Snow Wind and Ice - New York State Turkey Hunting Is Different
Editor’s Note: An acoustic technician who works for the U. S. Navy, 41-year-old Jason Pollack of Rock Stream, New York, in the Finger Lakes region of the state, has been hunting turkeys since he was 11 but didn’t take a gun in the woods with him until he was 14 - the earliest a youngster could hunt turkeys with a gun in New York state. A member of the Mossy Oak Pro Staff for 6 years, Pollack prefers to wear Mossy Oak Bottomland for hunting early-season turkeys and Mossy Oak Obsession for the late season.
Our turkey season in New York starts May 1 and ends May 31 - one of the latest turkey seasons in the nation. Now in Maine the season typically ends June 5. When I say that I live and hunt in New York, many people think I’m talking about Manhattan (NYC) with its concrete and skyscrapers. But upstate New York where I live is probably more rural than most states with rolling hills, vineyards and farmlands. A heavy concentration of Mennonites and Amish live where I do. On my drive to work, I slow down for stop lights, horses and buggies. Where I live, horses and buggies create our biggest traffic jams.
I hunt several other states besides New York each year, including the youth seasons in Virginia and Ohio with my oldest son, Aidan, who is 9 years old. He took his first turkey in 2015 during the youth season in Ohio. I also hunt by myself or with friends in Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. I'm often asked, “How do you compare hunting turkeys in New York with hunting turkeys in Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky?” The first thing I’ve noticed is the birds you hear early in the morning are different down South. I hear whippoorwills in Kentucky, but we don’t hear them in New York. In southern states, the turkeys will be fairly responsive to calling during the early season. But in New York, the turkeys gobble very little in the early season, because they're usually henned-up. So, I think that you have a much better chance of taking a gobbler hunting early season in the South than we do hunting early season in New York.
I like to hunt the last 2 weeks of the turkey season in New York. Like every other state, we will have a big push of hunters during the first 2 weeks of the season, and a majority of these hunters won’t hear a bird gobble then. They’ll get discouraged and not hunt the last 2 weeks. From mid-season until the end of the season in New York, I've found that the hens are usually on their nests, the gobblers talk more, and taking a gobbler is much easier then.
Another big difference in New York hunting and hunting in the South is hunters in New York often will experience temperatures in the 20-degree range at the first of the season and perhaps snow. I've hunted many seasons in New York when I’ve left the house in the morning before daylight, and the water in my dog’s bowl outside is frozen. Three years ago we had snow on Mother’s Day. I've been on my stand with my gobbler decoy out in front of me, swaying back and forth with snow on its back. On that day, I didn’t hear a turkey gobble. Our turkeys are often very silent when we have a snow during turkey season. Under snow conditions, I do a lot of running-and-gunning, trying to find at least one turkey that will talk.
On many of the youth hunts I've been on here in New York, we’ll have ice, snow and rain, because the youth hunts are usually during the early season. This past season, the youth hunt was on April 23 – April 24 in temperatures about 32 degrees with blowing wind and a heavy mist. I would best describe the weather as “raunchy.” Finally at 10:30 on that Saturday morning, we heard a turkey gobble, and I was able to call the bird in for my youth hunter. Prior to hearing the turkey gobble, hens had begun to talk. With me calling, and the hens calling, the gobbler finally answered and came in to us. My youth hunter harvested the tom at 28 yards.
I participate in the Yates County Youth Hunt where we usually have 25–30 youth hunters.We have a big banquet for them, and give away some guns and gun cases. At the end of the hunt on Sunday afternoon, we give away a New York State lifetime hunting license to one of the lucky youth hunters.