity headed to Lake Erie on Sunday. "We were looking for just the right stained water," said Butz. "Not too clear and not too dirty either, about half way."
They found it about two to three miles off Luna Pier, and trolled at 1.2 mph with purple and fire-tiger deep-diver crankbaits in the top half of the water column. They ended up with a whopping 31.01 pounds, the largest five-fish basket of the event.
Second place went to Nate "Butch" Capton of Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Dave Waldeck of Sanborn, N.Y. with 52.18 pounds. They netted $6,210. Third place went to reigning Cabela's MWC world champions Jeff Manz of Vanderbilt, Mich., and Greg Yarbrough of Port Clinton. Manz and Yarbrough had a two-day total of 49.77 pounds and they earned a total payout with bonuses of $4,190.
In all, a total of 460 fish weighing 1906.95 pounds - a 4.14 pound average - were entered in this catch-and-release event.
Some 55,000 yearling steelhead trout are to be stocked in the Vermilion River Friday, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Vermilion city launch. The fish, reared at the state's Castalia Fish Hatchery, are six to eight inches long. The launch is a half mile off U.S. 6 off West River Road. Spectators are welcome.
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