Girls did well during the early Youth Hunt and exceptional family outings resulted in the taking of trophy tom turkeys that might make nice Mother’s Day meal-feasts.
Twelve-year-old Brienne Westfall of Grand Island hunted in St. Lawrence County near Black Lake with dad, Bob, and harvested an estimated 4-year-old tom with a 9-inch beard, and 1.25-inch spurs early the first morning of the hunt.
The bird’s approximate weight was in excess of 19 pounds, which dad recorded “on an inexpensive ‘fish scale.’ ” Dad wrote, “This was on Saturday in the first hours of the youth season; the hunt was over before 6:15 a.m.”
Brienne and dad went back to the Black Lake area opening weekend of the regular season and she took another tom that weighed a bit over 20 pounds and sported an 8-inch beard. Dad was proud of Brienne’s tag-filling season start. He later said, “She got that bird where I shot my first bird in the same field 9 years earlier.”
An extended family filled spring turkey tags early at the start of turkey-season openers, with 14-year-old Paige Thurnherr harvesting a mature tom on April 26. Paige’s father, Keith Thurnherr, did the calling for her while hunting in Orchard Park.
Dad filled a tag during the May 1 season opener; his tom sported a 10-inch beard. Granddad, Larry Thurnherr then took an 11-inch beard on a hunt in Cherry Creek.
Paige’s cousin, Rocco Russo, took a 23-pound tom on May 3 that his dad, Neal, called in on a hunt with cousin Sal and Uncle Tony in Franklinville.
Neal then took a big Jake that Saturday (May 3) and Neal closed his season Monday (May 5) with 9-inch bearded tom, both of which were taken in Cherry Creek. Grandpa Larry finished his season with a second bird on May 9; spurs on that bird measured 1.5 inches.
The Thurnherr and Russo hunters could have enough turkeys for family dinners well into the summer season.
Brett Larson of Sanborn shared a story about his nephew Andrew Larson, 12, of York, Pa., taking his first bird on opening weekend of the Youth Hunt. Many youths have taken 20-pound birds their first time hunting, but Brett’s success comes with great anticipation and dedication.
Andrew’s dad, Erik Larson, died when Brett was 16 months old; Brett and his father, Nevin Larson of Amherst, known to Andrew as “Pop-Pop,” teamed with Wade Dellow to get Andrew afield for his first New York Youth Hunt on Dellow’s property in Westfield.
Opening morning was rainy in most areas of Western New York, but the birds were answering calls. The Larsons saw some birds, but none came to calls.
The Sunday morning hunt began with all kinds of bird sightings, sounds and movement. Brett admits that when the first birds came in he may have had Andrew shoot too quickly, resulting in a miss.
They moved to other fields and finally got into a good spot at 11:20 a.m. The birds moved around out of range for what Uncle Brett considered too long a time and finally moved in after a call at 11:40 a.m. When they finally got within shooting range the birds clustered and Andrew could not shoot one bird without hitting others also.
Finally, after instructions to “shoot/not shoot/shoot” from mentors, one big bird cleared the flock and moved away from a tree in a good position at 35 yards.
Brett wrote, “We couldn’t believe it. High fives! Hug! Even some tears! He shot that bird at 11:45 a.m. with 15 minutes left in a two-day hunt.”
The bird weighed about 22 pounds with a 10-inch beard and 1.25-inch spurs.
Even “Pop-Pop” did a dance, “well as much as a 72-year-old does a little dance,” Brett wrote. The family saw this hunt as how “we honored a great man in Andrew’s dad and a legacy was continued.”