Turkey hunters enjoyed many a memorable morning – with or without bagging a bird.
The spring wild turkey season ended at noon on Friday with a mix of reports on callings sounded, sightings made and birds successfully tagged during the April Youth Hunt weekend and the season that spanned the month of May.
Harvest numbers have been down – more or less, depending on areas hunted – statewide for a decade. Turkeys have been less responsive in their calling, but hunters making good calls at the right times bring in good-sized gobblers.
Paul Cwiklinski of East Aurora hunted near his home with his son’s friend, Mike Van Lew of East Aurora on May 11, the Saturday before Mother’s Day.
Cwiklinski started off early with a call that brought in a 21-pound tom. After a lull, the pair decided to go to breakfast and come back later. “We weren’t 300 yards from where I got mine and three toms came in right behind Mike,” Cwiklinski said of the birds that came in to his calls. He took the best shot offered and Van Lew tagged a 20-pounder well before the daily noon close for legal hunting.
Many a story remains out there for oddities and endings for this spring’s turkey season. Since moving to the north Pavilion area I have confined my turkey trotting mainly to the back yard with sightings and successes generally akin to Department of Environmental Conservation reports of bird presence.
In an attempt to only take toms, many a hail and healthy jake (a first-year, bearded bird) walked by my blind in recent years. Two years ago a sizeable jake came within 10 yards of my muzzle and walked off into a ditch creek.
Last year I saw more good-sized gobblers while on hunts with true turkey-hunt devotees such as Dan Ladd while in Cortland County, Terry Jones, fishing guide with a sixth sense for taking toms, and with Kevin Howard of Howard Communications, two guys who took me on hunts in Niagara County and called out 20-pounders where I could never have heard or seen a bird. We did not fill a tag last year, but the hunts were quality quests each day out.
This year my decoys and calling drew little attention. A couple distant gobblers did a short blast just after coming off the roost, but nothing to see or shoot until the second-last morning of the season.
Finally, at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday two gobblers began competing in the woods behind the edge where I had set out just one hen decoy. With neither a gobble nor a cluck but just a few, low purrs, one made the fatal mistake of heading for the decoy.
Not a mature gobbler, but a 15-pound jake was worth the take. Let me know how your season went by sending to the email address below.