Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Weekend start boosts early gobbler take

Albany -_New York state’s spring gobbler season opened on a
weekend this year, and that has fueled higher harvest reports
through the first two weeks of the monthlong season.

While DEC biologists are predicting a slightly lower spring
gobbler take this May, harvest reports through the first two weeks
of the season were running about 5 percent higher than last

That, however, was more a product of the calendar than turkey

“The first two days of the season fell on a Saturday and Sunday
this year, which hasn’t happened in a while,” DEC wildlife
biologist Mike Schiavone said. “So a lot of hunters were able to
get out and hunt simply because of the way the calendar fell. In
fact, our opening day harvest was up 30 percent over last year (a
Friday opening day). Plus, the weather was great for the opening

That, however, wasn’t the case on the second weekend, when a
cold front swept across the state and brought snow, sleet, freezing
rain and high winds. Virtually all of the state was caught up in
the massive weather pattern that kept many hunters home.

“The wind was really impossible,”_Schiavone said.

Schiavone said DEC officials are sticking to their pre-season
estimate that the overall harvest would be down from the five-year
average of 30,000-31,000 birds, primarily due to back-to-back poor
nesting seasons. That leaves fewer jakes (yearling toms) and
2-year-old birds, which typically comprise the bulk of the spring
harvest, available to hunters.

The early part of the season was also marred by five
shooting-related incidents, including a self-inflicted shooting
that claimed the life of an Oneida County hunter on opening

State police said 58-year-old Dale W. Effner died when his
shotgun accidentally discharged while he hunted in the town of
Paris. An investigation is continuing into the incident.

The five shooting incidents already this season is higher than
the average of 4.4 over the past five spring gobbler seasons,
according to DEC Sportsman Education Coordinator Mike Mathews. Last
year there were eight shooting-related incidents during the spring
gobbler season.

“It’s upsetting and discouraging,” Mathews said, “especially
when they involve people doing something they know they shouldn’t
be doing. Our volunteer hunter education instructors are doing a
very good job, and I think what you’ll see is the accidents that
take place involve experienced hunters who just get sloppy.”

Mathews noted that several accidents involved either hunters who
were walking toward another hunter who was calling turkeys, or a
pair of hunters who separated and then lost track of each other’s

“You’re supposed to sit down, set up and put your back against a
tree,” he said.

Other spring gobbler hunting accidents included:

  • a May 3 incident in Genesee County in which a man accidentally
    shot his son. Genesee County sheriff’s deputies said Scott Hartman,
    46, of Oakfield, was shot in the face and upper torso by his
    father, Howard Hartman, Jr., 71, of Batavia.

Deputies said the elder Hartman saw what he believed to be a
turkey about 50 yards away, but his shot struck his son, who had
moved from one location without his father’s knowledge.

Scott Hartman called 911 and walked out of the woods under his
own power, and was then taken to Strong Memorial Hospital in
Rochester by Mercy Flight. He was listed in guarded condition
shortly after the accident.

  • in Steuben County, 54-year-old Charles D. Sargent of East
    Syracuse was struck in the left side of his head and neck and in
    the left shoulder by shotgun pellets from a round fired by a
    hunting partner.

Steuben County sheriff’s deputies said Sargent was hunting with
Another C. Gabrielle, 53, of Youngstown on May 12 when the accident
occurred. The pair, dressed in full camouflage, split up and then
worked their way back toward each other when Gabrielle, who was
calling, fired a shot from his 12-gauge shotgun about 70 feet away
at what he believed to be a gobbler.

Sargent was taken from the woods by ATVs, then by ambulance to
St. James Mercy Hospital in_Hornell then on to Strong Memorial
Hospital in Rochester. He was listed in stable condition after the

Sheriff’s deputies and DEC environmental conservation officers
were investigating.

  • _a 25-year-old Niagara Falls man was shot by another hunter
    while hunting in_the town of Arkwright, Chautauqua County.

Robert Shaugnessy was struck by a shotgun blast fired by Charles
Fanning, 73, of Blasdell, who was hunting the same property but was
not hunting with Shaugnessy at the time. Shaugnessy received pellet
wounds from his knees to his face; he was treated and released at a
local hospital.

The spring gobbler season runs through May 31.

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