Feathers have been flying since last Tuesday’s opening of the New York state spring wild turkey season, and the hunters have taken some good sized toms.
However, the opening day weather was quite cold and rainy for most of us, and it made for a very miserable morning sitting in the woods. I was hunting in the Westerlo area of Albany County, and in spite of the heavy rain and wind, the toms were gobbling early. I got a pair to answer me while I was sitting in a large pine forest, but the two big toms wouldn’t leave the field and their harem and come to me. I did get a jake to come in, but decided to let him go.
I told my hunting companion, Glenn Garver of Albany, that he should set up on the edge of this field on his next trip there. He did, and it paid off several days later when he downed a 19-pound gobbler with a 10-inch beard and five-eighths-inch spurs. One shot from his Ithaca did the job. Mike Mueller of Schenectady, who was hunting with Garver that day, connected on a 17-pound tom that carried a eight-inch beard and one-inch spurs. Mike was using a Mossberg 12-gauge.
Just three weeks after Mick Elliott of Ballston Spa certified his grandson, 13-year-old R.J. Elliott, also of Ballston Spa, and presented him with his hunter safety certificate, the two teamed up for the young man’s first turkey hunt. And grandpa called up a big tom in the Saratoga County turkey woods, a spot I’m quite familiar with.
R.J. dropped the tom with one shot from his Western Field 20-gauge at 25 yards. The tom, which had a very thick and full five-inch beard, weighed 22 pounds and had one-inch spurs. Mick, who I know was more excited than R.J., reminded me that it was the exact spot where he had called in a big tom for me several years ago, but I missed. You can see R.J.’s tom on adkhunter.com.
Now, Day 2 of hunting for me was in an area I hadn’t scouted or roosted birds in this year, but I only had a few hours to hunt, so I went there because it was close to home. I admit I wasn’t very confident, but luck was with me. I set up about 70 yards from the edge of a field in an area where I had success three years earlier. I was putting out the decoys when I heard a gobble at least 200 yards away.
Using my Wilson Maple box call, I made several low yelps just in case there was turkey nearby, and then started to call a little louder. The toms answered and continued to answer for a while, then went silent. Fifteen minutes later when I called, the response was close. I just got my gun up when two toms made their way across a small stream, and at 42 paces, I took the larger one. It was all over at 5:45 a.m. I was surprised at the scales that my jake with five-inch beard weighed 18 pounds.
Getting a double (two hunters sitting together and each shooting a different tom at the same time) is a rarity, and Fort Ann hunter Dan Ladd (author of adkhunter.com) and Russ Sheridan of Pilot Knob almost pulled it off in the Washington County turkey woods just inside the Adirondack Park line.
Hunting from a ground blind, they used a box call to coax a pair of toms and three hens to their five-decoy spread. When they saw two toms coming in, they decided to try for a double. Dan went low and Ross high. When it was time to shoot, Dan dropped his tom at 20 yards, but Ross’ tom was 40-plus yards out and Ross missed him. It was Ladd’s biggest turkey ever, tipping the scales at 22 pounds, carrying a 9 7⁄8-inch beard and 1 1⁄8-inch spurs. And it was all over at 6 a.m.
Jim Bubb of Clifton Park didn’t mind the nasty weather opening day in the South Bethlehem turkey woods, especially after he downed his big tom that had not one, but four separate beards. The beards measured 9 3⁄4, 9 1⁄4, six and three inches, totaling 28 inches. The tom weighed 20 pounds and carried one-inch spurs. Bubb shot the bird with a Remington 870 Express Magnum at 35 yards.
Amsterdam hunter Dick Andrews filled his first turkey tag locally with a nice 3-year-old tom. The bird weighed 18 pounds, 10 ounces, had a 9 1⁄4-inch beard and 1 1⁄8-inch spurs.
Mike Auriemma of Amsterdam works the night shift, and shortly after he entered the turkey woods, he fell asleep on watch. An hour and a half later, when he awoke in the pouring rain, he heard two gobblers and worked what he believed was a group of jakes for a half-hour. Then in they came running, in single file, and they all were matured toms, nine of them. But at 20 yards, Mike’s shotgun echoed through the woods and only eight left. His bird weighed 18 pounds, 13 ounces, carried a 10-inch beard and seven-eighths-inch spurs.
Mike’s second tom was taken hunting in Montgomery County and tipped the scales at 21 pounds 11 ounces, had a nine-inch beard and one-inch spurs. Mike is the president of the Mohawk Valley Sharp Spurs that hosts an annual youth turkey hunting event.
I still have several turkey tales I didn’t have room for this week, but they’ll be included in the next turkey tale column. It sounds this has, and will continue to be, a very productive spring turkey hunting season, so keep the “Tales” coming to firstname.lastname@example.org.