DEC announces New York is open for hunting

The latest outdoors news from The Recorder's Jerrod Vila

While there was some question if the upcoming turkey season was still a go in lieu of a few other states putting the kiboshes on turkey seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the season has been officially confirmed as a go.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos recently announced 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 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.

“Many New Yorkers are eager to spend time outdoors and turkey hunting is one great way to reconnect to nature,” Seggos said in a press release. “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., 2-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.


  • Hunters 12-15 years of age are eligible and must hold a hunting license and a turkey permit;
  • Youths 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. Youths 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.
  • All other wild turkey hunting regulations remain in effect.


Youth turkey season is on for certain, and with that comes perhaps the single-best weekend of the season to hunt. The gobblers are not under pressure, and it is a no better time to start a youth hunter off on the right foot.

Turkey hunting and small game in general is a much better break-in to real hunting for kids, as opposed to deer hunting simply because it is action packed and there is always something to be done.

Let’s face it, endless hours playing the waiting game on deer to show up can be daunting for young children. The direct response of a gobble to a call made my the mentor with a youth hunter whom has never experienced such a thing is certainly a memorable moment. I have had an incredible amount of success taking youth hunters out for as long as I have been able to.

Here are a few things I personally recommend for youth hunts:

My No. 1, and this is a big No. 1 and also something that many readers may disagree with, is choose a shotgun with a scope for youth season. I have been doing this many, many years now, and 100% of missed birds have been with open-sight or bead-sight guns, and there have been a lot of them.

I cannot recall a youth hunter using a scoped gun that has missed. Sure, you can practice all you want, and even if they are shooting open-sight guns great once that big Tom is coming right in gobbling hard, the adrenaline is flowing and it is one heck of a moment for a youth hunter. Most, if not all of that practice goes right out the window, and that cake shot at 15 yards is somehow missed.

The focus of watching the show unfold and no matter what you say, kids aren’t deep enough into the gun with their cheek weld to the stock at the moment of truth. They put the front sight on the bird and pull the trigger and send a load of shot a foot over his head. I have seen it time and time again (and not just with youth hunters, some of you seasoned guys are guilty, as well).

A scope completely solves this issue, it assures proper form and attention to detail. This is no question if the cross-hairs are on that birds neck you are going to get him (given he is in range, but that is what the mentor is there to convey). A scope practically forces a youth hunter to properly shoulder the firearm, aim and fire. It just instills good habits from the get go.

No. 2: Use a pop-up ground-blind. Let’s face it, kids get antsy and love to move. They haven’t been picked off by the weary eyes of a gobbler so they really do not know how good their eyes are. Utilizing a ground blind makes everyone’s job much easier when it comes to harvesting a longbeard. You can really get away with quite a bit of movement inside a blind.

In my experience, even if set up that day prior, turkeys just do not care about the presence of a new blind. Just remember to keep the windows on the backside closed, or you will end up silhouetted and inherently picked off.

No. 3: Use a set of shooting sticks! Fabricate a set of sticks yourself of pick up some type of manufactured gun support. I tend to shy away from the monopod type because they take a little more finesse for a kid to use but in a pinch they are certainly better than nothing. Even youth model guns get heavy for a kid holding it up as a big gobbler is approaching, trying not to move and shift a heavy gun is a pretty big task. Alleviate this issue by using a set of sticks. It really cuts down on movement and also provides a much better rest for an accurate shot.

No. 4: Do not let kids practice with actual turkey shells. No one, even the biggest guys, enjoy shooting extremely high recoiling shotshells. A 3 inch 20-gauge shell still packs a good punch to the shoulder. All this does is inspire trigger yanking and instills a nice flinch at the shot. 

Use low-brass light target loads and fire away. The patterns will be very close to the aim point of the real turkey loads and, at close range, they will be spot on. Doing this will establish confidence and give you a youth hunter who is not afraid of recoil and a much better shot.

The morning of the hunt slip in the real turkey shells. Trust me, they will never realize the difference when shooting at that big tom. 

No. 5: If using decoys, the thought is to keep them nice and close for what you would think would be an easy shot for your youth hunter. 

Not the case. I find we’ve had more missed inside 15 yards with birds than I would like to admit. Put decoys out no closer than 20, preferably 25 or even 30 yards. The pattern of these modern guns at close range is extremely tight, and with that comes the necessity to aim really, really well.

Without a precise aim it makes it easy to miss with a tennis ball-size pattern at close range. Decoys out at 25 or 30 yards gives a much larger aiming error buffer, allowing the pattern to spread out a bit. Also, it keeps the birds out a bit farther and provides a little extra distance on not being picked off. There is nothing worse then urging a youth that he needs to shoot now at a gobbler that became nervous because he saw something he did not like, is putting and is about to run. The goal is to shoot at relaxed birds that have no idea of the hunters presence.

No. 6: Bring an extra pair of gloves and an extra face mask. Kids just love to lose stuff, especially face masks. These are also items that always seem to be left in the truck. Bring an extra of each and keep them in your vest or pack and avoid this problem altogether.

Best of luck out for youth weekend and remember, don’t forget to take kids out during the regular season as well. Hunting heritage is relying on us, the mentors, to keep the tradition alive.

Being the season is still on, do not forget about the 11th annual youth turkey hunt on April 25. It is still on as well. However, this will be a weigh-in only event and the typical BBQ and award ceremony/prize giveaway to follow will be held at a later date yet to be determined. Call Mike Auriemma (518-669-0460) or Dick Andrews (518-461-2912) to sign up.

Categories: Sports


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