Weather again impacts turkey hunting youths
Albany — Some iffy weather, courtesy of a cold front that swept across the state on the first morning of New York’s two-day youth turkey hunt, likely impacted harvest numbers this year.
DEC officials said last month it’s still a bit early to get an accurate tally, but all indications are pointing to a total kill by the 12- through 15-year-old hunters on par with the 2011 take of about 800 birds.
Last year’s hunt, too, was affected by some heavy rains across much of the state, as well as a calendar quirk in which Easter Sunday fell on the second day of the hunt and kept some youngsters out of the woods.
“I know it was beautiful Saturday morning in eastern New York, but after that the weather came in and it brought rain and cold temperatures,” DEC wildlife biologist Mike Schiavone said.
Early harvest reports submitted to DEC showed the youth turkey take will be similar to last year.
“About two-thirds of the birds were taken on Saturday, and one-third on Sunday,” Schiavone said. “I suspect that has something to do with the nice weather we had on Saturday in many regions, followed by rain on Sunday.”
Hunter participation typically tends to be lower on the second day of the hunt since junior hunters and their mentors may have other activities, such as church.
The two-day hunt is also impacted by weather, and in past years has seen heavy rains, at times across the entire state.
That wasn’t the case in 2010, when superb weather conditions led to the harvest of about 1,600 birds by the youngsters.
This year, western New York hunters may have gotten the worst of the weather since the cold front whipped across the state from west to east and arrived early Saturday in that region.
This year was the ninth for the youth turkey hunt, which continues to grow in popularity.
Thirteen-year-old Sean Moore of Lake Placid (Essex County) is among those who enjoy the early opportunity. Moore harvested a 22-pound gobbler with a 9-inch beard on Saturday while hunting with his father Bill.
“We started the day in one spot where we had been seeing and hearing birds, but nothing happened,” he said. “We went to another place and heard a gobble right when we got out of the car. After we got set up five came in; it looked like three longbeards and two jakes. They were gobbling good and were close – about 20 yards. I shot the first one that stuck its head up.
“I would say it was the most exciting hunt I’ve ever been on.”
In Saratoga County, veteran sportsman Mickey Elliott of Ballston Spa took his 13-year-old grandson R.J. Elliott out and he connected on a nice longbeard – his first – on Sunday morning.
The bird weighed a hefty 22 pounds, had one-inch spurs but a shortish beard that belied his age.
“We heard him off the roost and he came across a field and popped up into view at about 100 yards, looking at the decoys,” Mickey Elliott said. “He came in to about 25 yards, and R.J. knows how to move super, super slow. He was like a statue. He’s a born hunter.”
This year also marked the second for a youth turkey hunting opportunity for Suffolk County on Long Island, where bird numbers continue to grow. Last year, over 400 junior hunters took part and killed about 100 birds.
There is no regular-season spring gobbler offering in Suffolk County, but there is a fall turkey season.
DEC officials are expected a slight increase in the overall spring gobbler harvest this year, as the state’s turkey population attempts to rebound from poor nesting seasons in recent years. Things were slightly better last year, however, which could mean more yearling toms – jakes – available to hunters.
The regular spring gobbler season runs from May 1-31.