What typically has your attention this time of year? New York’s spring turkey hunting season is only days away, and I can hardly wait. The month of May brings a wide variety of recreation opportunities (and chores!) to the lives of many outdoorsmen and women. May is awesome, and if possible, you should get out and enjoy it!
May is a busy month. For many it means firewood, and for others it means four-wheelers and food plots. For me, it’s about spending as much time as possible outside. In May, I can spend an entire day out in the field. I can wake up unreasonably early, chase turkeys until noon, grab lunch, and take a drive north, where the wild leeks/ramps are in. I can pick and clean leeks all afternoon, head back to town, and fish walleyes into the night. It’s the best!
I look forward to days like this. Hunting, fishing, foraging, camp projects, spring cleaning, etc. All of it! I’m ready for May.
Spring turkey season is great for a lot of reasons. One simple reason is that it’s the only hunting available this time of year, and it’s an awesome time to be in the woods. A turkey hunter sees the world around them turn greener and greener throughout the month of May. Watching the sun come up, listening to the woods come alive each morning, welcoming mosquitoes back into our lives again, and hoping to see, study and interact with a wild turkey.
Spring turkey season in New York runs the entire month of May, plus the weekend prior for youth hunters. It’s a perfect introduction for the next generation, as encountering a gobbling turkey is about as fun as it gets for a hunter of any age.
(This year, interested participants can complete the NYS Hunter Safety Course online by visiting www.hunter-ed.com/newyork.)
Many hunters, myself included, hope to find a “roosted” turkey in a tree, and call him into shooting range shortly after he flies down at daybreak. It is a common goal to try and get your turkey before he finds hens and no longer shows interest in all that fancy calling you've been practicing. In high school, my friends and I would meet at 4 a.m. to turkey hunt together, and did our best to be cleaned up and in class before the bell rang. That said, some of the most fun hunts I have been on included hunting birds in the late morning, before the clock runs out at noon.
The law requires turkey hunting in New York to cease by noon each day. This is considered by some as a hindrance or point of controversy, and by others as a successful wildlife management tool. I will choose to see it as an opportunity to transition into the day’s next adventure ...
Wild leek foraging
Wild leeks or ramps (Allium tricoccum) are a wild onion found across the eastern U.S. and Canada. Each spring they show their new leaves and fill the air with a pungent smell, often as a sign that the snow is gone for good. As a kid, on our annual spring work weekends at hunting camp, my uncles would strike off with pitchforks, shovels and garbage bags. They would return with smiles on their faces, smelling of wild leeks. Paydirt!
I try my hand at foraging each spring, never with too much success. I hope for morel mushrooms, but I can always count on leeks. Some people cherish a small patch of wild leeks, and in doing so should always practice conservation. Replanting the scraps and/or leaving some stock for next year is never a bad idea. We are fortunate to have an abundance, but still only take a small amount each year.
They are delicious, too! With a strong onion and garlic flavor, leeks are enjoyable raw or cooked in a variety of dishes. Pairing leeks with fresh wild turkey or fish, or alongside venison from last season is a favorite for sure. That said, I still say they are best when pickled! I use a brine containing salt, sugar, honey, mustard seed and more. A jar of leeks makes a great snack around the campfire or at deer camp the following season.
An afternoon spent picking, cleaning and pickling leeks after a morning in the turkey woods is deserving of a nap. Still, I recommend skipping the nap and hitting the water!
Walleye, northern pike fishing
Walleye and northern pike seasons, along with a few others, open on the first Saturday in May each year. I have always enjoyed fishing for pike, but usually have better luck later in late May or in early June. However, in early May the walleye bite can be a thing of beauty. Under the right circumstances, a walleye angler can catch a limit of these beautiful and delicious fish in no time. And if not, you won’t regret the time spent trying to figure them out!
Today, lakes and rivers across New York hold some of the nation’s finest walleye fishing. In early May, anglers will jig soft plastics and troll lures near drop-offs, edges and structure. Some will also successfully fish walleyes from the shore with lures and live bait. After a day of turkeys and leeks, my walleye fishing usually consists of an hour or two of jigging at dusk. After dark, we will make the switch to trolling until we catch a few fish or call it quits in need of sleep. A beautiful end to the perfect day.
I really believe that May is a highlight of the year. The early morning turkey woods, hopes of hearing a gobble, abundant wild leeks, and evenings on the water — it is tough to beat! This year, I will miss parts of the usual adventure, like late morning trips to the diner and post-hunt get-togethers with friends and family. I will just have to wait a while, and catch up with them another time. I won’t be able to share these experiences with as many people in-person this year, and while that is indeed a bummer, I am grateful for another chance to get out and explore the world around me. I’ll embrace these opportunities this May! Will you?
Nate Kennedy is a Liverpool resident who works in Waterloo. An Ogdensburg native, he is a lifelong hunter and angler who holds an master's degree in environmental communication from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and he is a 4-H educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Seneca County. Kennedy loves to write about and share his outdoor pursuits and his column appears the final Sunday of the month.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!