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Youngsters get jump on turkey season

Tuesday starts turkey time across all of upstate north of New York City.

The spring wild turkey season goes daily from a half hour before sunrise until noon throughout all state regions during May.

Eligible hunters ages 12-15 have the opportunity to bag one bearded bird-jake (a juvenile male) or tom (adult male) during a Youth Hunt held on a weekend before the regular-season opener.

Young hunters in Western New York did well on gobblers last Saturday and Sunday in above-average temperatures and open, sparse cover, which allowed them good views and close shooting opportunities.

Three area youths did well on the special season, harvesting their first-ever spring turkey.

Jake Knier, an avid angler as well as novice hunter, took his tom while hunting in Strykersville with Bryan Burger, who did the calling.

On an ideal morning, Burger drew in a flock of toms at 8:30, offering Jake a selection of about a half dozen bearded birds.

Armen Tatoian, 12, of East Aurora, did well on the second day of his first year at spring turkey hunting. After a shutout morning at Little Valley on Saturday, Armen's dad, Marty, took him to Elma on Sunday morning.

Three adult birds answered the call at 6:40 a.m., and Armen took the biggest of the trio, a 21 1/2 -pound gobbler with a 9-plus-inch beard. For those fearing a lack of firepower to kill big birds, Armen shoots a youth model Mossburg loaded with 7 1/2 -size shot.

Theresa Fleckenstein, 12, of Ransomville, had no difficulty shooting her 12-gauge Benelli, with 3-inch, size 5 shot on opening morning. Theresa, out with dad, Joe, and Herb Lederhouse, past president of the Niagara County National Wild Turkey Federation, did well on a hunt close to home.

With dad manning the video camera and Lederhouse working a turkey call, she took a tom weighing over 20 pounds. Her gobbler sported a 10-inch beard and 1-inch spurs.

Successful Youth Hunt hunters must include their bird in the two-bird spring season limit in New York State.

Pennsylvania's season began Saturday. Ohio's regular season opened Monday with a kill of 3,058, 16 percent below the opening-day take in 2006. Ohio requires hunters to report their kill and location on the day the bird is taken, which generates harvest numbers the next day. Ohio's Youth Hunt, similar to New York and held on the same weekend, garnered 1,630 birds from a statewide total estimated at 200,000 turkeys.

New York's youths totaled about 1,300 during the spring of 2006, with a high proportion of jakes to toms in that season.

Summer surveys held statewide in 2006 showed poults, young turkey chicks, in August down 27 percent from the 2005 count.

The fall 2006 harvest also was below average by 6 percent at 9,202 birds, the third fall season to see a decline in numbers.

While Department of Environmental Conservation officials see a slight decline in the 2007 spring harvest, a good 2005 hatch should provide a larger number of older, smarter birds to challenge hunters this spring season.

New York's hunters in general and turkey hunters in particular have not only gained greater skills at bringing in call-savvy mature turkeys each spring season, shooters have upgraded their awareness and skill at target ID, resulting in fewer hunter-related shooting incidents (HRSI) each year.

The rate of HRSIs per 100,000 hunters has dropped to 6.3, with just four incidents occurring in 2006. Given that turkey and waterfowl hunters are usually on the ground, hiding in blinds or cover in camouflaged clothing often with decoys set up nearby, this safety record is remarkable.

Records kept for 2006 has that year as the fourth safest since records have been kept.

The National Wild Turkey Federation offers a "Code of Conduct" listing for hunters at the start of each spring season. First among shot-option considerations is: "[Do] not let peer pressure of the excitement of the hunt cloud [your] judgment."

The NWTF listing adds positive identification of a legal bird and insistence on a good shot before firing, along with an overall respect for the bird, for fellow hunters and the property on which you are hunting.

For successful turkey harvesters, NWTF has a "Field to Table -- Eat the Bird" Web posting that could add even more enjoyment to the good taste of wild turkey. Go to: www.nwtf.org/SpringTips/contents/field_to_table.html.

e-mail: willodrs@gmail.com

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