The spring wild turkey season approaches its midpoint and talk has it that hunters are enjoying the weather much more than the turkey presence.
Hunters have taken some exceptional birds since the start of this century, but the overall harvest numbers have seen a gradual decline since 2001, according to surveys by experts.
Larry Becker, past president of the New York State chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, has stressed a need to look at declining turkey numbers for years. Becker, a Gainesville resident and turkey hunter, has logged several down seasons in recent years.
“I didn’t see or hear a bird on the two opening days this spring,” Becker said while on a hunt in western Montana for Merriam’s with son Todd Becker. “I’m trying to have Todd get a Merriam’s to add to his Grand Slam credential,” he said.
Larry Becker knows that there are still a few good birds around in Western New York, but he has not seen them in his area at Gainesville. He attributes part of the numbers loss to coyote populations and is working with Department of Environmental Conservation officials on coyote season setting.
Dan Tone shares Becker’s concern about turkey numbers but has reservations about season and bag-limit changes. Before the spring season start, Tone said, “I don’t like to see the season decreased or bag limits either.” He expects to be attending many more meetings on turkey dynamics in the future.
For now, some big birds have been tagged, a fair numbers of jakes (1-year-old bearded birds) have been seen and taken and hunters in New York have until noon daily to bag a bird until May 31. Pennsylvania hunters will be able to hunt until sunset daily until the season closes in that state.
Birds often do not purr, cluck and gobble as much as they had sounded decades ago. Many hunters have related instances where birds appear within shooting range without making a sound. Be cautious and know that is a bearded bird before taking aim this spring season.