Saturday, April 22, was the day when the youths and their mentors took to the woods to bag a gobbler. For the kids it was the culmination of classroom instructions, safety classes, shooting practice, etc. Traditionally, the special youth turkey hunting day occurs on the Saturday before the opening day of the spring turkey hunting season. Each year I try to cover the kids at a different sportsmen’s club that has the youth turkey hunting program. Last year I was at the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club, this year the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club and next year I hope to be at the Lee Sportsmen’s Club.
This year the SSC had a fairly large group of kids (20) to mentor. As you can see by the photo, they did very well with 5 kids bagging birds and just about every kid and mentors had action, either by having toms respond to their calls or having opportunities to see some. That’s really important for it takes a great deal of fortitude for the youngsters to get up early and be out in the woods before daybreak. If they don’t have some kind of positive action, they may get immediately discouraged and not ever go turkey hunting again.
Mike Buffoni, who heads up the Stockbridge program and who also is a mentor had a memorable morning himself. He and his accompanying youth spotted a female moose during the hunt. Others hunters spotted a bear of two. Mike has to be super proud of his two sons Max and Marco for they both bagged gobblers.
The day started off damp and raw with a few sprinkles here and there but as the day progressed, it warmed up. When the kids and mentors returned to the club around noon, (turkey hunting must cease at noon) they were treated to a hot roast beef dinner expertly prepared by Chef Peter Delgrande.
After the meal, the customary procedure is to teach the kids how to dress the birds, breast them out for consumption, and save the tail feathers, beards and spurs for display. Getting that first turkey was a big event for these kids and I’m sure they wanted to save such items for fond memories and bragging rights.
While one of the mentors was eating his meal, he picked at least 20 ticks off of his shirt – both wood ticks and deer ticks. He had hung his hunting jacket on the back of his chair and they were jumping off of that onto his shirt. He said that he had also pulled a lot of ticks off of him when he finished hunting and was leaving the woods.
From what I hear and see, this is going to be one heck of a year for ticks, so please make sure you use a tick repellent spray on your clothes, such as permethrin, and be sure to carefully inspect yourself when you get home.
Matt Ranzoni, who headed up the Lee Sportsmen’s Association youth hunt, had 6 kids participate this year and 3 of them were successful. Donavan Coccomo got a tom weighing 21 lbs, Hunter Briggs got a 20 lb bird and Matt Driscoll got a 15 lb jake. Travis Bush passed up a jake because he saw a tom that he was after. The other two hunters, Dorian Page and Owen Bush had close calls.
No word was received as to how the kids at the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club did.
The Lee and Cheshire youth turkey hunt programs are similar to that of the Stockbridge Club, but I doubt very much that they had the kind of delicious meal that Delgrande prepared.
As of midweek, MassWildlife only had harvest numbers on what had been reported online. Many check stations still issue physical seals so they aren’t able to obtain harvest numbers until they get information back from all the check stations statewide after the season closes.
Incidentally, readers may recall my March 5 column, ”NE Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame inductees announced”, wherein I mention that MassWildlife’s James Cardoza was one of the inductees for supervising the recovery of Massachusetts wild turkey. Following that article, 90-year old Joe Robinson called me to tell the rest of the story. Robinson, a former DFW Western District biologist, retired 35 years ago, but he remembered the turkey recovery effort quite well and related the following:
The real credit for reintroducing the turkeys back into Massachusetts belongs to the then DFW Western District Supervisor Winn Saville, and his staff including Frank Putnam, Ed Hover, Fred Bohlman and Joe. “We were the pioneers”, he said. “Members of the staff traveled to New York in the early 1970’s, got the birds and released them in Beartown State Forest. We kept an eye on them to see how they were doing. We built feeders for the turkeys and put bags of corn into them. The deer got a lot of that corn.” Joe said that the first turkeys migrated to the Great Barrington area along with their poults. After some years of reintroducing them and their own self populating, the hunting season was opened 1980.
The Berkshire Hatchery Foundation in Hartsville-New Marlborough is having a free children’s fishing derby next Saturday, May 13 from 9 to 10:30am at its lower pond. Children aged 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
The following waters were scheduled to be stocked with trout last week: West and Middle Branches of the Westfield River in Becket, Chester, Huntington, Middlefield and Worthington; Littleville Reservoir in Chester and Huntington, Trout Brook in Peru, York Lake in New Marlborough, Otis Reservoir, Laurel Lake, Richmond Pond and Windsor Pond in Windsor.
Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone: (413) 637-1818
Front left to right; Curt Wilton III, Max Buffoni, Madison Gilmore, Nick Powers, Zack Lupioni Back row left to right; Kadin Shafiroff, Brady Whalen, Matt Fletcher, Bailey Gilmore, Marco Buffoni, Nick Puntin, Darrin Cloran, Nate Smith. Not in picture; Kade Groeber, Kevin Triono, John Field III, Myles Houle, Juliana Hektor, Briel Winters, Brett Smith.