Gobbler take down

Albany – New York’s spring gobbler harvest was running about 3
percent below last year’s take at the midpoint of the monthlong
season, DEC officials reported.

That’s about what DEC biologists expected heading into the May
1-31 season, based on some spotty nesting success in some parts of
the state last spring.

“It’s been running pretty similar to last year, down 2-3 percent
through the first half of the season,” DEC wildlife biologist Mike
Schiavone said of the harvest reports submitted by successful
hunters. “The opening day (May 1) harvest reports were up a bit
from last year, probably because the opener fell on a Friday and
hunters were able to take off work a bit more easily.

“But overall, it’s kind of what we anticipated.”

New York’s 2008 spring gobbler harvest declined by about 8
percent from the 2007 tally of 35,625, but the total take of 32,936
was still above the 20-year average. DEC officials are confident
the 20009 tally will be above the 5-year average of 29,500 toms,
even with another slight dip in the harvest.

Harvest reports from the youth turkey hunting weekend, which is
held the weekend prior to the May 1 regular opener, were down by
nearly 20 percent despite good weather for the young hunters.

The 2007 nesting season was generally good across the state,
which should mean plenty of 2-year-old gobblers available to
hunters. Last year’s nesting success, however, was spotty in some
areas – notably in northern New York – where untimely rains
hampered nesting success.

While DEC tracks hunter success during the spring gobbler
season, officials also keep an eye on the weather, which is the key
to nesting success in the spring. Heavy rains at the wrong time can
dramatically impact brood numbers.

While the first part of May was generally dry, some heavy rains
hit much of New York at mid-month and could create some nesting
challenges for hens. DEC will track that during summer brood
surveys, where the number of poults per hen is used as a barometer
for the nesting season.

Central and western New York were a bit below average rainfall
totals prior to the storms that whipped through the area the
weekend of May 16-17.

The first half of the spring gobbler season was marred by
several hunting-related shooting incidents, none of which was
fatal, DEC officials said.

DEC_ Sportsman Education Coordinator Mike Matthews said the
accidents were still under investigation, but early indications
were that “there was some stalking involved” in at least some of
the incidents.

“The good news is no one was blinded,” Matthews said of
accidents in Washington County and also in western New York. “But
they did take some pellets in the torso and neck.”

In addition, a Montgomery County man was seriously injured May 3
when struck by a shot fired by his hunting partner.

Tom Fahy of Nelliston was taken to Bassett Hospital in
Cooperstown following the 7 a.m. incident, which occurred when Dale
Fisher of Fort Plain fired a shot at a turkey but struck Fahy
instead.

DEC and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department are
investigating.

Also, two hunters were struck by a shot fired by a third hunter
on May 16 in Colonie (Albany County).

Colonie police said the accident occurred when David Ferrara,
41, of Waterford, fired a shot that struck Anthony Santoro, 25, of
Vincent Santoro, 23, both of Cohoes.

One of the victims was treated at Albany Medical Center for
pellets that struck his face, while the other took several shotgun
pellets in the head. Neither injury was life threatening, police
said.

The Santoros were hunting in the same woodlot along the Mohawk
River as Ferrara and his hunting partner, each duo unaware of the
other’s presence, officials said.

Early indications are that Ferrara fired a shot at a turkey
decoy set out by the Santoros, and the blast struck the pair as
they were calling turkeys from their position.

In Oneida County, 60-year-old Angelo L. Ciotti of Rome was cited
for reckless endangerment and other violations after he fired two
shots at a turkey and instead hit a neighbor’s garage door and
parked vehicle.

Oneida County sheriff’s deputies said Ciotti returned home from
hunting to find a turkey in his front yard. He fired two shots,
with the second blast sending pellets between two homes across the
road.

In addition to the reckless endangerment count, he was cited for
firing across a road and discharging a weapon within 500 feet of a
residence.

The top gobbler-producing counties in the 2008 spring season
were Chautauqua (2,016); Steuben (1,543); Cattaraugus (1,519); Erie
(1,365); Delaware (1,038) and Oneida (1,026).

The state’s regular spring gobbler season runs from May 1-31,
with a season limit of two bearded birds but a daily limit of just
one.

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