New York is Open for Hunting, Spring Turkey Season Starts May 1

Joe Forma Photo

  • Youth Spring Turkey Hunting Weekend is April 25-26
  • Regular NYS Turkey Season opens May 1
  • Hunters Should Always Follow Safety Tips to Prevent Injuries and Limit Spread of COVID-19

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today that spring turkey season opens May 1 in all of Upstate New York north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary. In addition, DEC’s annual youth turkey hunting weekend will take place on April 25-26. The youth turkey hunt for junior hunters aged 12 to 15 is open in all of Upstate New York and Suffolk County.

The big gobbler “tom” struts in. Photo by Joe Forma

“Many New Yorkers are eager to spend time outdoors and turkey hunting is one great way to reconnect to nature,” Commissioner Seggos said. “Whether participating in the upcoming youth hunt with your children or heading out on your own in pursuit of a wary gobbler, be sure to hunt safe and hunt smart by following the important guidelines in place both to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to support hunting safety.”

Turkey hunters took about 17,000 birds in New York during the 2019 spring season. Spring harvest success is often tied to productivity two years prior, as hunters like to focus on adult gobblers (i.e., two-year-old birds). While the cold, wet start to the 2019 breeding season meant low reproductive success and poor recruitment in many areas, conditions were better in summer 2018. The population gains made in 2018, combined with good overwinter survival because of abundant food in the fall and relatively mild winter conditions this year, may offset 2019’s poor reproductive success.

Important Details for the Youth Turkey Hunt on April 25 and 26

  • Hunters 12-15 years of age are eligible and must hold a hunting license and a turkey permit;
  • Youth 12-13 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or adult over 21 years of age with written permission from their parent or legal guardian. Youth 14-15 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or adult over 18 years of age with written permission from their parent or legal guardian;
  • The accompanying adult must have a current hunting license and turkey permit. The adult may assist the youth hunter, including calling, but may not carry a firearm, bow, or crossbow, or kill or attempt to kill a wild turkey during the youth hunt;
  • Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day;
  • The youth turkey hunt is open in all of upstate New York, north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary and in Suffolk County;
  • The bag limit for the youth weekend is one bearded bird. This bird becomes part of the youth’s regular spring season bag limit of two bearded birds. A second bird may be taken only in Upstate New York, north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary, beginning May 1;
  • Crossbows may only be used by hunters age 14 or older. In Suffolk and Westchester counties it is illegal to use a crossbow to hunt wild turkeys; and
  • All other wild turkey hunting regulations remain in effect.

Other Important Details for the Spring Turkey Season, May 1-31, 2020:

  • Hunting is permitted in most areas of the state, except for New York City and Long Island;
  • Hunters must have a turkey hunting permit in addition to their hunting license;
  • Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day;
  • Hunters may take two bearded turkeys during the spring season, but only one bird per day;
  • Hunters may not use rifles or handguns firing a bullet. Hunters may hunt with a shotgun or handgun loaded with shot sizes no larger than No. 2 or smaller than No. 8, or with a bow or crossbow (except crossbows may not be used in Westchester County);
  • Successful hunters must fill out the tag that comes with their turkey permit and immediately attach it to any turkey harvested;
  • Successful hunters must report their harvest within seven days of taking a bird. Call 1-866-426-3778 (1-866 GAMERPT) or report harvest online at DEC’s Game Harvest Reporting website; and

For more information about turkey hunting in New York, see the 2019-20 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide or visit the “Turkey Hunting” pages of DEC’s website.

Hunt Safe, Hunt Smart!

While statistics show that hunting in New York State is safer than ever, mistakes are made each year. Every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable, and DEC encourages hunters to use common sense this season and remember what they were taught in their DEC Hunter Education Course:

  • Point your gun in a safe direction;
  • Treat every gun as if it were loaded;
  • Be sure of your target and beyond;
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; and
  • Stalking stinks! Set-up with your back against a tree or other object wider than your shoulders and call birds to you.

DEC also encourages all hunters to wear blaze orange or blaze pink when moving between hunting spots to make themselves more visible to other hunters. A blaze orange or blaze pink vest or other material can be hung in a nearby tree when you are set-up and calling birds so other hunters are alerted to your presence.

A hunter education class is required for all new hunters. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, hunter education courses have been cancelled through April 30. To find a hunter education class in your area, visit DEC’s Hunter Education Program website or call 1-888-HUNT-ED2 (1-888-486-8332).

“Hunting Safe” now means following social distancing /other guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Purchase licenses and/or turkey permits online to avoid visiting busy stores or because stores may be closed or have limited hours. Licenses and tags purchased online take 10-14 days to arrive, so online purchases for the youth turkey hunt should be made by April 10, and for the regular season by April 16;
  • Hunt close to home. Opt for day trips instead of staying at a hunting camp to avoid close contact with other hunters;
  • Avoid crowds at parking areas and other locations where people congregate. Keep a distance of six feet or more from others;
  • Avoid high-traffic destinations. If a hunting location is crowded, choose a different spot or time to visit. For alternative hunting locations visit DEC’s website.
  • Hunt alone. If hunting with someone not from your household, whether an adult or youth, practice social distancing, take separate vehicles to the hunting location, and make sure to maintain at least six feet of distance. Only share a hunting blind with someone from your household;
  • Carry hand sanitizer and avoid touching your face and wash mouth calls after handling; and
  • If hunters do not feel well, they should stay home. Anyone 70 and older or with a compromised immune system should postpone their trip.
  • For more information about getting outdoors and #RecreateLocal, go to DEC’s Website.

Buy Sporting Licenses Online

DEC is encouraging hunters, trappers, and anglers to purchase sporting licenses online to help further limit the community spread of COVID-19. Sporting licenses may be purchased online at any time, and anglers may use their privileges immediately by simply carrying their transaction number (DEC-LS#) with them while afield. Anglers, hunters, and trappers may also use the HuntFishNY mobile app to display an electronic copy of their license. The HuntFishNY app is available for download through the Apple App or Google Play stores. Back tags and carcass tags must still be mailed, and customers should allow 10-14 days for receipt of their tags. Please visit our website for more information about sporting licenses.

Citizen Science Opportunity: DEC Seeks Turkey Hunters for Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey

Turkey hunters can record the number of ruffed grouse they hear drumming while afield to help DEC track the distribution and abundance of this game bird. To get a survey form, go to DEC’s website or call (518) 402-8883. To participate in DEC’s Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey or other wildlife surveys, visit the “Citizen Science” page of DEC’s website.

TURKEY HUNTING SECRETS: “Tag Them” – Part 3 of 3

  • Read the Bird, Listen to his Gobble
  • Understanding Gobble Talk and RESPONDING, or NOT
  • Over-Yelping, Biggest Secret to a Wise Old Bird
Some of the biggest turkey can be fooled with one simple trick that you can learn, see below. Jim Monteleone Photo

By Jim Monteleone

You can read a bird by listening to his gobble and I want to explain the different types of gobbles that you might hear.

A “volunteer gobble” is one where the bird gobbles on his own. Generally, that means he is searching for a hen.  If all is quiet you use an owl hooter before good light or a crow call at first light to elicit a gobble. YouTube has examples of owls hooting and crows calling if you need to hear the realistic sounds of either or both.

If he gobbles it’s a “shock gobble” and you are ready to do business when he hits the ground.  You can tell when he has come out of the tree by hearing wingbeats or when his clear gobble becomes muffled by the trees and brush. 

A “strutting gobble “is when the bird gobbles repeatedly to your calls but seems stuck or only moving ten or twelve feet and never gets closer.  He is in a strut zone and nature is telling him the hen will come to him when he displays.  In the natural order of things, this happens every season.  This is especially true when he has already been breeding receptive hens.  

A “going-away gobble” is when he gobbles frequently and you can tell he’s moving away.  He probably has been joined by a real hen who will lead him to her territory.  You might as well look for another bird or you can wait him out, but it’s going to be a while.

The “come here gobble” is when he gobbles every time you call.  Don’t be fooled.  Go silent on him and make him gobble on his own several (two or three) times before calling again. I call this a “breeding gobble.”  Repeat the same calling sequences and alternate some clucks and purrs with your yelping.  If he stops coming, start cutting if you are well hidden or blending in and have a hen decoy (or hen and jake in the early season), then you’re in business.

If he is cutting your calling sequence off with a gobble or a double gobble before you finish he’s committed to coming.  I call that a “hot gobble.”

No sudden moves and try to restrain yourself from over-calling.  I use only clucks and purrs for the last fifty yards of his approach to gun range. This is where a diaphragm mouth call is my go-to tactic.  A slate or “pot” call is my second choice in avoiding too much hand movement. Patience is your greatest weapon, other than your shotgun now!

Without any doubt, my greatest success and most exhilarating hunts have come after a prolonged sequence of back and forth calling.  My nature is not one of great patience, but turkey hunting has taught me to work to lure turkeys in with sweet talk.  Over-calling causes a bird to stay put, and as fired-up as he and you can be.  Slow and steady is the best advice I can offer.

There are those times when a bird will rush in, but this isn’t the norm for mature birds. They have experience in gathering hens and also instinctively seem to know when something is unnatural.

If you follow the earlier tips, knowing the bird is closing the distance and your gun is on your knee waiting, watching and calling sparingly increases your odds dramatically.

There are those times when a bird will rush in, but this isn’t the norm for mature birds. Read what to do. Joe Forma Photo

I use two “secret” tactics for my toughest birds.  The first is yelping over a gobbler when he tries to gobble. As soon as the first note comes out of his beak I cut him off with some fast yelping or cutting.  Do this after you have him fired up if he stalls.

The other “secret” is the mock challenge of two hens cutting at each other.  It simulates the scene of two hens sparring for dominance over the right to breed in the territory.  I use one box or slate call and a mouth call, and cut like two girls arguing.  I do some alternating cuts on each call or some cuts like they are trying to “yell” over each other simultaneously.

I hope there’s something in here for hunters from “newbies” to veterans with decades of experience. Think safety in every move you make and never take chances.

You now have the “secrets” and you’re ready to experience. 

Good Hunting and Great Memories!

      

Call that Deer to You, TIPS THAT WORK for Deer Calling Success

  • How to Be Ready
  • See a Deer, What to Do
  • Using the Right Call

By Gary Sefton

Big, healthy bucks follow hot and ready doe’s, the hunter has many options, learn some of them here. Joe Forma Photo

Be Ready

“You’re not going to believe this,” the excited deer hunter said.  “I haven’t seen anything all morning, so I let my bow down and started to unfasten my safety belt.  I remembered my brand new, never used, deer call and thought “What the heck”.  I let go with a couple of parting shots on the call before beginning to climb down.  Just then, the buck of a lifetime came boiling out of the brush like his tail was on fire.  He stopped broadside, 20 yards from my stand, but I’m holding 25 feet of rope with my bow tied on the other end. “He was huge,” he said, holding his hands about two feet apart.

I had this conversation at one of the early Deer Classics and have had many more like it since.  I believed him.

This hunter’s experience was not that unusual, especially for first-time callers or callers trying a new technique.  With no confidence in the call or the technique, he’s thinking “I never heard a deer make a sound like that” or “This will probably run off anything within hearing”.

He has no idea what he is saying when he makes the call.  He has no clue what it should sound like, and/or he has never had a deer respond to calling, so he has no real reason to believe his deer call will work. So he sets himself up for failure by making a call and not expecting anything to show up.

I began working with game call companies in 1986, doing field testing and research on every aspect of deer calling, including interpreting and dissecting unusual and possibly significant vocalizations.  There’s not much you can do or say to a deer that I haven’t tried for experiments’ sake and/or in hunting situations, and there aren’t many reactions to calls that I haven’t seen. This article is from my book CALLING WHITETAILS: Methods, Myths & Magic. It is available at www.targetcommbooks.com.

When he’s trailing and he’s grunting!

I can’t begin to tell you how many tales of woe I’ve heard from seasoned deer hunters who missed out on golden opportunities because their brains were on pause when a buck showed up.  If you believe in something enough to buy it and haul it to the woods with you, then you should believe something is going to happen when you use it. You want the deer to come into the area to investigate the deer making the call.  He may come in hard and fast or he may slip in and be gone before you know he was there.

Make the call, then wait for him! Look for him!  Stay on ‘red alert’ for 15 to 20 minutes after you make the call.  Expect a response and anticipate success.  You will still get caught with your guard down from time to time, but you won’t feel so dumb about it.

Consistently successful callers (deer, elk, turkey, etc.) always anticipate success and prepare for a response.  This anticipation is what I call the confidence factor, and it usually comes from experience and a working knowledge of the language of the game you’re hunting.  You don’t have to learn the hard way.  Learn the language, and when you make a deer call expect a deer to show up.

When You See a Deer

Deer have big ears.  They are good at pinpointing the precise location of a sound’s origin, so my rule is: If you can see a deer coming toward you, let it come, even if it is dawdling and taking its time.

You are in good shape as long as it is headed your way.  If you make a sound while it is enroute, you will call its attention to your location and increase the possibility of getting picked off.

She smells a rat!

The doe’s that are ready to breed are in charge. Learn the details to pay attention to.  Joe Forma Photo

If the deer veers off in another direction, a soft doe or buck grunt could be the right invitation to bring it back on course.  You don’t have anything to lose in those situations.

When I’m in this situation (the deer is not heading my way) I’ll call to any deer I see wandering around, but I keep it soft and passive unless I see or hear a buck trailing a doe.  When that happens, I’m going to get more aggressive, with some heavy breathing doe bleats to try to turn his head.  I have called several bucks to me that were trailing does. They thought the bleating doe was the same one they were trailing.

When you are doing blind calling, always take a hard look around before you make a call, to be sure the immediate area is clear of deer that could bust you. If you get busted, let him go.  There’s no reason to call to a deer that you know you have spooked. He won’t come back once he has you pegged, and he might very well associate the call to human presence.  What do you think he will do the next time he hears a call?

Learn the Language

Before your start blowing on your deer call, be make sure you know what you are saying so you don’t say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Deer can’t change their language, so just be sure you are familiar with the basics.  Beyond that, you have to be the judge of what is right for you.  Knowing the right sound to make to trigger a specific response gets you in the game.  Making the proper sound in the correct sequence gives you a chance to score.

When she talks, they listen!  Set Up to Call

An important but often overlooked aspect of calling success is in the caller’s location and set-up. Do your calling in a high-deer-use area where deer are comfortable making and responding to calls.  You are not going to call many deer when they are alarmed or distressed.

“What do you do when a buck comes almost close enough to shoot and won’t come any closer?” I wish I had a quarter for every time I’ve been asked that question.

The reason he won’t come any closer is because he can’t see the deer he’s been hearing.  He wants visual reinforcement to the audio signals he’s been getting. A warning – if you call to him while he’s looking in your direction (he usually will be if he’s responding to a call), he’ll most likely look you right in the eye and the hunt will be over. Your best bet is to let him walk, then try to call him back when he gets out of sight.

If you plan to call, try to position your stand on a rise or in thick cover so the deer will be in range when he comes into view.  Don’t forget: if you’re going to do aggressive calling or horn rattling, always try to set up with a natural barrier downwind of your stand.  If you can keep a buck from scent checking your position when responding to your calling, your chances for success are much better, especially with older, smarter deer.

Gary is an expert caller of deer and turkeys and has been so for a long time.  A competition caller as well as an active hunter, he won the 1993 and 1994 World Deer Calling Championship and has conducted far more than 1,000 deer calling seminars throughout the U.S. to help hunters understand and successfully communicate with deer. He has written articles for Deer & Deer Hunting magazine and other regional and national outdoor publications.  He has appeared on nationally syndicated radio and television outdoor shows and is featured on several DVDs.

His book – CALLING WHITETAILS / Methods, Myths & Magic –is a no-nonsense, back-to-basics guide to calling deer, and other deceptions to help. Chapters include whitetail deer practical vocabulary, deer calling basics (why deer respond to calls), calling during the rut (mating anticipation), antler rattling, other deceptions (scents, blinds, decoys), tips to increase your calling success, be familiar with your calls, and have a plan. CALLING WHITETAILS is available at www.targetcommunications.com.