Noonan: Turkey hunting Rule No. 1: ‘You can’t eat beards’

I had my chances and chose to wait, but I still loved every minute of the hunt
Leo Maloney holds a brown trout on a fishing outing on Lake Ontario.
Leo Maloney holds a brown trout on a fishing outing on Lake Ontario.

This past weekend, 11 members of the New York State Outdoor Writers Association held their extended weekend Spring Safari as guests of the Oswego County Department of Community Development of Tourism and Planning. 

We all bunked at the Selkirk Shores State Parks cabins on the shores of Lake Ontario. NYSOWA member Dave Figura, along with Janet Clerkin, the Oswego County tourism and public information coordinator, put together a great program that included visits to several of the sites in the county and arranged a number of guided outdoor turkey hunts and Lake Ontario trout fishing for our members.

I chose to turkey hunt all three days.

On the evening before the first hunt, Steve Zahurak of Schenectady and I visited several state forest lands to see if we could get some gobbling responses from turkeys near their roosted area. On our first call, we got a number of responses. However, the next day they were not talking. Steve did not see or hear anything, but I did have two jakes and two hens come into my decoys late that morning. I could have taken one of the jakes, but I wanted a long beard. That evening Dan Ladd, Steve and I met Bill Wilbur, the New York state president of the National Wild Turkey Federation, who offered to guide us on his property the next morning. Bill is a well-known turkey hunter and the three of us were excited about hunting with him. 

The next morning at 3:30 a.m., we headed out to meet Bill. I was first out and he took me to a path on the edge of a large field that I followed to a ground blind at the very back of the field. He told me that the turkeys would be coming out of the swamp woods behind me. Steve was driven to a spot on the other side of the road, and Dan went with Bill to another blind. Shortly before sunup, I made a few calls and heard responses about 100 yards in the woods off to my right, but they went quiet and never appeared. 

Around 8:30 a.m., a hen appeared off to my right, looked at my decoys and then continued on down the woodline away from me. But an hour later, two hens, followed by two jakes, came in very close to my ground blind headed to my decoys. I sighted in on the biggest, who was no more than 15 yards from me, but again, I decided to wait for a long beard. Shortly after they left, another jake appeared, eyed my decoys and offered me another easy shot, which I did not take. 
I had an hour left of legal hunting time, and I decided to wait. However, the sky opened up, and down came the rain in buckets, ending the hunt for both Steve and I. Dan, who was sitting with Bill, texted me that there were two big toms 100 yards away from them in a field, but they never came in.

As for me, I had my chances and chose to wait, but I still loved every minute of the hunt. Although I did not pull the trigger on any of these opportunities, I had a lot of fun. Four of the writers took home turkeys. NYSOWA president Mike Joyner shot a 21-pounder, with a 9-inch beard and 1-inch spurs, Also, on target was new NYSOWA member Jerrod Villa of Amsterdam, who also took down a trophy tom. On the final day of hunting, Leo Maloney and Mike Kelly each shot nice plump jakes. Leo smiled and said to me, “You can’t eat beards.” 

As for the writers who took advantage of the fishing guides, they experienced plenty of rod-bending action and took home some very tasty fillets. They caught them trolling on Lake Ontario with volunteered local guides trolling down five feet over water depths of 15-16 feet using white/chartreuse Michigan Stingers. And the brown trout were biting.

One of the two highlights of this safari was the visit to the Douglaston Salmon Run, which holds private fishing access to the first 25-plus miles of the Salmon River, where migrating trout and salmon enter from Lake Ontario. All you need is a flyrod to catch limits of King salmon, brown trout, steelheads and Coho salmon. It is the only place in the world where anglers have the opportunity to pursue both Pacific and Atlantic salmon, as well as brown, rainbow and steelhead trout, all from the same waters. For more details and how you can hook-up with these trophy fish and enjoy the action, go to

The second highlight was a visit and tour of the NYS Salmon River Fish Hatchery in Altmar. Our tour guide there was Fred Kuepper, who gave us all a thorough education of the works and purposes of the 12 New York state fish hatcheries. New York state hatcheries stock fish in over 1,200 public waters across the state. I was very impressed with the workings of the hatchery and highly recommend you visit this or one of the NYSDEC hatcheries. For more information, go to

Reach Ed Noonan at [email protected].

Categories: Sports

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