August is the coolest month for seeing flora and fauna around our living land.
Pardon this mutilation of a famed T.S. Eliot poem chronicling the world as a wasteland. In fact, outdoors folk in our area enjoy seeing and harvesting from a bountiful wildlife resource. One fine example can be seen in wild turkey populations.
DEC officials have chosen August as a good month to survey the survival and distribution dynamics of wild turkeys across New York State. Savvy hunters and wildlife observers can give fairly good estimates of gobbler presence, but a statewide survey provides hunters and bird watchers a more accurate assessment of what truly exists out there.
Hunters in Western New York, particularly during the spring wild turkey season, have taken trophy-sized toms during the last two hunting seasons. Many a 20-pound tom with a beard longer than 10 inches and spurs greater than an inch have been reported and some were illustrated on this page.
However, overall harvest numbers have dipped in the area and in most northeastern states in recent years. The reported spring harvest is estimated as down 17 percent this year.
Emilio Rende, DEC senior wildlife biologist supervising the Upland Gamebird Program for Region 9, points out that surveys are based on the ratio of hens per young/newborn birds called "poults."
Using a statewide average for the past 10 years, a healthy turkey population in late summer has shown to be 3.1 poults per hen, Rende said.
He notes that in 2009, Region 9 saw a serious dip in this ratio, dropping to 1.9 poults per hen. The 2010 count rose to just below the statewide average, finishing at exactly 3 poults per hen.
Area experts continue to harvest some nice birds. Even nasty weather -- bitter cold winds and rain -- during the Youth Hunt weekend last spring could not deter first-time and newer, young hunters from placing a tag on good gobblers. Six youths (Kalei Brautlacht, Katy O'Grady, Christopher Rhue, Justin DeLaRosa, Joshua Slawaticki, and Connor Colombo, as reported in the May 1 edition of this page, all endured the elements and came home with personal trophies most adult hunters would be pleased to tag.
Later in the spring season, Matthew Coons and brothers Armen and Alex Tatoian appeared in column photos with birds worthy of trophy status.
Youths seem to be harvesting better birds of late. Charlie Vullo, former restaurateur and devoted turkey hunter in the southern area of Chautauqua County, has seen a decline in turkey presence in the last two seasons.
Speaking of a special spot in which he has hunted turkeys for three decades, Vullo said, "Last year was tough and this year I only saw one gobbler. This was the first year I didn't kill a bird there in 30 years."
He wonders about predator presence.
"I never saw more coyotes than I did this past spring season," he said.
Son Joe Vullo of Jamestown now devotes more time to deer and turkey pursuits. Joe tagged five birds from New York and Pennsylvania during the past year.|
Larry Becker, president of the New York State Chapter of National Wild Turkey Federation, last year questioned allowed harvest numbers based on bird sightings he has made in the Region 8 area.
"We have to see how production went this past spring," Rende said, adding, "Initial reports are of small poults and second nesting attempts due to the prolonged cold rain this past spring."
With persistent rainfall and flooded field edges, hens had a difficult time nesting and laying eggs. Rende noted that once hens have successfully laid eggs, they face more woes because ground predators such as coyotes, foxes, skunks, and opossums detect nests better in wet weather.
To participate in the Region 9 August Turkey Brood Survey, call Rende at 372-0645 or email: email@example.com. For study results and survey cards, go to dec.ny.gov/animals/48732.html.