Wishing he’d stayed in shape over the winter By Spider Rybaak OSWEGO COUNTY, NY -- New York's spring turkey season opens on May 1. One of the best places to get one of these wily ol' birds is Oswego County. Indeed, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) records show that hunters in most counties reported shooting fewer of these delicious fowl in spring 2008 than in 2007. Oswego County, on the other hand, actually saw its harvest increase by a whopping 25 percent over the same period. Still, population distribution isn't equal throughout the county. Turkeys are edge and opening critters. Although they're available in deep forests wherever stands of nut-bearing hardwoods (oak, hickory and beechnut) are found, they do best where there are some fields offering them additional foods like berries, apples, insects, and seeds. Throw in some corn, soybeans, and other cereals, and you come up with turkey heaven. The best place to find this mix of habitats is farm country. There are several places that will let you hunt for a fee, and there are several experienced guides who offer service in Oswego County. For instance, K&G Resort in Scriba (800-346-6533; www.kglodge.com) charges $50 a day to hunt its 150 acres and owner Greg Gehrig can provide guides on request. Others include AAA Tug Hill Guides and Outfitter, Pulaski; Anthony Gulisano guide service, Pulaski; Catch n Release Charters and Guide Service, Oswego; Deer Creek Shooting Preserve, Pulaski; Hidden Acres, Pulaski; High Hook Guide Service, Pulaski; NY ATV Sportsman Club, Williamstown; Salmon Acres Fishing Lodge, Pulaski; Salmon Heaven, Altmar; and Yankee Fly and Tackle, Pulaski. Contact information is listed on the hunting section of www.visitoswegocounty.com If you'd rather do things yourself, Oswego County offers loads of public lands, almost 48,000 acres. "We manage four wildlife management areas and a bunch [13] of state forests and reforestation areas in Oswego County," says Darrel Jenks, a wildlife biologist with New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.  "But none is managed specifically for turkey. "However," adds Jenks, "I design some programs to enhance ruffed grouse habitat. And turkey are nothing more than overgrown grouse." Jenks said the DEC's fowl efforts mainly involve "restoring and maintaining forest openings, particularly in the Littlejohn and Happy Valley WMAs." Since wildlife management areas are dedicated to providing wildlife habitat, while state forests are run to provide forest products, WMAs are generally better hunting grounds. For example, recently patch clear-cuts were done at Happy Valley WMA by DEC's Operations Units-- responsible for building and maintaining department infrastructure like fishing access sites and administrative roads. Interspersed with existing open fields that have been maintained since farms left the area many years ago, patch clear cutting creates early successional habitats; thick, dense cover ideal for broods and the insects they feed on. And that's the spring turkey season's second most important consideration. You see, t'is the season to breed, and the more early success ional habitats you have, the more hens you'll find, and you know that's where the toms will be hanging out. A guide containing all the information you'll need to plan a spring turkey hunting trip is the free "Oswego County Fishing and Hunting Guide." It contains a map showing the locations of all public hunting grounds, and a list of guides who make a living leading clients to wild turkey shoots. For a copy, contact the Oswego County Tourism Office, 46 E. Bridge Street, Oswego, NY  13126; 800-248-4FUN (4386). It's also available online at: http://www.visitoswegocounty.com/. -30- Photo caption A tom turkey struts across a field near Parish in Oswego County. (Photo by Nancy Weaver Bookheimer.) Janet West Clerkin Tourism and Public Information Coordinator http://www.visitoswegocounty.com/ (315) 349-8324