In Spring, sleep is overrated, location, not so much

Photo contributedEd Farley (right) of Syracuse with a nice tom he took while hunting in Albany with Frances DiDonato.

Biologists report turkey hunters took about 17,000 birds in New York during the 2019 spring season. They noted spring harvest success is often tied to breeding productivity two years prior, as hunters focus on adult gobblers that are at least two-years-old.

The cold, wet start to the 2019 breeding season meant low reproductive success and poor recruitment in many areas, but conditions were better in 2018.

DEC says, “The population gains made in 2018, combined with good overwinter survival because of abundant food in the fall and relatively mild winter conditions this year, may offset 2019’s poor reproductive success.”

Generalizations like that can be helpful, but like politics, “all turkey hunting is local”. What you see in the fields and woods where you hunt may differ significantly from statewide reports. Just like real estate, it’s all about location.

That being said, this year’s mild winter, with a general lack of snow, and the absence of a deep crusted snowpack, definitely helped wild turkeys survive. Deep snow with a thick ice crust can be deadly for turkeys.

It doesn’t allow them to feed on protein rich foods like acorns on the ground. That leads to both lower quality and lower quantities of available forage. Their access to the bumper crop of both soft and hard mast this past fall and their access to them this winter certainly helped with survival.

As for this spring’s hunt, youth hunters seemed to do well and many hunters are connecting with nice longbeards during the regular season. The weather has been less than ideal, but when it has improved, gobblers are communicating; a key to hunter success in the spring.

Hunting gobblers in the spring can be exhausting. If you put a “bird to bed” on the roost the night before, you probably won’t get home ‘till well after dark. Climbing hills and getting set-up on that bird before legal shooting time means an early start the next morning.

If after sacrificing your sleep, you roosted a bird just to have him be led away from you by attending hens, don’t give up on that bird or that location.

A few hours later when he’s been abandoned by hens who switched from breeding and feeding to brooding duties, he may well head back to your original early am set-up, especially if you are there patiently waiting and calling.

An alternate strategy that can work wonders for your circadian rhythm while turning that roosted bird into a roasted bird, is to get out mid-morning. Formerly henned-up gobblers finding themselves alone, can be highly motivated to come to the call when there’s nothing occupying their time.

Such was the case for Ed Farley, of Syracuse, last Sunday. After getting up at an ungodly hour to a set-up on a gobbler that eventually went with hens in the opposite direction, things got quiet.

A few of hours passed and after cutting the distance somewhat, that bird was called back to very near the original location and bagged at 40 yards at 9 a.m.

So why not cut out the middle man and just show up at the appointed mid-morning time so we all can get some sleep? If it were only that easy. You’ll never know unless you try. Just think of all the time and energy saved that could be put toward, other important activities like trout and striper fishing!

Striper Update: Speaking of striper fishing, much like turkey hunting, timing and location are everything. Walt Bennett of Durham reports he and his cousin boated three stripers in the 24 to 30-inch range on Monday fishing well south of Germantown.

Many are doing well, and overall, it’s been a very good year so far. Those fishing from shore as well as those on boats all up and down the river are connecting with fish in all size ranges on both chunk and live herring.

A number of fish in the 30’s with some over 40 inches are being taken, much to the frustration of river anglers given the largest legal striper you can keep is no more than 28 inches.

The fact that south of the George Washington Bridge stripers up to 35 inches in length can be kept only increases their frustration.

River surface temperatures were 53 degrees on Thursday by the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and expected to rise slowly given the cold nights forecasted for this week.

Happy Hunting, Fishing and Trapping until next time.

Remember to report poaching violations by calling 1-844-DEC-ECOS.

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*If you have a fishing or hunting report, photo, or event you would like to be considered for publication, you can send it to:

Johnson Newspapers 7.1


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