Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Youth gobbler take up slightly; warm weather may have helped

Albany – Early indications are that New York’s youth turkey
hunters had a pretty successful two-day season last month.

DEC officials said harvest reports following the April 24-25
hunt for 12- to 15-year-olds were running about 8-9 percent higher
than in 2009, when youths killed about 1,700 birds.

Weather always plays a factor in the youth hunt, and that may
have been the case again this year when rain swept across much of
the Southern Zone on Sunday.

“It was definitely wet in the Southern Zone on Sunday,”_DEC
wildlife biologist Mike Schiavone said. “But it actually held off
long enough in a lot of areas to get some good hunting in. And
Saturday was perfect weather-wise.”

DEC_officials estimated about 9,700 young hunters participated
in the 2009 youth hunt, which was marked by record warm
temperatures that soared into the high 80s on Saturday. About 1,700
birds were killed, a number that was down about 23 percent from the
2008 youth hunt.

The decline in the youth harvest last year was somewhat
expected, since it came on the heels of a record take of over 2,000
birds in 2008.

“It’s too early to tell where we’ll be this year,”_Schiavone
said. “Heading into the season, we knew there would be fewer jakes
(yearling gobblers) and 2-year-old birds available because of poor
nesting seasons in 2008 and 2009 in many areas of the state. But
we’re getting a lot of good feedback from hunters – pictures sent
in for our website and anecdotal reports from successful

One of those successful hunters was 12-year-old Joshua Babey of
Newark Valley (Tioga County), who connected on a longbeard Saturday
morning after a few tense moments that included a misfire with his
20-gauge single-barrel shotgun.

Joshua was guided by mentors Daryl Labour and Alan Wheeler, who
also videotaped the thrilling hunt.

“I was thinking, ‘oh, God,'” he said after downing the 20-pound
gobbler with a 9-inch beard. “It was my first time turkey hunting.
I was lucky. My mentor got my shotgun re-loaded and helped me pull
the hammer back because it was a little tough.”

The young hunter also had to wait for a pair of deer to clear
his shooting path before connecting on the gobbler.

Joshua’s mom and dad, Paula and Nick, don’t hunt.

“I really appreciate the mentors,”_Paula Babey said. “You would
have thought Alan and Daryl won the lottery when you saw their
beaming faces. The camaraderie was really nice.”

Last year’s success rate for the young hunters was 17.5 percent,
but DEC officials won’t have that figure available for some time
until they determine how many youngsters took part in the hunt this

It was the seventh year of the two-day youth hunt, traditionally
held the weekend before the May 1 regular season opener. The youth
turkey hunt has grown to become the state’s biggest hunting event
held specifically for junior hunters, who must be accompanied by a
parent or mentor.

Indications are more and more young hunters are taking part in
the youth turkey hunt each year. The special season got off to a
slow start in 2004 and 2005, a product of both wet weather and a
lack of awareness of the special youth offering.

While the youth harvest of 2009 was down from the previous year,
New York’s spring gobbler hunters in 2009 tagged 34,664 birds last
year. That figure was the second-highest in the past six spring

“There’s not always a relationship between the youth hunt
harvest and the regular season harvest,”_Schiavone said.

Back-to-back poor nesting seasons in much of the state,
primarily due to wet and cool weather in the spring and early
summer, have set the stage for a tougher spring gobbler season this
year, DEC_officials said.

Biologists have predicted the statewide gobbler take will be
slightly below 2009 because of the poor production in 2008 and
2009, which means fewer jakes and 2-year-olds – which make up the
majority of the harvest – will be available in most areas.

New York’s regular spring gobbler season runs through May 31,
with a two-bird limit. Youths who were successful during the
special hunt still have the opportunity to take one additional

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