New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced that spring turkey season opens May 1, in all parts of Upstate New York, north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary. In addition, DEC's annual youth turkey hunting weekend will take place April 24 to 25. The youth turkey hunt for junior hunters aged 12 to 15 is open in all parts of Upstate New York and Suffolk County.
"Turkey hunting has long been a sign that spring is here. It also presents a wonderful opportunity for New Yorkers to get outside and enjoy the outdoors and introduce the next generation of hunters to the sport," Commissioner Seggos said. "As hunters take to the field this spring, DEC reminds everyone to hunt safe and hunt smart by following the guidelines to support hunter safety and prevent the spread of COVID-19."
Last year, turkey hunters took approximately 21,500 birds in New York during the spring season, an increase of about 25 percent from 2019. Much of the increase was likely due to a rise in hunter participation as more people looked for outdoor activities close to home during the COVID-19 pandemic. This spring, hunters can expect good numbers of jakes based on average-to-good productivity in 2020 and a mild winter. However, two-year-old birds may be more difficult to find. During 2019, turkeys in New York experienced one of the worst breeding seasons in the 25 years DEC has been monitoring productivity, and the effects of this poor productivity will be experienced most heavily for hunters targeting adult birds this year.
About the Spring Youth Hunt, April 24-25:
- Hunters 12 to 15 years of age are eligible and must hold a hunting license and a turkey permit;
- Youth 12 to 13 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or adult over 21 years of age with written permission from their parent or legal guardian. Youth 14 to 15 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or adult over 18 years of age with written permission from their parent or legal guardian;
- Accompanying adults must have a current hunting license and turkey permit. The adult 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;
- Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day;
- The youth turkey hunt is open in all parts of Upstate New York, north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary, and in Suffolk County;
- The bag limit for the youth weekend is one bearded bird. This bird becomes part of the youth's regular spring season bag limit of two bearded birds. A second bird may be taken only in Upstate New York, north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary, beginning May 1;
- Crossbows may only be used by hunters 14 or older. In Suffolk and Westchester counties it is illegal to use a crossbow to hunt wild turkeys; and
- All other wild turkey hunting regulations remain in effect.
About the Spring Turkey Season, May 1-31:
- Hunting is permitted in most areas of the state, except for New York City and Long Island;
- Hunters must have a turkey hunting permit in addition to their hunting license;
- Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day;
- Hunters may take two bearded turkeys during the spring season, but only one bird per day;
- Hunters may not use rifles or handguns firing a bullet. Hunters may hunt with a shotgun or handgun loaded with shot sizes no larger than No. 2 or smaller than No. 8, or with a bow or crossbow (except crossbows may not be used in Westchester County);
- Successful hunters must fill out the tag that comes with their turkey permit and immediately attach it to any turkey harvested;
- Successful hunters must report their harvest within seven days of taking a bird. Call 1-866-426-3778 (1-866 GAMERPT) or report harvest online at DEC's Game Harvest Reporting website; and
- For more information about turkey hunting in New York, see the 2020-2021 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide or visit the Turkey Hunting pages of DEC's website.
Hunt Safe, Hunt Smart!
While statistics show that hunting in New York State is safer than ever, mistakes are made each year. Every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable and DEC encourages hunters to use common sense this season and remember what they were taught in their DEC Hunter Education Course:
- Point your gun in a safe direction;
- Treat every gun as if it were loaded;
- Be sure of your target and beyond;
- Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; and
- Stalking stinks! Set up with your back against a tree or other object wider than your shoulders and call birds to you.
DEC also encourages all hunters to wear blaze orange or blaze pink when moving between hunting spots to make themselves more visible to other hunters. A blaze orange or blaze pink vest or other material can be hung in a nearby tree when you are set up and calling birds so other hunters are alerted to your presence. In addition, all hunters should continue to follow COVID-19 precautions to ensure a safe hunt, including social distancing and wearing masks. A hunter education class is required for all new hunters and is available in-person (for free) or online (for a fee). To find an in-person hunter education class in your area, visit DEC's Hunter Education Program website or call 1-888-HUNT-ED2 (1-888-486-8332).
Tips for a Successful and Safe Turkey Hunting Season
- Don't stalk. More than half of turkey hunting injuries happen when one hunter stalks another.
- Always assume any call or footsteps you hear are from another hunter. Don't shoot until you clearly see the whole turkey and know its sex.
- If you see another hunter, talk to him or her clearly, and don't move. Never wave or use a turkey call to alert another hunter.
- Turkeys are tough. You need to be close (30 yards or less is best). You need to get a clear head and neck shot. Do not try to shoot them in the body or when they are flying.
- Smaller shot, no. 4, 5, and 6, work better than larger shot, due to denser shot patterns.
- When calling, sit still with your back against a big tree, to hide you from turkeys and stalkers.
- Never wear turkey colors: red, white, or blue.
- Wear hunter orange when going in or out of the woods and when walking around.
- When sitting still waiting for a turkey, put hunter orange on a tree near you.
- If you take a turkey or carry a decoy, wrap it in hunter orange.
For more information about getting outdoors and #RecreateLocal, go to DEC's Website.
Buy Sporting Licenses Online
DEC is encouraging hunters, trappers, and anglers to purchase sporting licenses online to help further limit the community spread of COVID-19. Sporting licenses may be purchased online at any time, and anglers may use their privileges immediately by simply carrying their transaction number (DEC-LS#) while afield. Anglers, hunters, and trappers may also use the HuntFishNY mobile app to display an electronic copy of their license. The HuntFishNY app is available for download through the Apple App or Google Play stores. Back tags and carcass tags must still be mailed, and customers should allow 10-14 days for receipt of their tags. Please visit our website for more information about sporting licenses.
Citizen Science Opportunity: DEC Seeks Turkey Hunters for Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey
Turkey hunters can record the number of ruffed grouse they hear drumming while afield to help DEC track the distribution and abundance of this game bird. To get a survey form, go to DEC's website or call (518) 402-8883. To participate in DEC's Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey or other wildlife surveys, visit the "Citizen Science" page of DEC's website.