Youth turkey hunters headed toward record

Albany – New York’s fifth ever Youth Turkey Hunt may turn out to
be the best yet, based on preliminary numbers from the DEC.

Early indications are the 2008 two-day harvest will top the
previous mark of 1,583 gobblers set last year, according to DEC
wildlife biologist Mike Schiavone.

“It’s good news,” Schiavone said. “Our reported harvest is well
up from last year and is the best we’ve seen so far for the youth
hunt. Last year at this time we were at over 500; this year we’re
already over 700.”

That points to a record-breaking harvest for the season held
April 26-27, just a few days before the traditional May 1 kickoff
of the monthlong spring gobbler season.

Last year’s tally was 1,583 birds, a mix of year-old jakes and
longbeards of two years and older.

The increasingly popular youth turkey hunt opened in 2004 with a
harvest of 1,025 birds, followed by a take of 1, 161 in 2005, 1,308
in 2006 and last year’s record-breaking harvest.

The rising harvest figures are a product of both the growing
popularity and awareness of the youth hunt as well as some good
nesting conditions in recent years that have made more gobblers
available to hunters.

This year was also the second consecutive year of good weather
for the weekend hunt. The 2005 and 2006 hunts were punctuated by
wet weather across most of the state.

“There are a few birds around for sure, and the good weather
made a big difference this year as well,” Schiavone said. “And a
part of it is just increased public awareness of the youth hunt.
When we first started it in 2004 not everyone was aware of it, but
as time goes on more and more people are becoming aware of it now
and are taking advantage of it.”

The popularity of the youth weekend is evidenced by a number of
events that have sprung up around the state to highlight the
two-day hunt.

In Sullivan County, the Sullivan County Long Beards chapter of
the National Wild Turkey Federation held a youth contest in which
youngsters could weigh in their gobblers. A total of 13 birds were
brought to the Fur, Fin and Feathers sportsmen’s club, topped by
Travis Karmalinski’s 22.5-pound gobbler with a 9-inch beard.
Karmalinski, of Walker Valley, won a Harrington & Richardson
20-gauge shotgun for the top bird in the contest.

Schiavone said an increase in reported harvests may also be a
product of the impressive early numbers for the youth hunt. DEC in
recent years has stressed that hunters are required to report their
deer, bear and turkey kills, and he’s hoping the mentor hunters are
showing the youngsters that’s an important part of the harvest to
help wildlife officials gauge turkey populations.

“We hope that’s happening, that the mentors are showing them how
to be a safe hunter and a good steward as well,” Schiavone
said.

Youths ages 12-15, accompanied by a licensed adult hunter, were
eligible to participate in the youth turkey hunt. Any bird taken by
the youngsters becomes part of their two-bird limit for the regular
season.

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