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May 9, 2008
Trotting After Turkeys in Oswego County, NY
By Spider Rybaak
Pulaski resident Scott Trump finds perfect conditions for a successful spring turkey hunt in the rolling countryside of northern Oswego County, NY. (Photo courtesy of Oswego County Department of Community Development, Tourism and Planning.)
Eastern Oswego County sits on the western edge of New York State's Tug Hill Plateau, an area notorious for getting slammed each year with some of the heaviest snowfall in the country. This makes the place a tough spot to scratch out a living from the land; unless, of course, you're a turkey.
“We manage four wildlife management areas and a bunch (13) of state forests and reforestation areas in Oswego County,” says Darrel Jenks, a wildlife biologist with New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). “But none is managed specifically for turkey.”
“However,” adds Jenks, “I design some programs to enhance ruffed grouse habitat. And turkey are nothing more than overgrown grouse.”
Now, a dedicated gobbler hunter who goes to meeting wearing a camo sport coat and knows how to use turkey calls fluently, might not cotton to that comparison. Truth of the matter is, grouse and turkey share habitat.
Jenks claims the DEC's fowl efforts mainly involve “restoring forest openings, particularly in the Littlejohn and Happy Valley WMAs.”
“We get most of the work done by private interests through timber sale trade off. Instead of cash for the transactions, we get it in-kind,” says the biologist.
He explains: “After harvesting timber, the loggers agree to enhance the habitat to what amounts to food plots. They lime the openings to adjust pH, reseed legumes which provide forage, and through apple tree releases where they cut competing vegetation within 25 feet of old apple trees, increasing fruit production; turkeys love the buds and apples.”
“Whatever they're doing, it's working,” gloats hunting guide Stan Oulette of Pulaski. “We've got turkeys all over the place.”
“So many, in fact, I regularly volunteer to be a mentor in the Youth Spring Turkey Hunt held the last weekend in April, and at least one of my students nails a bird each year.”
While Oulette agrees with Jenks that your chances of getting a bird are good in any of Oswego County's public hunting areas, his favorite spots include Boylston's 9,233-acre Winona State Forest Recreation Area (access at Center Road off Co. Rte. 22 in Lacona, and Center, Wart and Bargy Roads in Boylston Center), and the lowland forests of the Deer Creek WMA on NY 3.
Oulette says a successful hunt takes two parts: “Scouting an area the night before the hunt by using a location call [an owl or crow call], to find out where they're roosting, then returning just before first light, setting up a hen decoy, and a half hour before sunrise, start talking turkey.”
For a copy of the “Oswego County Fishing and Hunting Guide” containing a map showing the locations of all public hunting grounds, contact the Oswego County Tourism Office, 46 E. Bridge Street, Oswego, NY 13126; 800-248-4FUN (4386) or by . For visitor information and current fishing reports, visit the Oswego County Web site at www.visitoswegocounty.com.
Spider Rybaak is an award-winning outdoor writer who has been published in more than 20 periodicals. He is the author of “Fishing Eastern New York” and “Fishing Western New York” guide books that cover 429 streams and lakes in New York State. Contact him by .
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