Ready, Aim, Fire, Dress, Eat

Kids ages 12 and up can participate in a state-sponsored turkey shoot.

Youngsters ages 12 through 15 will be given the chance to hunt wild turkey in this neck of the woods in the spring. Though they will be accompanied by licensed hunters, state officials stressed the teens would do the actual killing, using either bow and arrow or shotgun.

The New York State Department of Environmental Protection is sponsoring its Youth Turkey Hunt so youngsters can “gain the necessary knowledge and skills to become safe and responsible members of the hunting community,” a DEC spokesman said. “We look forward to the great stories and pictures we receive from young hunters and their adult companions and wish everyone a safe and enjoyable hunt,” states the DEC website.

It’s all part of a continuing strategy to monitor the turkey population and adjust hunting season as needed, said Bill Fonda, the regional public participation director for Suffolk County. Fonda said there has been a regular fall hunting season since 2009, open to all licensed hunters.

Recently, a survey was sent to property owners asking them to help the DEC glean if a spring hunt is needed.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the initiative last week.

“The reintroduction of turkeys to Long Island in the 1990s shows how a locally extirpated animal can be successfully reintroduced to an area with sufficient effort and attention,” Commissioner Seggos said. “With this success comes the need to ensure the sustainable management of the turkey population today and into the future.”

Beginning this winter, DEC Region 1 (Long Island) will embark on a multi-year effort to capture wild turkeys and fit them with leg bands. Data collected from leg band returns will be used to measure the overall population size of turkeys on Long Island and help biologists evaluate management options. DEC will conduct this work on public and private lands from January through March 2020.

“There are some people who think they have become a nuisance,” Fonda pointed out, though there are only 6000 or so birds in Suffolk County.

The guidelines for the youth hunt are: Youth 12 or 13 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or person over 21 years of age, with written permission from their parent or legal guardian.

A parent, legal guardian, or person over the age of 18 must accompany youth 14 or 15 years of age, with written permission from their parent or legal guardian.

The accompanying adult must have a current hunting license and turkey permit. She or he may assist the youth hunter (including calling), but may not carry a firearm, bow, or crossbow, or kill or attempt to kill a wild turkey during the youth hunt. Licensees who are under 14 years of age may not use crossbows.

The youth hunt is for spring turkey hunting only and is a two-day weekend hunt. The youth hunt will always precede the start of the regular season by at least three days.

The youth turkey hunt is open in all of upstate New York (north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary) and Suffolk County. Shooting hours are from half-hour before sunrise to noon.

The bag limit for the youth hunt is one bearded bird. This bird becomes part of the youth’s regular season bag limit of two bearded birds. A second bird may be taken in upstate New York (north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary) beginning May 1.

All other wild turkey hunting regulations remain in effect.

As part of the program, Fonda said the young hunters would learn how to dress and clean the animals.

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