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Rod, Gun & Game: When turkey hunt becomes most fun

Kevin Walczyk, a 23-year-old Colden resident, downed a beautiful tom turkey while hunting with his dad last Sunday near Rushford Lake in Allegany County.
Many dyed-in-the-wool turkey hunters say that there are not that many birds out there this year, but advance scouting and knowledge of the areas that have been proven successful over the years can often work to the advantage of the hunter.

Last Sunday, veteran hunter Rick Walczyk and his engineering student son (Kevin) went turkey hunting in Allegheny County near Rushford’s Hanging Bog Swamp and the day would prove to provide a great outdoor adventure. They headed out at dawn and walked to the top of a ridge line, above a swamp and in a large stand of pines.

The bluebird skies with nearly no wind allowed a thin layer of fog to rest over the swamp. The senior Walczyk says, “It was sort of eerie, but also incredible”. As the pair reached their first location, they could hear some “turkey tree talk” in the form of faint gobbles in the distance just north of their location.

The woods was so alive with the morning chatter of birds and squirrels, the younger Walczyk says, “it was actually difficult to hear the turkeys and distinguish which direction they were coming from”. They sat down upon reaching the ridge, moving just a bit more north of their original intended location and slightly closer to the birds they could hear.

Setting up three hen decoys, the elder Walczyk began to call with gentle clucks. The responses were consistent, but sounded a long distance away. Rick (father) did all of the calling and his friends know he has a long history of practice and is exceptional at carrying on conversation. Using a diaphragm mouth call and an occasional Quaker Boy box call, the birds were responding and heading toward the father-son hunting duo.

It seemed about an hour later, the birds just went dead. Getting stiff, they decided to get up and move a short distance away toward an area of a known food plot, the original destination. The two have often seen flocks of turkey here in the fall, as they wait for deer. We sat about ten yards off the food plot near an intersection of ATV paths. Just after setting up the decoys again and much to their surprise, the two were caught off guard by a loud gobble that could not have been more than sixty yards away.

The birds from the early turkey conversation had been sneaking up the whole time the few moments before. Kevin says, “We were very lucky that they did not see us when we were moving to the second location.” My dad called once using the mouth call, the answer was so close that I toggled the safe off my dad’s favorite gun that I was using, a Remington 1187 special-purpose 12-gauge. Loaded with 3-inch mag loads and a super full choke tube, the full camo break-up pattern on the gun makes the beautiful gun perfect for turkey hunting. This particular gun was the National Wild Turkey Federation Gun of the Year a few years back.

Within minutes, there were two large toms were strutting up the path. Kevin is working on his master’s degree in engineering and is normally a very calm guy, but he says, “Instantly, my heart raced and I think my blood pressure spiked, and the gun that seemed so familiar to me a few moments ago was shaking in my hands and not very steady. I peeked over the scope and as soon as the first bird cleared, I gently squeezed off the trigger for a good shot.”

The second bird, which was as big if not bigger, hung around for a moment, but the elder Walczyk couldn’t get a safe shot due to his position and he passed. Kevin says, “The excitement of the hunting climax rushed over me and I ran out to grab my bird. Once in my possession, I looked back to see my dad right behind me. I couldn’t do anything more than sport an ear-to-ear smile and give my dad a high five which turned into a hug. Golden moments like this are hard to find, but when they happen this way, they are very special.

The younger Walczyk says, “It couldn’t have been a better morning; nothing beats spending some quality time with your father in a place you both love and being treated by the blessing of a perfect opportunity during a gorgeous day to be outdoors.”

The two celebrated with a couple of pictures, checked out the beard (about 7-inches) and prominent spurs (about 1-1/8 inches). Rick shared, “It felt like it was around ten o’clock by this time, however, upon checking it was only 7:34 a.m. Nothing beats spending quality time with your dad in the woods.

Fish are biting

With the recent surge of near mid-summer heat this past week, Lake Erie water temperatures zoomed up to levels not usually seen for two or three weeks. Inland lakes due to their smaller volume have warmed considerably higher than Lake Erie. The result is great opportunity for early season walleye, northern pike, tiger musky, yellow perch, and monster bass via the special Lake Erie trophy bronzeback season that started that opened last week.

The early trophy black bass season is in effect on open Lake Erie and all the tributaries up to the first impassible barrier only. Anglers can keep one bass per day with a minimum size of 20 inches during the special bass season. Bass fishing on all other waters in Western New York is also open, but is catch and release only and artificial lures only until the 3rd Saturday in June, which is the official start of NYS bass season.

Note that while tiger musky season is open on inland waters only, the season is closed on Lake Erie, Niagara River and Lake Ontario until the 3rd Saturday in June.

Crappie too, are moving into shallow spawning areas ahead of their usual timetable, with some big fish to 15 inches reported taken at Chautauqua Lake and smaller fish found in the Cassadaga Lakes, Bear Lake and Silver Lake. The popular shore fishing areas of the Union Ship Canal that runs alongside Route 5 opposite the grain elevators will see a mega- run of crappie as well, in the short weeks ahead.

For walleye, with the “warm corner” of Athol Springs hitting the 53-54 degree mark yesterday, the walleye and bass will be in that area in solid numbers. To identify the water temperature, go to this web link and select “Eastern Basin”: http://www.coastwatch.msu.edu/erie/e3.html. This link will allow anglers to study shoreline temperatures as measured from the weather satellite data taken every few hours. You’ll be right up to date and you can also learn the effects of wind shift on lake temperatures in short order if you check it every day.

Night time action will soon be crowded with small boat trollers, but using planer boards might not be a good idea when boat traffic gets as heavy as it usually does here each year. Short lines about 75 to 100 feet behind the boat with a F11 or F13 Rapala in perch color or the old traditional silver/black, will usually fill your cooler on the good nights. Depending on how far from shore you fish (water depth), a split-shot might be necessary, though walleye in clear water in less than 10 feet of depth will often see the shallow-running bait above them and swiftly attack.

Boat launch report

Sturgeon Point launch remains closed for dredging. Lake Erie anglers can launch from Buffalo Small Boat Harbor, two of the three Cattaraugus Creek launches (DEC launch and Town of Hanover launch), Dunkirk Harbor and Barcelona Harbor. Lake levels are low, so use caution wherever you launch.

Free boat inspections

Boaters can enjoy a free boat inspection bhy the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary this Saturday, May 11, 2013, from 9 a.m. at the Southtown’s Walleye Association, 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg.

Outdoors Calendar

May 9: LOTSA (Lake Ontario Trout & Salmon Assoc.), Cornell Coop Extension, 4487 Lake Ave (Route 78) Lockport, 7PM, Capt. Paul Czarnecki – Free Spirit Charters seminar on “Near-Shore Salmon”, call 636-0519 or lotsa.org on-line.

May 11: 2Nd Amendment/Gun Rights Meeting, Iroquois Middle School, Elma, 10am, w/Sen. Patrick Gallivan, Assemblyman Dave DiPietro, James Ostrowski and Max Tremond (attorney’s), Tim Howard (EC Sheriff), Steve Aldstadt (SCOPE Pres.)

May 11: Wilson Invitational Salmon Fish Tournament, Wilson Marina at Wilson Harbor, largest salmon wins, email: wilsoninvitational@gmail.com.

May 11/18: NYS Hunter Safety Training, Holland Rod & Gun, Route 16 south of Holland, 9am– 3:30pm both days, call 692-7660.

May 18: Southtowns Walleye Yellow Perch derby, 5 largest fish by weight win, Lake Erie and Niagara River, see: www.southtownswalleye.org.

June 1: “Teach-Me-To-Fish” fun derby for kids/parents, East Aurora Fish & Game, 1016 Luther Rd., 10am-1 pm, call Dave Smyczynski at 949-9483.

Send outdoor events 10 days in advance to nugdor@yahoo.com.

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