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Young hunters thrive during turkey weekend

The weather was nippy both days, the birds did not make as many calls as expected at the start of the spring mating season, but youths tagged some terrific toms during the April 25-26 New York State Turkey Youth Hunt Weekend.

Three of those good-sized gobblers harvested weighed in above the 22-pound mark. Sam Ciepeila, 14, hunted near home in Pendleton that Saturday morning and took a big bird that won the inaugural Cabela’s Youth Turkey Hunt Weigh-in Contest with a tom of 22.5 pounds. It sported a 12∂-inch beard.

First-bird honors went to three other young hunters that weekend. Andrew Harrier, 12, of Jamestown waited until Sunday morning before tagging his bird. Hunting with caller Pat Hoover, current president of the Chautauqua Lake Chapter of National Wild Turkey Federation, Andrew got to see and hear much turkey activity early that day. Hoover writes, “I had four birds gobbling around us and the one that Andrew shot came right off the roost and into gun range in about three minutes. That bird weighed in at 22 pounds with an 8.75-inch beard. Hoover noted, “That was the first time Andrew had been spring turkey hunting and now we have a new turkey hunter for life.”

Sunday morning also was a charm for Bryce Phillips, 13, of the Town of Tonawanda. Hunting with dad, David, in the Town of Stockton, Bryce had to hold still and wait while dad called in a tom from about a half mile away.

Finally, the bird came in for a 25-yard shot; it weighed 22 pounds with a 9.5-inch beard, the first game Bryce ever harvested.

“I was more excited at this than taking a 10-point deer with a bow,” dad said after Bryce tagged his turkey.

Dad added, “We are having a full-body mount done by local taxidermist Paul Milich.”

Parker Cinelli, 12, of Grand Island turned 12 in time for certification and a hunting license this spring, and the results were great on Saturday. Despite a lack of sounds, birds were moving in that morning, said dad, Chris.

“Parker had a chance earlier on a big tom, but the bird was not in a position for a killing shot; at 10:30 we saw this one come in,” dad said of the 16-pound jake that Parker harvested. “We didn’t hear a sound from any birds all morning,” dad said.

Parker’s older brother, Connor, 16, took a 25-pound turkey on a youth hunt, but for Parker this jake take was a true trophy.

The statewide season opened Friday morning with calm winds, a full moon setting on the western horizon more akin to the coloration of a fall harvest moon and more calls from waterfowl that tom turkeys before noon.

Many opening-day reports were of limited sights and sounds of birds, but some sizeable gobblers had been sighted during late-April scouting and antler-shed hunt outings. The spring wild turkey season continues daily until noon to May 31. Hunt safely out there.