Just make the call, or not

Being indecisive can really mess things up at times. Knowing how something is done allows you to formulate decisions swiftly and make the best of a situation.

One of the most annoying things is not knowing how to do something and really wanting to. I guess the only thing thatís worse is wanting to do something and being prevented from it. Making calls to turkeys, and to the DEC to register game, can be this way. In some cases hammering down is your best bet, while sitting back and watching can be better at other times.

I remember how hard it seemed when I started turkey hunting. I desperately wanted to learn how to do it, but had no teacher. I had to learn by messing up most of the time and seeing what works on a few other occasions. I had so many hunts where I sat there beating my head against the tree trying to figure out what to do to get a stubborn bird to show himself. On other occasions I wouldnít react fast enough and would just barely miss out on an opportunity. It took some time, but after about five years I was able to make decisions based on experience and not just blind hope. Back then, there were many more birds than now and Iím happy thatís the way it was, or it would have taken me about twice as long to cut my teeth. That was over 20 years ago and Iím not sure I would have stuck with it if we had the population we have now. This is why knowing what to do is more important now than ever.

I took my first bird around 20 years ago with my father. He got his first just a few days before because of an amateur mistake on my part. I was calling and it was coming to me but I rested my gun in the crotch of a split sapling. It seemed like a good gun rest at the time but I would soon find out the opposite. The bird walked within 20 yards of me but would not come far enough for me to point the gun at it. I was unable to point the gun in the tomís direction because the Y in the tree created a barrier to the left and right. Only able to shoot directly in front of me I sat as still as possible hoping the bird would take those last few steps. I didnít dare call as he was so close that I expected it would spook him. He hung there for what was about a minute or two, which actually seemed like an eternity. He then lost interest and started walking off. To his misfortune, the path he chose was in a direct line to my father and ended up within 10 yards before he shot and downed the bird. In hindsight, a couple of light calls could have possibly encouraged him to take those last few steps and would have at least given me that last chance.

After I took the bird, I filled out my tag and placed it on his leg just as we do now. When I got home I filled out a harvest report card and placed it in the mailbox. On occasion you would have to mail in a leg for them to study, but it was easy and over. This is so far from what we deal with now that itís not even funny. In between then and now we got to talk to real people and it was pretty easy to get it done, fast and correctly. After attempting to report my bird for the fourth time the other day on the telephone to a computerized voice and being cut off, I was pretty ticked to say the least. This is the point where many just give up and say to heck with reporting it. The problem with this is the DEC then gets incomplete data on the number of animals harvested, which creates problems determining herd or flock density, not to mention it makes you a criminal. Instead of giving up, I registered my harvest online for the first time. It was surprisingly easy and fast, but what about those people who donít have access to a computer? They have no other choice than to wait until someone is available to speak with. I recommend trying to register online, if you have access and are able, or having someone teach you how if need be. On a scale from one to ten, with ten being the best, I would say over time the automated phone experience has been no higher than a three for me. I have problems with it more often than not and donít plan on using it anymore in the future. On the other hand, my first online experience was at least a 9. I had a little trouble locating where to register my harvest on their home page at first, but when I did, it was super easy.

Registering your harvest, like calling to a turkey, is important. There is more than one way to do it, so figure out what works best for you and get it done.

One final note on an upcoming event: The Otselic Valley Fishing & Heritage Association will be holding its eighth annual Fishing Heritage Day on Saturday May 21, including a special celebration of Gladdingís 200th anniversary. For more information on the event, check out ovfish.org or next weekís column. This is a great opportunity for new anglers to learn about trout, the history of the Otselic hatchery, and how to catch the beautiful fish by NYS DEC and two chapters of Trout Unlimited.

Good wishes and for the sake of our sport, please register your harvest.

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