NY: Turkey harvest down sharply
Weather blamed; concerns remain over nesting
Albany – New York's spring gobbler hunters struggled through a May season marked by fewer birds in many areas of the state, as well as wet weather that may have limited their hunting activity.
DEC officials said preliminary indications are that the gobbler harvest will be down sharply from last season – perhaps as much as 20 percent.
"So far we're down about 20 percent, and the youth season harvest was down over 30 percent," DEC wildlife biologist Mike Schiavone said. "We kind of anticipated that based on poor production (nesting success) the past couple of years. There's just not as many birds around as there were a couple of years ago. Plus, there's been a lot of rainy weather."
The two-day youth season was impacted by heavy rains across much of the state on the Saturday (April 23) and the fact that the second day of the season fell this year on the Easter holiday.
Heading into the spring gobbler season, DEC projected the total harvest would fall sharply below the 10-year average of 34,000 birds and also lower than last season's tally of 25,807.
"Terrible," said Steve Wright of Wright's Sporting Goods in Waverly (Tioga County) of the recently concluded spring gobbler season. "Even the good guys didn't get them. The birds were henned up, and the weather was lousy. I think it was the weather more than anything."
The spring gobbler season was also marked by several hunting-related shooting incidents. Typically, there are more hunting accidents during the spring gobbler season than at any other time, with the exception of the state's deer season.
DEC sportsman education coordinator Mike Matthews said last month he's received four reports of hunting-related shooting incidents.
In Otsego County, a Canajoharie man was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment and second-degree assault after he allegedly shot a father and son hunting duo. The son was treated and released from Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown; his father was taken to Albany Medical Center and has since been released.
The shooter, 54-year-old Steven D. Houghtaling, was scheduled to answer the charges in Cooperstown village court June 22.
Matthews said the other three incidents involved hunters who were struck in the face and back with several shotgun pellets.
In one case, a pair of hunters were charged with making a false written statement to police and failure to properly tag a turkey following an investigation into a May 15 shooting incident in Paris (Oneida County).
State police said James A. Muscarella, 39, of Eaton fired a shot that killed a turkey, but several pellets also struck Shane T. Stagaman, 40, of Hamilton, who was about 160 feet away.
An investigation revealed that the incident occurred on private property; the pair allegedly told police they were hunting on state land at the time.
In addition, a 58-year-old Schuyler County hunter died in the woods of natural causes
Last year's turkey harvest was impacted by poor nesting success of 2009, which led to fewer yearling gobblers (jakes) available to hunters in most areas of the state.
In fact, both the 2009 and 2010 springs were marked by poor nesting conditions.
Schiavone said, however, that while much of May was marked by wet weather, there was still time for hens to re-nest in some cases. He's not ready to concede that this spring will be a poor one for turkey nesting success.
"Our August surveys will be a better gauge, when we actually see hens with poults," he said. "So right now we're just keeping our fingers crossed and will reserve judgment; the best indicator is seeing the poults in August."