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Prep work improves turkey hunting odds

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Turkey hunters have just over two weeks to prepare for the May 1 opener of New York’s spring turkey season. While sound preparation doesn’t guarantee that hunters will fill their two tags, such preparation does up the odds for success.

Here is a look at four areas that merit preseason attention by hunters.

Places to Hunt

Private landowners have the ideal situation for a place to hunt as landowners can control who hunts the property and have an intimate familiarity with the landscape. Many hunters don’t own hunting property, but they have permission to hunt private land. Such hunters should not assume they have hunting privileges from year to year. Instead, hunters should check with the landowner prior to the season to verify the privileges still exist.

Unless the landowner grants exclusive hunting rights, a hunter is advised to communicate with the other hunters who will be using the property. In addition to a safety factor, such communication reduces the chances of interfering with another’s hunt. Too, communication creates camaraderie, and hunters can share information that may prove helpful on future hunts.

Public hunting lands abound across the north country. For those not familiar with the area’s public lands, I’d recommend visiting the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov. The hunting tab has a link to “All Public Land Areas” in Region 6, and that link has maps identifying the various State Forests and Wildlife Management Units in St. Lawrence, Jefferson, and Lewis counties.

Familiarity with the landscape is one key to success on public lands. If you plan on hunting unfamiliar land, acquiring a map is a good starting point. Begin by identifying several access points and parking locations. Having several access points allows you to go to another area if vehicles and other hunters are present at a given site. How much time you spend familiarizing yourself with a new hunting area prior to the season is a judgment call. By spending preseason time in the woods, a hunter gains familiarity with the area, but he also “educates” the birds.

Preseason Scouting

At the very least, preseason scouting efforts should verify that turkeys are in the area you will be hunting. In a best-case scenario, scouting efforts would result in identifying and patterning particular birds and their roosting, feeding, strutting, and travel areas. In essence though, patterning birds is a season-long endeavor.

To avoid “educating” birds, some hunters opt to do their scouting from a distance by using binoculars. Up-close scouting, like on-site land familiarization, is a judgment call. While up-close scouting may reveal signs, sightings, and patterns, that type of scouting can also “educate” turkeys. For those who have permission to hunt private land, the landowner may be an excellent source of preseason information regarding turkey patterns in the area.

Some hunters use calling as part of their preseason scouting. Again, we have another judgment situation as calls will definitely locate gobblers, but calling likely puts more turkeys on alert than any other human intrusion.

For those who opt to locate preseason birds via calling, the general guideline is to keep calling to a minimum and to use locator calls rather than actual turkey calls.

Gear Preparation

Turkey hunters use a fair amount of paraphernalia, so readying gear such as calls, guns, decoys, and vests merits hunter attention prior to the May 1 opener. Regarding calls, today’s market offers plenty of quality, easy-to-use ones so hunters are advised to have several types of calls, to make sure they are in good working order, and to do some practice calling. Since I am not a skilled caller, I envy those whose calling allows them to converse with live turkeys in efforts to lure the birds within shooting range.

Regarding your turkey gun, it’s advisable to do some practicing in order to learn how your gun performs with various brands, shot sizes, and shooting distances. Finding the proper load familiarizes the hunter with the limits of his gun, and this knowledge gives confidence in deciding what shots to take and what shots to pass up when a gobbler approaches the setup.

Regarding decoys, make sure all the components are there, and actually set the decoys up to ensure that they have a proper shape and profile. If there is a means of adding motion to your decoy, such motion often makes the difference between a tom being out of shooting range and being within shooting range.

Regarding gear, make certain your vest is stuffed with the paraphernalia you deem necessary for a spring hunt. On the comfort side, repellent can keep mosquitoes away, a cushion helps those hard-ground sits, and pruning shears clear the way of bothersome brush. From a legal perspective, a pen is necessary for filling out your tag, and an attachment device is necessary for attaching that tag to the carcass.

Spring Youth Hunt

Perhaps the best preseason action of all is to take a youth hunting during the Youth Spring Turkey Hunt slated for next Saturday and Sunday. While such an outing may “educate” birds in a given area, a few educated turkeys are well worth the reward of introducing youths to the sport of turkey hunting.

Youths between the ages of 12-15 who hold a junior hunting license and a turkey permit are eligible to hunt.

Youths must be accompanied by an adult who also possesses a current hunting license and turkey permit. The adult may assist in calling, but he may not carry or shoot a firearm. The bag limit is one bearded turkey during the youth hunt, and the regular turkey hunting regulations are in effect.

Outdoors Calendar

Today-April 30: PFDs must be worn when aboard any boat, canoe, or kayak less than 21 feet.

Saturday-Sunday: Youth Hunt Days for spring turkey.

Sunday: Racquette Valley F&G Club hosts 3-D Archery Shoot at 233 Coldbrook Drive, South Colton.

April 26, 27: Hunter Education Course at Sackets Sportsman’s Club (Register at 232-3407 after 5 p.m.).

April 27-28: Racquette Valley F&G Club hosts Gun and Knife Show at 233 Coldbrook Drive, South Colton.

May 4: St. Lawrence River Walleye Association hosts Opening Day Derby (384-3450).

May 4: St. Lawrence Valley Sportsmen’s Club hosts annual Opening Day Walleye Derby.

May 11: Home-study Hunter Education Course at Potsdam Town Hall (In-person registration at Town Hall April 22-26).

May 25: Cape Vincent C of C hosts annual Spring Fishing Derby (654-2481).

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