Environmental Conservation Officer Joshua Crain promised a free breakfast if his group connected with a turkey during the fifth annual Yates County Youth Turkey Hunt.
And so it was that Crain and guide Carl Sands sat at the table with Joseph Fletcher, 13, the morning of April 27. Fletcher bagged a 15-pound turkey the day before, the start of the special, two-day weekend.
“This turkey hunting is the easiest thing I have ever done,” Fletcher announced during the meal.
Crain and Sands explained to the first-time hunter that the previous day’s scenario does not occur frequently when hunting turkeys.
“We did emphasize that he shouldn’t expect this to happen every time he hunts,” Crain laughed.
Fletcher, a Geneva Middle School seventh-grader, was one of 25 youngsters participating in the Yates County event. The tally for the two-day hunt was 16 birds, a testament to the efforts of the many experienced guides who donated their time to ensure a memorable hunt for the youngsters.
Fletcher’s hunt started early.
“We were walking in the woods at 4:45 a.m., a good hour before hunting,” Crain reported.
The three sat in a blind. At 5:30, they heard gobbling from the tree.
“Four or five birds flew down — I couldn’t see any beards — so I told Joe to wait,” Crain recalled.
With Sands calling, a jake finally separated from the flock. Fletcher took a 22-yard shot, dropping his first turkey using an 870 Remington 12-gauge.
Crain said the young hunter’s gun stock was resting against his knee in the blind.
“I could feel the buttstock shaking during the entire hunt,” Crain said.
The young hunter, who said he enjoys boxing at the Geneva Boxing Club, was excited about hunting.
“I’ll hunt again,” he proclaimed. “I’m thinking about deer hunting next.”
Tassia Garrison, a sixth-grader in the Odessa-Montour school district, bagged a 13.7-pound turkey during the weekend hunt. The 12-year-old was hunting with her father, Frank, and guide John Hunter, the field director from Whitetails Unlimited.
They didn’t hear much action at their first location, so they moved around.
“We were running and gunning,” Frank said, noting that they heard gobbles at 8:30 a.m. “We didn’t have much time. We needed to set up fast. They were coming in.”
“There were four toms, and two stayed back,” Tassia recalled. “I didn’t want to miss, so I waited and three jakes came closer. I shot the middle one. He was a dumb jake.”
When asked if she called him a dumb jake before or after the shot, Tassia said, “Oh, after the shot, of course.”
The younger Garrison, a straight-A student who has written and directed her own play, said she really enjoyed her first hunt and will do it again.
The youngsters met at the Seneca Lake Duck Hunters club April 24. They received turkey calls, vests and hats, and met with their guides to organize the hunt. Everyone met back at the club Sunday, where they were treated to hot dogs and hamburgers.
Before the official photographs, the young hunters received more outdoor gifts.
One proud parent summarized the weekend this way: “I never knew what hunting was all about. This has to be one of the most organized and exciting events my son has ever been involved with.”
DEC: Deer harvest
comparable to 2012
The state Department of Environmental Conservation released its numbers for the 2013 deer hunting season this week, and they stack up to 2012.
Hunters harvested approximately 243,550 deer last year, nearly equivalent to the statewide take last year (see accompanying chart).
The 2013 deer take included approximately 128,850 antlerless deer, which are adult females and fawns, and about 114,700 adult bucks, or animals 1 1/2 or older. Both estimates are within 4 percent of the 2012 take.
Hunters in the Northern Zone walked out of the woods with roughly 32,300 deer, including 19,500 adult bucks. In the Southern Zone, excluding Long Island, hunters took 208,300 deer, including roughly 94,200 adult bucks.
To compare these harvest estimates with other past seasons, visit the DEC website.
• Last year marked New York’s second Youth Deer Hunt, which was held Columbus Day weekend. During the Youth Deer Hunt, 14- and 15-year-olds could take one deer, with antlers or without, using a firearm and when properly accompanied by a licensed and experienced adult mentor. An estimated 8,860 junior hunters participated, resulting in 1,275 deer harvested, including 728 adult bucks.
A photo gallery showcasing successful junior hunters is on the DEC website.
• This year’s harvest shows a continuing trend of concern to DEC deer managers. In many Wildlife Management Units, including portions of southeastern New York and the Lake Plains region of western New York, harvest trends indicate that deer populations are too high — in other words, above levels recommended by local stakeholder groups who live, hunt or manage land in those areas.
Even with very liberal opportunities for the taking of antlerless deer, not enough females are being harvested to reduce populations to desired levels. In these areas, DEC and hunters must begin considering new ways to the increase antlerless deer take to achieve deer populations that are compatible with ecosystem health and consistent with the public’s interests.
• Hunters took a record number of bucks, approximately 55,300, that were 2 1/2 or older in 2013. These older bucks, which many hunters desire, accounted for 48 percent of harvested adult bucks statewide in 2013, compared to only 33 percent (45,350) in 2000, when New York’s deer population peaked. That number was 28 percent (about 33,000) in the early 1990s.
In part, this is influenced by the overall size of the deer population, which in much of the state is larger than desired. Although mandatory antler restrictions in 11 WMUs in southeastern New York are a contributing factor, many New York hunters outside those areas are voluntarily choosing not to take young bucks, thereby letting these bucks get another year or two older before they are taken.
Chris Kenyon’s “Outdoors” column appears every other Sunday in the Finger Lakes Times. To reach him, call 879-1341 or email email@example.com.