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YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE OLD TO BE EXPERIENCED

Turkey talk this spring can also include preteen hunters.

New York State youths -- ages 12-15 -- got to hunt for spring turkeys with an adult hunter this weekend, but Orchard Park huntsman Benjamin Waleszczak, 11, has already gained veteran status on Ohio Youth Hunts with dad, Ray, in the Salt Fork Wildlife Area of that state.

Benjamin did well on his first day out during the Ohio Youth Hunt in 2004, bagging a 21-pound tom on Saturday of that weekend hunt. His bird sported a 9-inch beard and 3/4 -inch spurs.

"I got that one at 2 p.m. of the first day with a 20-gauge Rossi," Benjamin said. New York State and Pennsylvania hunters, like those in Ohio, can legally begin hunting one half-hour before sunrise. While nearby hunters must quit at noon during the spring turkey season, Ohio hunters can go until sunset during Youth Hunts and the regular spring turkey-hunting season.

Also, successful Ohio hunters must take their turkeys to a check station before 6 p.m. of the following day, which allows for quickly surveying the overall harvest.

Benjamin and his dad hit the check station much earlier this year. "It was all over by 6:56 a.m.," dad wrote. "We roosted the bird the night before and got to within 100 yards on our pre-dawn set-up."

The bird came down from its roost and strutted to within 26 yards of the Waleszczak's set-up when Benjamin took it with number-5 HeviShot.

"Ben's bird was the first at the check station.. . . He is now a veteran turkey hunter with two under his belt at the ripe young age of 11!" Dad wrote proudly.

As on fishing trips, youth turkey hunts also can be exciting even when the big one gets away.

Peter Sherman Sr. of Pavilion, experienced turkey hunter in the Muskingum County area of Ohio south of Zanesville, took his son Peter Jr., 11, on a hunt in an area loaded with active birds for this year's opener.

Dad is a representative for Double Bull Blind, a Double Bull Archery product designed for hunters and nature photographers. The camo-colored canopy allows hunters movement and set-ups for bow shooting from this blind. For details on this hunting rig, go to: www.doublebullarchery.com.

"I can set decoys about 10 yards from the blind so shooters can get archery shots," he said. "But on this hunt I went against my own hunting rule: 'Never get out of the blind until you're ready to go.' "

A bird had been making noise well behind the Shermans' blind and seemed to be holding off in the distance. Dad thought he could walk to a side and call from a different location so that the bird would be more comfortable moving toward their area.

"But when I unzipped the blind and stepped out, he was right there behind the blind," dad said dejectedly. The nice tom did one of those silent walkups that so many hunters talk about when recounting no-kill close encounters.

No great loss. Pete Jr. established his shooting credentials earlier, taking a 22 1/2 -pound gobbler with 1 1/2 -inch spurs and a 10 1/2 -inch beard on his first Ohio Youth Hunt during the 2003 season.

New calls

Quaker Boy Game Calls did some serious turkey call designing during the offseason, producing new and impressive friction, mouth (diaphragm) and box calls. QB's Bullseye Diamond-Coated Matrix friction call gives a different yelp tone with each variation in stick direction.

A Strike Three set of three mixed latex calls keeps the tape tight to the palate of even the newest of neophytes.

Biggest yet, QB's Gravedigger, a curved-lidded boat-paddle style box call has a sweet spot wherever it's touched. The long paddle only requires contact with the box base to make either young or old hen sounds. A curved lid on an elongated box base gives off sound variations of yelps without tipping and excess pressure on the handle/paddle.

The curved edges along a long box allow for about three times the vocalization per stroke, which sounds more realistic than standard-sized box-call strokes. And beginners can sound professional after reading the directions and using a light touch on paddle strokes. This is a good one.

Season forecast

Pennsylvania's spring turkey season begins Saturday and New York State opens on Sunday. Western New Yorkers and Northwestern Keystoners both complain about seeing too many coyote signs, tracks and kills, in both states, but populations seem more stable in nearby Pennsylvania counties.

New York hunters can expect to hear less calling in areas with abundant predators, but the mating urges and warming air will draw birds into the open throughout the season. If that first week lacks sightings and few sounds, a mid-season scouting foray -- despite increased gas prices -- might be worth the driving and walking.

Turkey numbers remain fair in many parts of this area and persistent poking around could end with a two-bird limit before season's end.

As always, don't shoot until you know it's a tom worth taking.

e-mail: wille@pce.net