By Jerrod Vila/For The Leader-Herald
Here we are once again rolling into the heart of August. This time frame is traditionally when the DEC’s wild turkey survey has taken place.
I have seen poults of all sizes within the last couple of weeks, from quail size, all the way up to full grown chicken size. Now is the time to start taking inventory of how many poults are tagging along with hens. This gives DEC wildlife biologists all across the state, region by region data of how successful spring nest rearing was.
Since 1996, the DEC has conducted the Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey to track wild turkey productivity (the proportion of young of the year versus adult hens) statewide.
Weather, habitat conditions and predators during breeding and brood-rearing seasons can significantly impact nest success, hen survival and poult survival. For the record, turkey predation almost exclusively consists of nest predators; such as raccoons, opossums, and skunks. The common misconception that fishers, coyotes and bobcats account for the majority of turkey predation is just that – a misconception. Sure it is possible, but even so, a single bird here or there is not even remotely the same as a raccoon destroying an entire clutch of eggs in a matter of minutes.
This index allows the DEC to gauge reproductive success and predict future turkey populations and harvest opportunities as they relate to similar conditions. Reproductive success remains significantly lower than it was in the early 2000s. The estimated number of poults per hen in 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2022 were four of the six lowest productivity estimates since the survey began in 1996. I feel this accurately represents most hunter’s experiences within the last five years, as well.
To see the data from the last five year’s survey results for yourself visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/48732.html
Keep an eye out for wild turkeys as you are out and about. When you do observe a flock, make note of the number of adult females, adult males and poults that you see. Then follow through at home or on your phone and enter your observation online. If you happen to see what you believe to be the same flock later in the month, please do not double report the group.
Observing and counting wildlife can be challenging. In order to not bias the results, the DEC asks that you only report flocks when you are confident you observed the entire group. Partial flock observations can bias the poult per hen estimates. Using binoculars can greatly improve the odds you’re able to observe an entire flock.
To report your wild turkey sightings, click https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/fe7ec92ebf7b45bf8e11a295bf83117e. Just remember it is only during this month.
This weekend, Wildwood Farm in Westminster, Massachusetts, will hold HuntStock.
This is not your typical hunting show we are all used to experiencing. The festival has coined the phrase “America’s Re-invented Hunting Expo,” and for good reason.
Huntstock promises to be different, to build a unique atmosphere one will not find anywhere else. One of Huntstock’s goals is to get the younger generation into hunting, and part of that strategy is to make sure the biggest influencers they listen to and watch via podcasts and YouTube are a big part of the festival.
This is an outside event, in a preseason festival atmosphere, amped up with high anticipation of the upcoming season, unlike the typical expo held in the middle of winter well after the season where everyone is down in the dumps because they have another nine or 10 months until deer season comes once again.
Every single exhibitor is a real hunter. Seminars will cover almost every genre of whitetail hunting, and also appeal to every degree of hunter, from the green novice, to the most seasoned hardcore hunter. Seminars will feature the tried-and-true names like the Benoits and Hal Blood, to the New and upcoming YouTube and podcast hunters that the younger generation is utmost familiar with.
I will be present all day Saturday and Sunday. There is also a 3D range on site which is open to public shooting, three seminar stages and more than $30,000 in door prizes. For more information or to buy tickets, visit https://huntstockevents.com/.
NEW YORK STATE CONSERVATION COUNCIL
Bill S4099 will make it unlawful for any person to organize, sponsor, conduct, promote or participate in any contest, competition, tournament or derby with the objective of taking or hunting wildlife for prizes for other inducement, or for entertainment. This does not include hunting white-tailed deer, turkey, bear or fishing contests.
The New York State Conservation Council has sent the following letter to Governor Kathy Hochul in regards to Bill S4099:
Dear Governor Hochul:
Representing the state-wide membership of the New York State Conservation Council, we are requesting The Governor’s veto of the above referenced bill.
The below paragraphs represent the long standing position of Council’s membership opposing restrictions on competitions of taking of wildlife.
The NYSCC is opposed to the enactment of blanket restrictions on competitions involving the taking of wildlife.
Hunting, fishing, and trapping as all sports do, engenders a competitive streak. Thus, hunting, fishing, and trapping contests have been conducted since time immemorial with participants congregating at the end of the day to socialize and compare results and perhaps settle a friendly wager or two. The organization of tournaments only represents a formalization of these activities, often as a fundraiser for a charitable cause.
These contests are not wanton killing events. They are comprised of a number of individual hunts conducted under the same statutes and regulations as any individual hunting, fishing, or trapping activity. Contrary to often-stated complaints, these contests do not involve any confinement or impairment of fair chase practices.
Regulated hunting, fishing, and trapping activities are a vital component of species management. The stewardship of habitat and wildlife is complex, requiring both professional training and actual boots on the ground. This is best provided by a well-schooled and experienced DEC staff and not by legislative micromanagement.
Broad legislative prohibition requests of this type are based on misconceptions and emotion rather than the on the ground knowledge and experience that should prevail.
Competitive Wildlife Competitions follow the legal taking of fish and wildlife. The ethics of today’s outdoor sportsmen helps preserve and important balance that is required in nature.
There are many other interests that benefit from the sponsorship of such events. Fire Departments, Disabled Veterans, VFW’s, Hospice, Scouting, and Local Towns and Sportsmen’s Clubs are just a few of the groups known by the NYS Conservation Council that support and benefit these competitive events.
Ecological Science and the principles under the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation https://www.fishwildlife.org/landing/north-american-model-wildlife-conservation has nothing in opposition to wildlife competitions. Principle 7 of the North American model states that Scientific management is the proper means for wildlife conservation.
Scientific Management is the basis for the operation of the NYSDEC. This legislation, if signed into law, would seriously conflict with the sound “Scientific Management” principle.
Governor Hochul, please veto this bill.
If you would like to voice your own opinion to the Governor as well, call 518-474-8390 (office hours 9 a.m.-5 p.m.), or The Honorable Kathy Hochul, Governor of New York State, NYS State Capitol Building, Albany, NY 12224.