Pennsylvania’s Fall Turkey Season Features Split Season; Turkey Hunters Urged To Be Attentive, Safe; Harvest Reporting Available Via Postcard, Online or Telephone; Hunters Reminded Licenses Still Must Be Displayed
HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Pennsylvania Game Commission is expecting hunters to encounter a sizeable wild turkey population when they head afield for the fall turkey season. However, hunters will need to carefully review the fall turkey season dates, which are outlined on page 35 of the 2011-12 Digest, as date structures have changed from previous years.
Season lengths vary in the state’s Wildlife Management Units for fall turkey hunting: WMUs 1A, 1B and 2A (Shotgun and bow and arrow only) – Oct. 29-Nov. 12, and Nov. 24-26; WMU 2B (Shotgun and bow and arrow only) – Oct. 29-Nov. 18, and Nov. 24-26; WMUs 2C, 2D, 2E, 4A, 4B and 4D – Oct. 29-Nov. 12, and Nov. 24-26; WMUs 2F, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4C and 4E – Oct. 29-Nov. 18, and Nov. 24-26; WMU 5A - Nov. 1-3; and WMUs 5B, 5C and 5D – Closed to Fall Hunting.
Mary Jo Casalena, Game Commission wild turkey biologist, said the fall turkey population is excellent. Even though early spring weather was cool and wet, it moderated quickly enough for most hens to successfully hatch broods. Fall flock sizes are slightly smaller than average, but there are plenty of flocks afield. The challenge hunters face will be to locate the turkey’s food source due to the lack of a good acorn crop in many areas. Turkeys will seek out and concentrate in areas where food is available. Hunters who find these food sources also will find the flocks.
The second year of an open season during the Thanksgiving holiday also should improve hunter opportunities. This Thanksgiving holiday season, which will be held Nov. 24-26 in most WMUs, is designed to provide additional hunting opportunities for youth and families when schools and many businesses are closed and, hopefully, to reverse the declining trend in fall turkey hunters.
Also, hunters in WMU 5A again have a three-day (Nov. 1-3) season after seven years of a closed fall season that was implemented to allow the population to increase. The success in managing the WMU 5A turkey population is shown in re-opening the traditional fall turkey hunt. The conservative three-day season is structured to provide recreation without reversing the now expanding population.
“The statewide turkey population this past spring prior to nesting was similar to the 10-year average, about 340,000 birds, and a 25 percent increase from its low, in 2005, of 272,000, so there’s a bountiful population of turkeys in Penn’s Woods,” Casalena said. “This resurgence is due to several years of average to above-average reproduction coupled with generally conservative fall season lengths, which minimizes the overharvest of hens.”
Locating a flock is only part of the hunt, Casalena said. Properly setting up and bringing a turkey within range is another challenge, and is what makes turkey hunting simultaneously tricky and enjoyable. This challenge is revealed with a look at hunter success rates, which ranged from 12-16 percent during the last five years.
“Overall, I expect turkey hunters to enjoy higher success rates than last year when only 10 percent of fall turkey hunters harvested turkeys because of abundant mast crops, which dispersed flocks making them difficult to locate. Success this fall is expected to be much higher, at about 15 percent, similar to the previous five-year average,” Casalena said. “Hunter success has been as high as 21 percent in 2001, which was a year with excellent recruitment, and as low as four percent in 1979.”
Last fall’s overall turkey harvest was below-average, 15,884, which is 34 percent less than the previous five-year average of 24,049. Fall harvests have been declining steadily for the last nine years, mainly due to a decrease in the number of fall turkey hunters and shorter fall season lengths. To view maps of turkey harvest by WMU, go to the agency’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), put your cursor over “Hunt/Trap,” then click on “Hunting” in the drop-down menu listing, and select “Harvest Data and Maps” in the “Big Game” section.
The preliminary spring 2011 harvest, calculated from hunter report cards, was about 41,000, which is five percent below last year, but slightly higher than the previous five-year preliminary average of 40,000. Additionally, during the spring season, hunters harvested about 2,045 gobblers using the second tag, or “special turkey license.” Even though spring harvests are down from the record 49,200 of 2001, spring harvests have been back above 40,000 bearded turkeys for the last four years, exceeding most other states in the nation.
“Please remember to report any leg-banded and/or radio-transmittered turkeys harvested or found,” Casalena said. “Leg bands and transmitters are stamped with a toll-free number to call, and provide important information for the research project being conducted in partnership with the Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Penn State University, with funding from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Pennsylvania Chapter of NWTF. These turkeys are legal to harvest and the information provided will help determine turkey survival and harvest rates. Rewards for reporting marked turkeys are made possible by donations from the national and state chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and a portion of the state’s share of the federal Pittman-Robertson program.”
In both spring and fall turkey seasons, it is unlawful to use drives to hunt turkeys. Hunters may take only one turkey in the fall season.
Shot size is limited to No. 4 lead, bismuth-tin, tungsten-iron or No. 2 steel. Turkey hunters also are required to tag their bird before moving it and to report their harvest within 10 days of taking a turkey.
Legal hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. For more information, please see page 14 of the 2011-12 Digest for the legal hunting hours table. Also, it is lawful to use a dog to pursue, chase, scatter and track wild turkeys during the fall wild turkey season. Hunters are prohibited from using dogs to hunt any other big game animal, including spring gobbler. For minimum orange requirements, please see pages 68-69 of the 2011-12 Digest, as the requirements differ depending on the Wildlife Management Unit.
TURKEY HUNTERS URGED TO BE ATTENTIVE, SAFE
Every fall, hunters head into Pennsylvania’s forests and woodlots in pursuit of wild turkeys. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, it’s one of autumn’s greatest competitions as hunters try to call in their quarries. It’s also a time when hunters really need to be in tune with their surroundings.
“Staying alert and making sound shooting decisions will go a long way toward ensuring your safety and the safety of others in turkey season this fall,” said Keith Snyder, Game Commission Hunter-Trapper Education Division chief. “So, too, will always handling your sporting arm in a safe and responsible way.
“The Game Commission has worked with the National Wild Turkey Federation and the agency’s cadre of volunteer hunter-trapper education instructors over the past decade to reverse what was a growing number of turkey hunting-related shooting incidents. Today, Pennsylvania’s woods are safer for turkey hunters. But hunters must remain vigilant. Paying attention and hunting safely ensure that your trip afield remains an enjoyable one.”
Snyder said that the Game Commission and NWTF offer the following safety tips:
Positively identify your target! Be certain the bird is fully and plainly visible before pulling the trigger. Don’t shoot at sounds or movement!
Never stalk a turkey! Movement or sounds you think are a turkey may be another hunter. Be patient, and let the bird come to you.
Protect your back! Select a large tree, rock or other natural barrier while calling. Hunt in open woods.
Shout “STOP” to alert approaching hunters! Never move, wave or make turkey sounds to alert others of your position.
Dress to be safe! Never wear red, white, blue or black clothing. These are the colors found on mature gobblers.
Cover up! Don’t carry harvested birds in the open. Cover them with fluorescent orange or completely conceal from view in a game bag.
Be seen! Wear or display the required amount of fluorescent orange, particularly when moving.
In addition, while wearing orange is required for all fall turkey hunters while moving, hunters should consider wearing or posting orange at all times. For orange requirements, please see pages 68-69 of the 2011-12 Digest.
HARVEST REPORTING AVAILABLE VIA POSTCARD, ONLINE OR TELEPHONE
Those participating in the fall turkey season will be able to file their mandatory harvest reports through the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s online system, the toll-free Interactive Voice Response (IVR) reporting system telephone number, which is 1-855-PAHUNT1 (1-855-724-8681), or via postage-paid postcard.
To report a turkey harvest online, go to the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on “Report Your Harvest” above the “Quick Clicks” box in the right-hand column, check “Harvest Reporting,” scroll down and click on the “Start Here” button at the bottom of the page, choose the method of validating license information. A series of options will appear for a hunter to report a harvest. After filling in the harvest information, click on the “Continue” button to review the report and then hit the “Submit” button to complete the report. Failing to hit the “Submit” button will result in a harvest report not being completed.
“Hunters who use the toll-free number to submit a harvest report will receive a confirmation number, which they should write down and keep as proof of reporting. Those who report online should print or save a copy of their harvest report submission as proof of reporting.”
Roe noted that hunters should have their Customer Identification Number (hunting license number) and field harvest tag information with them when they call. He also stressed callers should speak clearly and distinctly when reporting harvests, especially when providing the Wildlife Management Unit number and letter. Responses to all harvest questions are required.
Roe noted that hunters still have the option to file harvest report postcards, which are included as tear-out sheets in the current digest.
“We certainly are encouraging hunters to use the online reporting system, which will ensure that their harvest is recorded,” Roe said. “Either way, the more important point is that all hunters who harvest a turkey report it to the agency.”
HUNTERS REMINDED LICENSES STILL MUST BE DISPLAYED
Fall turkey hunters are reminded that they still are required to display their licenses on their outer garments, said Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe.
“The Game Commission is supporting legislation to remove the statutory requirement that licenses be displayed, and thereby allow hunters to place their hunting license in their wallet with other ID,” Roe said. “However, until such time as the General Assembly removes this statutory requirement, hunters and trappers will need to continue to display their licenses.”
Roe noted the license can be pinned to a hat, sleeve or outer portion of the coat.
Note to Editors: If you would like to receive Game Commission news releases via e-mail, please send a note with your name, address, telephone number and the name of the organization you represent to: PGCNews@state.pa.us
SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission