'08 turkeys big in size but difficult to locate.


Byline: Mary Anne Magiera


At its midpoint, this year's turkey hunting season has distinguished itself as a standout for the size of birds - several have weighed in over the 20-pound mark with at least one record bird at 28-1/2 pounds.

But, it also has been a rather frustrating season: gobblers are difficult to pattern and they are forcing hunters to use long forgotten skills to bring them in for a clear shot.

"It's been very interesting; very unpredictable," noted Sandy Pirog, chapter secretary and Massachusetts state board member for the National Wild Turkey Federation. "The birds are not following their usual habits. They are staying in the woods and not coming out to the fields to feed."

Pirog, who hunts mostly private property in Ware and Monson, has been out almost every day since the season opened April 28, but has yet to get a bird.

"They are just tough this year," she said.

Pirog and hunting partner and mentor Scott Cushing have seen a lot of jakes with older toms. They singled out a couple of the larger birds and pinpointed their roosts (or so they thought).

"We got in there in the dark the next morning. Later we heard lots of gobbles, but the toms we thought we had treed were nowhere to be seen. The birds roosted in different places every night."

The weather has a lot to do with the way turkeys are behaving, according to Pirog.

"It's been a mild winter, and April turned out to be a fairly warm month," she noted. "There are still plenty of acorns in the woods to hold the birds."

The warm start to spring, Pirgo said, "could have encouraged the hens to nest early; that could explain why we have seen very, very few hens and a lot of jakes and long beards hanging out together. The hens likely are already sitting on nests."

Calling in toms without hens around to help draw them is just about the most difficult of situations for turkey hunters, according to Pirog.

Pirgo began hunting turkeys about five years ago. She often hunts alone and prefers private property because she feels safer.

"Only so many people are allowed in the woods; it's safer to hunt because you are less likely to be surprised by non-hunters walking or on ATV's," Pirog said.

A creator of Native American art and costumes, Pirog occasionally would ask Cushing for turkey feathers. He, in turn, asked her to do a Miriam Turkey tail mount for him, which she said, "came out great." Cushing then invited her to go turkey hunting with him.

"The desire to hunt was...

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