The 2014 spring turkey season opens Thursday (May 1) in upstate New York and a flock of hunters are expected to fill the woods each morning to kill males, known
affectionately as toms or gobblers. The season ends May 31. Shooting starts at one-half hour before sunrise and ends at noon each day.
"Approximately 100,000 turkey hunters will take to the field this spring, making it a very popular activity," said New York State Department of Environmental
Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens.
The rules require a turkey must possess a beard. This generally means toms, but, like humans, occasionally females (hens) have beards, which makes them fair game.
Hunters need a turkey hunting permit in addition to a hunting license. Hunters may take two bearded turkeys during the spring season, but only one per day.
Hunters are allowed to use shotguns or handguns with shot sizes between no. 2 and no. 8, or a bow and arrow. Hunters may not use rifles or handguns that fire a bullet.
The most successful hunters mimic the sounds of female turkeys using manufactured turkey calls or, when adept, their own voice.
Here are sounds hens make which hunters imitate:
A basic sound, when mimicked by a hunter, tricks a gobbler into thinking a hen is waiting. The excited male comes to call and meets with sudden death.
Making a soft, low, rolling call, turkeys purr to each other, often when feeding. Use this sound to lull the male into thinking a female is signaling she is
nearby and has food to share. This ruse can reassure a tom he is safe when actually he is being lured to the moment of death.
Yelp: Yelping is basic turkey talk. If you yelp like a hen, you will be able to call a tom - as a woman beckons a man.
A single or several, sharp notes, the putt is reverse psychology in action. Generally turkeys putt to warn one another. Use a putt when you have a male almost
near enough to kill. The putt will get him to raise his head or stop, thinking he is being warned by a fellow turkey. He will take off at the slightest movement. Have
your shotgun ready, shoot quickly and kill.
A turkey will roost in trees where he is hard to kill. A series of soft, feminine, muffled yelps accompanied by soft clucking may bring him down from his
roost and bang!
is a series of yelps used by a mother hen to assemble her offspring (poults). A scattered flock may gather; the father may come. Pick out dad and shoot
A three-note call that lasts about two seconds, sometimes followed by a yelp, it is the call of lost, young turkeys. Pretend you're a lost young turkey, and
when an older tom - which have a protective sense toward their kind - comes near - shoot. The best shots are to blow off the head or hit him in the neck since their
brave, large chests are strong and buckshot may only wound, and he will escape to die somewhere alone in the woods.
Loud, sharp clucks, mixed with yelping, cutts are evoked when turkeys are excited, but not alarmed. When a gobbler is with a female she may show excitement by
cutting. Start making cutt sounds yourself, pretending you're a female desirous of the tom. Mock her, mimic her cutting. This may lure her away to see what female is
meddling with her. Sometimes this brings the gobbler nearer. Once he is near, bang!
Gobble. The hunter may occasionally stop pretending he is a female and pretend to be a male. A loud, rapid, gurgling sound, the gobble is the principal vocalization of
the tom to let hens know he's available. You should be cautious using a gobble, since it may attract hunters thinking you are not a human turkey, but a real one. The
risk is often worth the reward. If you gobble like a big turkey you can draw a large, dominate tom looking for a fight. But it will drive away less dominant birds who
wish to avoid a beating and just want a hen. If that is the case, resume being a female turkey and lure the cowards back, look them in the eye and pull the trigger.
A hunter can also pretend he is an owl and hoot, or a crow and caw. These calls are used in the early morning to surprise the tom and draw out a shock gobble. Once
you locate him, try being a female to lure him to his death.
Other tips: Head-to-toe camouflage helps hunters stay undetected. It has a risk since, while the tom can't see you, neither can a hunter, who, like you, is pretending
to be a female turkey. While making sounds like a turkey in camouflage, you might attract buckshot.
If you see another hunter, do not communicate to him via turkey calls. Use human language. Don't move. Don't shoot someone no matter how much he sounds like a turkey.
Since many calls are not from real turkeys but hunters pretending to be females, any turkey sound may be another hunter. Some hunters have beards, too. Don't shoot
until you see that it is a turkey beard.
Sometimes hunters try to stalk turkeys. It is difficult to approach a turkey undetected. They need to be tricked, and hunters, pretending to be a hen, may be trying to
lure the same turkey you are stalking. Sometimes two hunters are stalking what they think is a turkey but is actually each other. Let the bird do the walking. You do
On average there are about 27 cases a year in New York State where hunters (pursuing all types of game) shoot themselves or other hunters. About 6 percent are fatal.
More than 50 percent are incidents where hunters shoot themselves, which is embarrassing, if you live, and, if you don't, for your family, who have to explain it.
Friends and relatives have been known to have difficulty suppressing mirth when they hear the story at the wake.
Never wear turkey colors -- red, white, or blue, and no feathers! You want to sound like a turkey not look like one. Wear hunter orange. If you kill a turkey, don't
walk around proudly carrying it. A hunter, having spent hours pretending to be a female turkey, trying to attract a male, and seeing a dead one moving through the
woods, might think it is alive, shoot at it, miss, and bag you.
Wrap dead turkeys, and, if you accidentally kill one, hunters, in orange.
Successful hunters must fill out the tag that comes with their turkey permit and attach it to any turkey harvested and report their turkey kill within seven days to
the DEC. An accidental human kill should be reported to the authorities. It is considered good manners that, if you shoot a hunter, that you notify his next of kin
before resuming hunting. Bring a cell phone and, by all means, keep next of kin information on your person at all times displayed in a conspicuous fashion.