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From left, young Hunter Conklin admired the turkey his grandfather, Millerton resident Larry Conklin, took at the start of the 2020 spring turkey hunting season. Photo submitted

Harlem Valley hunters take a shot at wild turkey season this May

HARLEM VALLEY — Since the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced the start of spring turkey season on Friday, May 1, hunters across the Harlem Valley have been coming out of the woodwork to talk turkey and prepare themselves for another exciting season hunting these wild birds.

According to the DEC website, New York state has two turkey hunting seasons: one in the spring and one in the fall. This year’s spring season began Friday, May 1, and runs through Sunday, May 31, leaving all of upstate New York north of the Bronx-Westchester County line open for turkey hunting. Hunting hours are restricted to one half-hour before sunrise to noon, and each hunter has a season bag limit of two bearded turkeys, or one bird per day. 

Before going hunting for wild turkey, all individuals are required to have a turkey permit and a hunting license, both of which can be found on the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov under Permits, Licenses and Registrations. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dutchess County residents could purchase hunting licenses at a variety of license issuing agent locations, such as local Town Halls. However, with such offices closed in response to COVID-19, hunters have been advised to purchase their licenses over the phone at 1-866-933-2257 or online at https://decals.dec.ny.gov/DECALSCitizenWeb/citizenhome.htm. 

For residents ages 16 to 69, a hunting license costs $22 while those 70 and up and between the 12 and 15 pay a $5 fee. Non-residents 16 and up must pay a $100 fee, while non-residents between 12 and 15 pay $5. As for turkey permits, the resident fee is $10 for ages 12 and up, while the non-resident fee is $20 for ages 12 and up. Hunters must wait to receive their licenses, which can take 10 to 14 days to arrive via mail when purchased online, before hunting. 

Since turkey reproduction in Dutchess County has remained fairly stable over the last few years, the DEC expects ample harvest opportunities for hunters this year, said Jeff Wernick from the DEC Press Office. 

Among the rules for the spring turkey hunting season, hunters are required to take careful spur (referring to the talon on the back of the turkey’s leg), beard and weight measurements for reporting the turkeys they kill. Hunters are required to call 1-866-426-3778 or going online to https://decals.dec.ny.gov/ within seven days of their taking a turkey.

However, as local hunters pursue their game, the DEC has reminded them to exercise social distancing and follow the necessary health and safety guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The DEC has encouraged hunters to hunt close to home; opt for day trips instead of visiting a hunting camp; hunt alone; avoid crowds, high-traffic destinations and close contact with other hunters; carry hand sanitizer and avoid touching their faces; and to stay home if they are feeling unwell.

Yet even with more rules this year due to COVID-19 guidelines, local hunters are excited.

“When you know the turkey season’s coming, it’s a sure sign of spring,” said Millerton resident George Kaye.

With 50 years of hunting experience under his belt, Kaye has come to appreciate the wild turkey for all its distinct traits and downfalls; when it comes to hunting, he’s had the satisfaction of taking several turkeys over the years that were 24 pounds and up. In his experience, he said most hunters use decoys to lure a turkey by imitating the call of a young male turkey, or jake. With this particular method, Kaye said hunters are able to have a conversation with the turkey, a facet of the sport that has never lost its appeal in Kaye’s mind.

“[It’s] the idea that you’re able to talk back and forth with the turkey,” he said, “since they are a pretty smart bird and since they have such excellent eyesight, they’re not an easy bird to fool… The older the bird, the wiser the bird, so it’s an accomplishment to be able to fool a turkey.”

When asked if he prefers to hunt turkey for food or for the game itself, Kaye chose the sport of hunting turkey, citing the joy of going out into the woods and spending time with nature.

“It’s a good reason to be out in the woods,” he said. “You get to see the sun come up… and it’s the idea of being out in nature, just an enjoyment of everything that goes on. It can be an exciting time.”

“I enjoy hunting and fishing immensely,” Millerton resident Larry Conklin agreed, who goes turkey hunting every year he can. “It’s great to be out there in nature — people should enjoy it more than they do.”

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