Is This Our Top Spring Turkey County?

Is This Our Top Spring Turkey County?

Numbers of birds or public hunting acreage: the choice is yours. Either way, you can't lose when the season opens next month! (May 2010)

New York's spring turkey hunters had another good year in 2009. According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation the estimated gobbler harvest was 34,600 birds, an increase of 5 percent over 2008 and close to the 10-year average of 35,000. Harvest numbers were up in 64 percent of the counties across the state. Fewer birds were shot in 24 percent of the counties and the harvest stayed about the same in 13 percent of the counties.

At season's end the top five counties were Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Steuben, Oneida and Otsego, similar to county totals in 2008.

Cattaraugus County and Chautauqua County have been the top producing spring turkey counties in New York since 2000. That is a remarkable statistic considering the state's bird population and the quality of habitat statewide. The odds are those two counties will again come in first and second in 2010, but which county is actually Number One in a given year depends on personal perspective.

Historical Perspective

Based on harvest figures alone, Chautauqua County is the top county for spring turkey hunting in New York. From 2000 through the 2002, Cattaraugus County produced more birds during the spring season (2,230 in 2000, 1,101 in 2001 and 1,918 in 2003), but each spring since 2003 through 2009 Chautauqua County hunters took more birds.

In 2003, Chautauqua County hunters took 2,115 birds compared to 1,964 in Cattaraugus County. The statistical difference is just 151 birds, but it started a trend that has seen a greater harvest disparity between the two counties in recent years. In 2008 1,519 gobblers were harvested in Cattaraugus County while hunters to the west in Chautauqua County took 2,115 birds, a difference of 596 birds! Last year, the difference was 580 birds, again with Chautauqua County coming out on top.

Even if you look at the 10-year average, between 2000 and 2009, Chautauqua County tops the list. During that period hunters in Cattaraugus County took an estimated 15,600 bearded birds for a yearly average of 1,560. In the same time period, hunters in Chautauqua County killed an estimated 17,130 birds, or an average of 1,713. If we divide the 10-year totals by the square miles in each county the average number of birds taken per square mile is quite similar. In fact, at nearly 11.5 birds per square mile, Chautauqua County comes in slightly lower compared to the 11.9 birds per square mile for Cattaraugus County, but considering the fact that Chautauqua County is nearly 200 square miles larger, the margin is negligible at best.

So, based on harvest figures Chautauqua County takes the cake. This by no means diminishes the great spring turkey hunting opportunities in Cattaraugus County, or any other county in the state, but harvest figures don't lie and are certainly hard to ignore!

CATTARAUGUS COUNTY PUBLIC HUNTING AREAS

While harvest figures are heavily weighed by many turkey hunters when looking for a potential honey hole, a growing number of hunters consider the amount of public hunting land in a given county before planning a trip. Private land is great for those who have access, but increasing numbers of these properties are becoming unavailable through posting or development.

When we compare the two top counties from the public land perspective we get a much different picture!

Cattaraugus County boasts 23 state forestlands totaling more than 33,680 acres. All are managed as multiple use areas including turkey hunting, and all support good populations of birds. The county is also home to Allegany State Park, which sprawls over 64,000 acres, much of which is prime turkey range, and there are several other state parks where hunting is allowed.

Combined these areas cover a whopping 97,685 acres, or more than 11.5 percent of the land in the county. All of it, with the exception of the developed area around Red House Lake in Allegany State Park and areas under active timber harvesting in the state forests, is open to hunting.

Better yet, three wildlife management areas in the county provide nearly 3,300 acres of additional public hunting area.

Here are some good areas to look for birds in Cattaraugus County this spring:

Allegheny Reservoir WMA

Allegheny Reservoir WMA consists of two upland parcels totaling 1,100 in South Valley on Bone Run Road and State Line Road intersect off Onoville Road (West Perimeter Road). Onoville Road may be accessed south of Exit 17 in Steamburg off the Route 17 Expressway.

Harwood Lake WMA

This area boasts 298 acres of upland cover in Farmersville on state Route 98.

McCarty Hill/Rock City State Forests

These two state forests cover 6,000 acres of rugged hill country between Salamanca and Ellicottville, all of which is prime turkey range. To access the eastern portion, take Route 219 north from Salamanca and then turn west onto Mutton Hollow Road (Route 38).

To access the western section, take Route 353 north from Salamanca to Route 242, also known as the Whig Road.

Windfall Creek/Ninemile Creek State Forests

Totaling 4,307 acres in Carrollton, Allegany and Great Valley, these properties are on the north side of state Route 417, east of state Route 19, south of county Route 18 and west of county Route 19.

Allegany State Park

Covering 65,000 acres, this is one of the largest state parks in the state. Hunting is allowed except for the developed areas around Red House Lake. Elevations rise to 2,500 feet and the terrain is rugged, but endless acres of hardwood forest offer prime turkey hunting.

Access is possible off Route 17 using exits 18-21. Cottages and a campground are available.

For more information and a map, contact the park headquarters at (716) 354-9101 or visit the facility's Web site at www.nysparks.state.ny/parks.

CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY

Chautauqua County, has five wildlife management areas covering about 4,555 acres and three state forests totaling just over 3,030 acres, so from this perspective Cattaraugus County is the place to be this spring, at least when it comes to turkey hunting opportunities on public land.

Here are some top spots in the county to consider.

Canadaway Creek WMA

Located in Arkwright about four miles northeast of Cassadaga and six miles southeast of Fredonia, this area features over

2,000 acres of upland cover along county routes 312 (Bard Road) and 629 (Center Road).

Watts Flats WMA

This area covers 1,382 acres in primarily wetland habitat but also has some hardwood areas in Harmony, about eight miles southwest of Jamestown. The area borders county Route 305 (Buttton Valley Road), county Route 304 and Swede Road.

Toms Point WMA

Covers just 74 acres, Toms Point hardwoods hold plenty of birds for the hunter who gets there early in the season.

The area may be accessed using Exit 8 off the Route 17 expressway.

Chautauqua Gorge State Forest

In the town of Chautauqua west of Mayville, this state forest covers 538 acres and features pine, spruce and hardwood forest. It is accessible by taking Route 430 west of Mayville, turning right onto Hannum Road and proceeding to its end.

Mount Pleasant State Forest

Covering 1,522 acres with softwoods and hardwoods in the Town of Chautauqua. To find it, take Route 430 west from Mayville three miles to a parking area. Access is also possible on Mount Pleasant and Titus Roads.

Stockton State Forest

This area covers 977 acres with mixed forest in Stockton. To access the area, take county Route 58 west from Stockton about two miles to Coes Road and go one mileFor more information on these and other public lands in either county contact the DEC's Region 9 office at (716) 665-6111.

Which is the top turkey-hunting county in the state? Based on harvests and public hunting opportunities, the bottom line is both Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties.

Good numbers of birds or plenty of public hunting land? All you have to do is decide!

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