New York is rated as one of the top turkey-hunting states in the East, and its WMAs and state forests offer some of the best easy-access action in the region. Don't miss out this spring! (March 2010)
Ask anyone in the know to name the top five spring turkey-hunting states in the Northeast and without a doubt New York will be on the list, and with about 35,000 good reasons!
According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, there is an estimated 250,000-plus turkeys in the state and hunters bagged an average of nearly 35,000 bearded birds annually over the past decade.
That is one of the region's largest turkey populations and highest spring harvests on average, which means hunters not only have plenty of opportunities but also have a good chance for success. Add in the two-bird limit, generous spring hunting seasons and plenty of places to hunt in terms of public land offering prime turkey habitat, it is a difficult combination to beat.
Judging by brood surveys, spring hunting in 2010 should be about the same as in 2008 and 2009, producing close to the five-year average of around 30,000 gobblers. Hunters should keep in mind, however, that turkey numbers vary a great deal from region to region, or even within a particular region.
Whatever the case, there will be plenty of birds out there this spring, and with a little pre-season scouting, hunters should have little trouble finding them.
Chautauqua County produced over 2,000 bearded birds in 2009, far more than any other county in the state. Within the county are 14 wildlife management areas covering several thousand acres as well as 15 state forests offering more than 17,000 additional acres of prime hunting territory.
The public lands surrounding Canadaway Creek WMA are prime examples. Canadaway Creek offers over 2,000 acres in two parcels, but its ridges are covered with hardwoods, and softwood plantations offer excellent turkey cover and habitat in Arkwright about four miles northeast of Cassadaga and six miles southeast of Fredonia. Access to the main parcel is by county Route 72 or county Route 629, also known as Center Road. Access is also possible from county Route 312 (Bard Road). Park Road leads to the smaller parcel to the northeast.
About one mile south of the wildlife management area, Boutwell State Forest offers an additional 2,944 acres of prime turkey-hunting area that extends for about five miles to county routes 66 and 85. There is a lot of room to hunt here, but because of its irregularly shaped boundary, hunters should do some pre-season exploring to make sure they are hunting public land.
Access is possible from Lewis Road, Boutwell Hill Road, East Road and Sanford Road. Parking areas will also be found on Erin Road (county Route 85) on the south end, Ruttenbur Road on the north and Boutwell Hill Road in the middle of the forest.
Camping is allowed, which will give hunters easy access to the wildlife area and state forest. A special permit is required for hunters who plan to stay more than three nights.
Turkeys are abundant on the other wildlife areas in Chautauqua County but the state forests are larger and offer more room to hunt.
A prime case in point is Harris Hill State Forest in the towns of Gerry and Ellington. The property provides 3,554 acres of hardwoods and conifers and has a good resident population of birds.
To find the forest from Gerry, take county Route 50 east four miles to a parking lot at the intersection of Harris Hill Road.
Cattaraugus County hunters took 1,432 gobblers last spring, the second highest total in the state. Two parcels of property making up the Allegheny Reservoir WMA in South Valley offer 1,100 acres of mixed hardwoods and conifers. This is a good spot to look for birds and is not heavily hunted, particularly on weekdays. It is on the west shore of Allegheny Reservoir and may be accessed from Bone Run Road and State Line Road, which is off Onoville Road.
Onoville Road may be reached by taking Exit 17 off the Route 17 Expressway.
The Hardwood Lake WMA about five miles northeast of Franklinville on New York state Route 98 covers 298 acres and holds some nice birds.
For more information on these and other wildlife management areas, call the DEC's Region 9 office at (716) 851-7000.
For more information on camping and hunting state forests in the region, contact the district forest ranger at (716) 771-7180 or (716) 771-7105.
Counties within the DEC's Region 8 have been steady turkey producers for years, and while harvest numbers are have not been as high as in other regions, hunters generally have little difficulty finding birds or places to hunt.
Within the region are 17 wildlife management areas and more than 30 state forests covering more than 46,400 acres. Steuben County produced 1,414 bearded birds last spring, more than any other county in the region.
About two miles northwest of Cameron in Steuben County, West Cameron WMA covers 165 acres with varied habitat consisting of hardwoods and softwoods offering food and cover for turkeys.
Access to the area is off county Route 119 and Swale Road.
Nearby Cameron Mills State Forest is one mile west of Cameron Mills and offers an additional 544 acres of good turkey hunting. To access the forest from Cameron Mills, travel west on county Route 119 one mile to Pump Station Road and turn north into the forest.
Six miles southwest of Bath, also in Cameron, Cameron State Forest's 1,990 acres of good turkey ground. To reach the forest from Bath, take county Route 19 south and then turn west onto either Stone House Road or West Cameron Road.
Eight miles north of Bath in the towns of Wheeler and Urbana, Pigtail Hollow State Forest covers 998 acres with rolling hills and ridges covered with mixed hardwoods and softwoods. A small creek runs through the property and serves as a good water supply for turkeys. It is a good place to look for birds.
To access the forest from Bath, take county Route 13, which bisects the property, north to Hungry Hollow Road east of Renchans.
Pigtail Hollow State Forest shares a boundary with Urbana State Forest in Urbana, Pulteney and Wheeler. It offers an additional 2,690 acres of hilly, ridge and valley habitat.
Access is north of Hammondsport off Reservoir Hill, Glenbrook, Colegrove or Bean Station roads.
One of the largest wildlife management areas in Region 8 is High Tor WMA in Ontario and Yates County. The property consists of three parcels totaling more than 6,000 acres.
One of the best areas for turkeys is the 3,400 acres of steep, wooded terrain east of Naples. Birds are frequently found along the fringes of this parcel, but several truck trails provide access to some excellent interior hunting spots.
Just east of the south end of Canandaigua Lake is another portion of the WMA totaling 1,000 acres that features overgrown fields bordered by steep wooded hillsides.
North of Bristol Springs on the west side of Canandaigua Lake, Stid Hill WMA boasts 847 acres of steep hills, ravines, gullies, hardwood uplands and old fields. This is a prime spot for spring gobblers and can be easily accessed from state Route 64 on its western boundary or Dugway Road on its north.
For more information on these areas, contact the DEC's Region 8 office at (585) 226-2466.
On the Tompkins-Schuyler county line about 16 miles south of Ithaca and one mile northeast of the village of Alpine, Connecticut Hill WMA offers some of the best turkey habitat in this part of the state. At 11,045 acres, the property is the largest wildlife management area in New York, and there is plenty of room to explore and hunt.
Part of the Appalachian highlands, the property features a series of hills, ridges and steep ravines and some of the highest topography in the region. It is also rugged, so hunters should expect some difficult walking, but the area's beech and oak groves, old fields and meadows offer plenty of food for turkeys, while other hardwoods, pine and hemlock provide roosting cover.
Access to the property is from the Boyland Road, Carter Creek Road or Connecticut Hill Road off Route 13, all of which bisect the property.
In eastern Oswego County, another prime spot for spring turkey action is the Happy Valley WMA. The area is approximately 12 miles east of Mexico and 20 miles north of Syracuse as the crow flies and is easily accessed from I-81 and U.S. Route 104, which bisects the northern portion of the property. County Route 26 bisects the southern portion.
Barber Road, Churchill Road and Happy Valley Road provide access to other sections of the 8,645-acre hardwood uplands.
In northern Oswego County straddling the Jefferson County line near East Boylston, the Little John WMA offers 8,020 acres of hardwoods, upland and mixed habitat. The property is approximately 45 miles north of Syracuse and 25 miles south of Watertown and may be reached from I-81 by taking county Route 15 (Exit 38) east to county Route 17 north. Little John Road, Blounts Mill Road and Bice Road provide access to various parts of the property.
Cortland County hunters took more than 570 gobblers last spring, a fair amount of which were taken on state forestlands.
In the towns of Freetown and Solon east of Cortland, Baker School House State Forest covers 1,276 acres of mixed northern hardwoods and softwoods, hills, ridges and some open areas.
The WMA has a good population of birds and offers great hunting opportunities, especially early in the season. The forest may be reached by taking state Route 41 east to Baker School House Road north of East Freetown, which cuts diagonally through the property.
A public forest road provides access to the northern section of the forest. Most hunters find a place to park on the side of the road.
To the north in the Cortland towns of Cuyler, Solon, Taylor and Truxton, Taylor Valley State Forest contains 4,638 acres of good turkey habitat. The area consists of a large valley bordered by ridges covered with mixed oak and beech, various conifers and hemlock.
There is also a large wetland area, but the best hunting will be found in or near the stands of hardwoods.
To access the western section of the forest from Cortland, take Route 41 east toward Solon. Turn onto Telephone Road and then left onto Kiwanis Road, which leads to Mt. Roderick Public Access Road.
To reach the eastern portion of the forest, continue on Telephone Road to Hawley Woods Road, and then turn left onto Taylor Valley Road, which runs north through much of the forest.
For more information on wildlife management areas in Region 7, contact the DEC office by telephoning (607) 753-3095.
For more information on the state forest in the region, telephone the state forest office at (607) 753-3095.
DEC REGION 4 AREAS
DEC Region 4 has plenty of turkeys and lots of room to hunt them. In Delaware County, Bear Spring Mountain WMA covers more than 7,180 acres of hilly, upland hardwoods and ridges, so there is plenty of prime turkey habitat and room to hunt.
Bear Spring Mountain is a popular destination for hunters, so it may be crowded early in the season, especially on weekends. Typically, fewer hunters visit the area on weekdays, and hunting pressure wanes as the season progresses. The area has plenty of birds all season, although it may be more of a challenge to bag one as they become more educated.
Bear Spring Mountain WMA is in Colchester and Walton. To reach it from the Walton area, take Route 206 south for about three miles to the property. Several roads, including East Trout Brook Road, offer access to interior areas.
Camping is allowed, although there are no designated campsites, so most hunters set up off the interior roads where space allows.
In Rensselaer County, the Capital District WMA has a good population of birds for spring hunting, and more than 500 turkeys were harvested there last spring.
The habitat here consists of mixed hardwoods and softwoods and hilly terrain in the towns of Berlin and Stephentown. To reach the area from Sand Lake, take county Route 42 east for about five miles to Miller Road, which bisects the property and offers good access.
For more information on these areas and current hunting conditions, contact the DEC's Region 4 office in Albany at (518) 402-8924.
There is some great turkey hunting in the hardwood hills of Region 3. Two of the best locations include Bashakill WMA, which is east of Route 209 and south of Route 17 about 65 miles northeast of New York City in the Shawangunk Mountains.
The area covers 2,212 acres. The property has some wetlands on the west side of the Basher Kill
along Route 209, but the upland area on that side and along South Road on the east side of Basher Kill are high ground and offer prime hunting.
An even larger piece of prime hunting territory is the Mongaup WMA in Forestburg. The property covers 11,645 acres and consists of rolling hills and ridges covered with mixed hardwoods -- prime habitat for turkeys.
To find the area from Monticello, take Route 42 south approximately seven miles to the blinking yellow light in Forestburg. Turn right (west) onto Route 43 for about three miles.
For more information, contact the DEC's Region 3 office at (845) 256-3098.