This year’s first turkey tales report will begin with the successes of our young hunters during the special two-day youth hunt prior to the regular opening of the state spring wild turkey season.
Let’s begin with a happy grandfather’s story from my friend, Mickey Elliott of Milton, who guided his 14-year-old grandson, R.J. Elliott, on the first day of the youth hunt to a real big tom. I believe when Mickey told me the story, he was as excited as R.J.
The young hunter’s tom, which he shot with a 20-gauge Western Field shotgun using three-inch magnum shells, weighed 223⁄4 pounds, carried a 101⁄2-inch beard and a pair of 11⁄8-inch spurs. According to the National Wild Turkey Federation’s scoring system, R.J.’s tom would have scored a very impressive 66.25 points. Nice going, grandpa!
The 20 gauge was also the choice of 13-year-old Tom Budka Jr. of Scotia, who was hunting with his dad, Tom, in Glenville, where he bagged his first turkey during the youth weekend. It was another big tom, and a great start for the young hunter. His tom tipped the scales at 22 pounds, carried a 73⁄4-inch beard and a pair of three-quarter-inch spurs.
The Mohawk Valley Sharp Spurs chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation hosted its fourth annual picnic opening day of the youth hunt, and it attracted 51 young hunters.
Mike and Michele Auriemma of Amsterdam spearheaded the event, which was free to all. They not only had an end-of-the-day picnic with all the trimmings for the hunters and their mentors, but they gave prizes to all the kids. They also supplied callers for those who needed them and the results were quite impressive, with 15 young hunters harvesting a tom. Here are those who shot birds with some of their stories.
William Perrino of Canajoharie won with a 23-pound, three-ounce bird. There was a tie for second between Andrew Weldon of Florida and Nicole Baker of Fultonville, each with a 21-pound, 12-ounce bird. Scott Moore Jr., 14, of Amsterdam was fourth with a 20-pound, three-ouncer he shot with a 10-gauge (ouch) H&R shotgun at 77 yards. Hunter McCumber of Clifton Park was fifth with an 18-pounder. His caller, 17-year-old Mitch Monini, used an Oak Ridge slate call to bring in the stubborn tom. Luciano Alonzi of Schenectady was sixth with 17 pounds, two ounces.
In seventh place was Nicolai Mosher of Amsterdam, who shot a 15-pound gobbler in the Florida turkey woods at 20 yards with one shot from her Rossi 20-gauge, single-shot gun. Dalton Havlick of Broadalbin was eighth with his 15-pound, one-ounce bird, and Trevor Brownell of Canajoharie was ninth with one that weighed 14 pounds, 10 ounces. Kaitlyn Holt of Amsterdam was 10th with her 14-pound, five-ounce bird.
TJ Karbowski of Pattersonville and Breck Breen of Wilton tied for 11th with 14 pounds, three ounces. For both, it was their first turkey, and both used 20-gauge Mossberg model 500s. Mike Galcik of Schuylerville and I had the pleasure of running around the Saratoga County turkey woods with Breck and watching him shoot his first turkey.
One young hunter, Jared Rotunda of Burnt Hills celebrated his birthday shooting his first turkey, a 14- pounder, at 41 yards. And the last two places were Connor Hogan, Minden, with a 13-pound, 13-ounce tom and Brock Nelson of Florida, who shot an 11-pound, five-ounce tom.
Based on the few turkey harvest reports I’ve received, I think the kids are outshooting the adults. As of last Tuesday, I’ve had 24 hours in the turkey woods and have only shot one tom — on opening day at about 6:15 a.m. Since then, I’ve not seen or heard a gobble. Even my late-afternoon visits to the fields and woods have not produced any visual or vocal turkey gobbles when they are going to the roost. But here are two guys that got it done opening day.
Mike Mueller of Niskayuna spent less than one hour of legal shooting time before he bagged his big tom. He was hunting in Albany County, where he set up next to a large field. The toms started gobbling before daylight, and Mike talked with them so they would think there was an anxious hen waiting for them. Once it got light, the toms could see Mike’s decoys, and he said they flew directly from their roosts and landed among the decoys. One shot, one kill, and Mike walked out and picked up his 21-pound gobbler with an eight-inch beard and three-quarter-inch spurs. It was 6 a.m., and he was done.
His partner, Glenn Garver of Albany, however, didn’t get his opportunity until around 10 a.m., but when it came, he finished the deal, also with one shot. Glenn’s gobbler tipped the scales at 18 pounds, carried an eight-inch beard and had a pair of three-quarter-inch spurs.
If you’re having trouble with toms hanging up and/or no answers, here are few ideas. When several series of soft yelps do not elicit responses, turn up the volume. This is especially effective later in the morning (10 a.m. and after) when the hens head for the nest and the toms are looking for hens to breed.
Loud calls can bring in a love-sick tom from a long way away. Once you have him coming, stay aggressive with your calls and tone down the volume as he gets closer.
Don’t give up, and good luck. There’s still plenty of time to get your gobbler(s), and when you do, email me your turkey tale.