Thanks to something that happened three years ago, hunters will have increased opportunity to harvest a trophy-size gobbler this season.
The spring gobbler season runs from April 30 to May 31 and Pennsylvania Game Commission officials said hunters should find an abundance of mature gobblers in the 2- and 3-year-old range due to excellent spring reproduction in 2008 and 2009 in many parts of the state.
As a result, PGC wild turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena expects this spring’s harvest to top 40,000 birds for the third consecutive year.
“The reason for the optimistic outlook is due to the excellent summer reproduction in 2008 and 2009, which has provided for a higher proportion of adult (2- and 3-year-old) gobblers in the population,” Casalena said.
Gobbler hunting prospects are strong in the northeast, particularly in Wildlife Management Units 4C and 4E, which both maintain two of the highest spring harvest densities in the state.
PGC biologist Kevin Wenner said both of those WMUs have been gobbler hunting hotspots for several years, particularly 4C.
“It has a good mix of forest and agricultural land, which gives turkeys food sources and cover. It’s a good overall scenario,” Wenner said.
With plenty of mature gobblers in the woods this season, hunters shouldn’t have a problem hearing plenty of gobbling. Wenner said he’s been hearing birds every morning for the last three weeks.
But that doesn’t mean that hunting a wary gobbler will be any easier. With a week left before the season opener next Saturday, Casalena encouraged hunters to start scouting potential hunting areas to pinpoint a mature bird.
“Scouting can improve hunters’ chances, especially if they line up multiple locations for the spring season,” Casalena said. “Prior to the season, however, hunters should consider not using turkey calls to locate gobblers, because it will educate birds and cause them to be less inclined to respond to the early-morning calls of in-season hunters.”
Wenner said the best scouting method is to listen for birds gobbling in the morning or early evening before they roost. During the late morning and early afternoon, he said, it’s a good idea to watch fields for strutting gobblers trying to attract hens.
While there might be more mature gobblers in the woods this season, hunters will also have more time to pursue them thanks to a change in hunting hours.
Under the change, legal hunting hours from the opening day of the spring gobbler season through the third Saturday (April 30-May 14) will retain the current one-half hour before sunrise until noon time frame. However, the remainder of the season (May 16-31) will be expanded to run all day, from one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset.
“Although all-day hunting will increase disturbance of nesting hens, the impact will be minimal because all-day hours will only cover the last two weeks of the season,” said the PGC’s Mary Jo Casalena. Game Commission wild turkey biologist. “By then, hunting pressure decreases and most hens are in their later stages of nest incubation, at which point they are less likely to abandon their nest if disturbed.
“We anticipate the many benefits will far outweigh the minor disturbance of hens, particularly the increased hunting opportunity for all hunters, such as youth and adults who attend school or work during the morning who now will have the option of a late afternoon hunt.”
Casalena noted that the Game Commission will monitor the afternoon harvest in relation to population trends and age class of gobblers to gauge the impact of all-day hunting. Of the 49 states that conduct turkey seasons, 34 have all-day hunting for all or part of the season, including Maryland, Ohio and Virginia.
To further expand opportunity, the board extended the spring gobbler season through May 31. This change was implemented to provide additional recreational hunting without impacting the resource because disturbance of hens would be minimal since most hens would be in their later stages of nest incubation, according to the PGC.