Spring Gobbler Season Sneaking up on the Calendar; Hunters Reminded About Second Spring Gobbler Tag; Wildlife Management Unit Spring Gobbler Reports
HARRISBURG, Pa., April 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — This year marks the 42nd anniversary of the Keystone State’s spring gobbler hunting season, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission is reporting turkey hunters should expect to find exciting opportunities afield as they head out for both the youth and traditional spring season openers.
The state’s one-day youth spring gobbler season is April 24; the general spring gobbler season is May 1-31. Hunters who have purchased a second spring gobbler season license may harvest up to two bearded turkeys. (See second article about availability of second spring gobbler license.)
“Wild turkeys continue to be the second most popular game species in Pennsylvania,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “Spring turkey hunting has become so popular that there now are more spring turkey hunters (239,000) than fall turkey hunters (183,000), according to our annual Game-Take Survey. Also, ever since 2001, spring gobbler harvests have exceeded fall turkey harvests.”
The first spring gobbler season started on a Monday and ran only six days so biologists could get a pulse on hunter success and the season’s impact on the more than 60,000 wild turkeys inhabiting about half of Pennsylvania’s forestland at the time. It worked! More hunters were afield on the last day of the season – a Saturday – than the opener, and hunters took a total of 1,636 turkeys in the new season.
The preliminary harvest estimate for the 2009 spring gobbler season shows that hunters took 43,677 bearded birds (which included a harvest of 41,397 using the spring gobbler tag attached to all general hunting licenses, and 2,280 using the special spring gobbler license) from an estimated statewide spring population of about 345,000. (Final figures will be available in July after the results of the Game-Take Survey are compiled.) The spring wild turkey population peaked in 2001, when it numbered 410,000. So, it’s fair to say the status of wild turkeys has changed dramatically over the past 40 years.
“Pennsylvania began to establish its well-respected presence in the annals of America’s wild turkey management history back in the ’60s through the efforts of two biologists who made their peers stop and look at what was going on here,” said Mary Jo Casalena, Game Commission wild turkey biologist. “Gerald Wunz and Arnie Hayden refined turkey trap-and-transfer techniques and multi-season frameworks to help turkeys reclaim their former range throughout the state.
“With each passing year, the turkey population grew, and ultimately compelled the agency, in 1980, to close its turkey farm, which had produced more than 200,000 birds over its half-century of operation.”
Today, Pennsylvania manages one of the most prolific wild turkey populations in America. It is an accomplishment that is directly related to both previous and ongoing management practices, the state’s outstanding tapestry of turkey-friendly habitats and the resiliency of Pennsylvania’s wild turkeys.
“The preliminary 2009 spring gobbler harvest was the fourth highest on record,” Casalena said. “It is nine percent above the previous three-year average, and three percent above the previous 10-year average, which included a period when Pennsylvania logged five consecutive harvests of more than 40,000 gobblers.”
Final spring gobbler harvests, prior to 2009′s preliminary harvest of 41,397, are: 40,522 in 2008; 37,880 in 2007; 39,297 in 2006; 32,593 in 2005; 41,017 in 2004; and 42,876 in 2003. The preliminary fall wild turkey harvest was about 23,068, which is down from the 26,500 in 2008, but is up substantially from the 21,900 in 2007, and 21,500 in 2006. Final 2009 harvest figures will be available later this summer.
In 2009, 2,280 second spring gobblers were taken by the 10,720 hunters who purchased the special spring gobbler license. That compares with 1,954 second turkeys taken by 8,795 license holders in 2008; 1,507 turkeys by 7,585 license holders in 2007, and 1,454 turkeys by 8,041 license holders in 2006.
So what can hunters expect this spring? According to Casalena, another great spring season is in store for hunters.
“The reason for the optimist outlook is due to the excellent summer reproduction two and three years ago, which has provided for a higher proportion of adult (two- and three-year-old) gobblers in the population,” Casalena said. “Reproduction last spring was below average due to the cold, wet spring, so that may impact next year’s spring harvest.
“From our four-year gobbler study that just ended, we learned that hunters select the older ‘long-beards’ over juveniles, or ‘jakes.’ These adult birds gobble the most and come in readily to hunters’ calls, so they are more prone to being harvested. The older four- and five-year-old age classes usually are much more wary, and there just aren’t many in the population. So, because of the above-average number of two- and three-year-olds in this year’s flocks, I predict an excellent spring turkey season for Pennsylvania’s gobbler hunters.”
Casalena encourages spring gobbler hunters to spend time scouting, which always plays an important role in hunter success.
“Scouting this spring can improve hunters’ chances by lining 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 can educate birds and cause them to be less inclined to respond to the early-morning calls of in-season hunters.
“If you’re trying to locate a gobbler, it’s best to head out at first light to listen for calls. Now is a great time! On a still morning, a gobbler’s call often can be detected up to a half-mile away or more.”
Hunters are reminded that it is illegal to stalk turkeys or turkey sounds in the spring gobbler season. Given the wild turkey’s keen senses, it’s not a wise move anyway, but more importantly, it makes a tremendous difference for the personal safety of everyone afield. Over the years, too many hunters have been shot for game while approaching a hunter calling for turkeys, and callers have been shot in mistake for game by stalking hunters.
“Safety must be the foremost consideration of every turkey hunter,” emphasized Keith Snyder, Game Commission Hunter-Trapper Education division chief. “If every hunter followed the state’s hunting regulations and positively identified his or her target as legal game before squeezing the trigger, we could nearly eliminate hunting-related shooting incidents during the spring gobbler season. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way.
“The Game Commission encourages all spring gobbler hunters to hunt safely and defensively. Consider wearing fluorescent orange clothing at all times – even though it is no longer required by law – and treat every sound and movement in the forest as if it is another hunter until you can positively confirm it is a legal turkey. Be patient. Wait until the bird is fully visible before you squeeze the trigger.”
Legal sporting arms are: shotguns plugged to three-shell capacity in the chamber and magazine combined; muzzleloading shotguns; and crossbows and bows with broadhead bolts or arrows of cutting-edge design.
Shot size can be no larger than No. 4 lead, bismuth-tin and tungsten-iron, or No. 2 steel. Rifle-shotgun combinations also may be used, but no single-projectile ammunition may be used or carried.
Carrying or using rifles, handguns, dogs, electronic callers, drives and live decoys is unlawful. The use of blinds is legal so long as it is an “artificial or manufactured turkey blind consisting of all manmade materials of sufficient density to block the detection of movement within the blind from an observer located outside the blind.”
While not required by law, hunters are encouraged to wear fluorescent orange material when moving through the woods. Agency officials also recommend that hunters wrap an orange alert band around a nearby tree when stationary, especially when calling and/or using decoys.
Coyotes may be harvested by turkey hunters. However, turkey hunters who have filled their spring turkey tag or tags may not hunt coyotes prior to noon Monday through Saturday during the spring gobbler season, unless they have a furtaker license. Woodchuck hunting is not allowed during spring gobbler season shooting hours.
Successful spring gobbler hunters must properly tag their turkey and report the harvest to the Game Commission within 10 days, using the postage-paid report card provided with their Digest, or through the Pennsylvania Automated License System. Information to be reported includes the hunter’s name and address; date and location of kill (WMU, county, township) and sporting arm used.
Hunters also are encouraged to report all leg-banded turkeys they take to assist the Game Commission in ongoing research by calling the toll-free number listed on the leg band. Hunters may keep the band; the agency just needs the information on the band.
Junior hunters who participate in the youth spring gobbler day (April 24) are required to have a junior hunting license. On this one-day hunt, junior license holders under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult, who cannot carry a sporting arm. Accompanying adults may only provide guidance, such as calling or scouting. All other hunting regulations are the same as those for the general spring gobbler season, including the hunting hours of one-half hour before sunrise until noon and only bearded turkeys may be taken.
And, for the fourth year, youths under the age of 12 years may participate in the spring gobbler seasons through the Game Commission’s Mentored Youth Hunting Program. They can hunt with a mentor during either the one-day youth or general spring gobbler season. Mentored youths need to obtain a permit ($2.70), and must be accompanied by an adult mentor who is a properly licensed and at least 21 years of age. A field harvest tag is provided with the mentored youth hunting program permit. Mentored youths also are required to report their harvest to the Game Commission either online or by using one of the report card inserts that are part of the digest.
For additional information about the Game Commission’s Mentored Youth Hunting Program, visit the agency’s website at www.pgc.state.pa.us and click on “Mentored Youth FAQs” in the drop-down menu in the “Quick Clicks” box in the right column of the homepage, or consult pages 13 and 33 of the 2009-2010 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations.
HUNTERS REMINDED ABOUT SECOND SPRING GOBBLER TAG
Pennsylvania hunters who would like the opportunity to harvest a second spring gobbler can purchase a second spring gobbler tag until the spring gobbler season begins on May 1, according to Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe. In fact, thanks to the new Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS), hunters can purchase a second spring gobbler tag at any issuing agent or through the agency’s website.
In the past, hunters had from Jan. 1 until April 1 to submit an application for the second spring gobbler tag and wait for the agency to mail the license back to them. The process was made necessary to spread out administrative workload of processing and handling licenses for the fall hunting seasons. However, thanks to PALS, hunters can now purchase the second spring gobbler tag at any issuing agent and walk out of the store with the license in hand.
Roe noted that hunters are able to take one spring gobbler as part of their general hunting privileges. However, the second spring gobbler tag license affords those hunters interested in this additional opportunity to take a second spring gobbler. Hunters may only purchase one second spring gobbler license during a license year, as the season limit remains two spring gobblers, but they may only harvest one bird per day.
“So, if you are looking for that application in your digest to mail in, you won’t find it,” Roe said. “You can just purchase the special spring gobbler license either through the Game Commission’s website or visit your local license issuing agent.”
Fees set by state law for the special license are $21.70 for residents and $41.70 for nonresidents.
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT UNIT SPRING GOBBLER REPORTS
Mary Jo Casalena, Pennsylvania Game Commission wild turkey biologist, prepared a report for each Wildlife Management Unit (WMU), to share more detailed information on spring gobbler hunting prospects.
WMU 1A – Spring harvests remain well above the statewide average, but will continue to be well below average for this WMU. Summer reproduction has been below average since 2005. The Game Commission shortened the fall season to two weeks in 2005 in an attempt to help increase the population in this WMU. Expect the 2010 spring harvest to remain higher than the state average, but lower than last year for this WMU due to the below-average reproduction during the past several years which provided a smaller proportion than normal of older gobblers. The key here is to scout prior to the season.
WMA 1B – Expect harvest to be excellent compared to the statewide average and above average for the WMU. Even though last summer’s reproduction was below average, reproduction in 2008 was excellent providing a high proportion of two-year old males in the population, which typically comprise the largest percent of each spring’s harvest. This age class of adult gobblers are very vocal and readily come to hunter’s calls.
WMU 2A – Still well above the statewide average, but well below average for itself. Fall turkey season was shortened from three weeks to two weeks in 2007, which will allow more turkeys to survive to the 2010 spring season. With the below average proportion of two- year-old males in the population there will be less gobbling heard than normal for this WMU. However, there still may be a good proportion of the older, less vocal three- and four-year old gobblers, so scouting for these birds will be important this year.
WMU 2B – Variable. This WMU is difficult to predict because of the lack of public land. For hunters who secure access to hunting areas, prospects are above the state average for calling in a gobbler, but below average for this WMU due to poor reproduction during the past two summers.
WMU 2C – Spring harvests here have been improving since the low in 2006 and should continue to increase this spring due to a combination of a shorter fall season length from three to two weeks since 2004, and excellent reproduction in 2007 and 2008 providing a higher than average proportion of two- and three-year-old gobblers in the population. These vocal longbeards are what the majority of Pennsylvania turkey hunters seek. Spring harvest densities (harvests per square mile) remain below the statewide average.
WMU 2D – Above average harvest expected compared to the state, but below average for this WMU. Although summer reproduction last year was average, providing a good proportion of juvenile males (jakes) in the population, reproduction in 2008 was poor, providing a below average proportion of the more sought after and highly vocal two-year old gobblers. The fall turkey season here was decreased in 2009 from three weeks to two weeks to help the population increase to its previous high levels.
WMU 2E – Excellent for this WMU for harvesting juveniles (jakes) and three-year-old gobblers, but below average for harvesting the most vocal two-year old gobblers. With the two-week fall turkey season since 2004, spring harvests have been improving, and expect the same this spring.
WMU 2F – The population has increased from that of the last several years due to above-average reproduction in 2008 and the shortened fall season (from three weeks to two weeks from 2007-2009). Expect the spring harvest to increase from last year due to the high proportion of two-year-old males in the population for enjoyable calling. Harvest density (harvest per square mile) continues to be below the long-term average for this WMU and below the statewide average. However, hunters continue to enjoy hunting the extensive public lands in this WMU.
WMU 2G – Excellent for this WMU for harvesting juveniles (jakes) and three-year-old gobblers, but below average for harvesting the most vocal two-year old gobblers. The population is rebounding to the long-term average for this WMU, but spring harvest densities (harvest per square mile) are still below the state average. Hunters continue to enjoy hunting the extensive public lands in this WMU.
WMU 3A – Below average reproduction during the last two springs will result in a below-average spring harvest for this WMU, but the harvest will remain above the state average. There still remains higher than average proportions of three-year and older gobblers, but these present the most challenging age classes to harvest.
WMU 3B – This should be a banner harvest year for this WMU and well above the statewide average. Summer turkey sightings here have been above average during the last two summers translating to a high proportion of juveniles (jakes) and the vocal two-year old adult gobblers, which typically is the most sought after age class.
WMU 3C – Below average reproduction during the last two springs will result in a lower spring harvest than last year, but expect the harvest to remain above average for this WMU and well above the state average. There remains higher than average proportions of three-year and older gobblers, but these present the most challenging age classes to harvest.
WMU 3D – Expect a similar harvest to last year, which was average for this WMU, but above the statewide average. Although there are fewer juveniles (jakes) in the population due to below average summer reproduction last year, the average proportion of two-year old gobblers will provide an enjoyable spring season.
WMU 4A – Expect the harvest to be average for this WMU and similar to the state average. Population of three-year-old gobblers is above average due to the record reproduction in 2007, but this age class typically presents a challenge for spring turkey hunters. The two-week fall season since 2004 may be helping this population to rebound.
WMU 4B – Above the statewide average, but average for this WMU. With the two-week fall season since 2004, spring harvest densities have been increasing even though this WMU has had tremendous fluctuations in summer reproduction recently.
WMU 4C – Second best 2009 spring harvest density (harvest per square mile) in the state and hunters should expect a similar harvest this year. This WMU continues to maintain one of the highest spring harvest densities in the state, even though the summer turkey sighting index trend remains below the statewide average. With the above-average populations of juvenile (one-year old) and two-year old males from above average reproduction during the past two summers in this WMU, hunting prospects again will be excellent.
WMU 4D – Above average for this WMU, below the statewide average. Although last year’s reproduction was only average in this WMU the population of two-year old gobblers is above average, which should provide for an abundance of gobbling. Spring harvest density (harvest per square mile) has been improving for the past four years, and expect this to continue.
WMU 4E – Like WMU 4C, this is another turkey hotspot. Highest spring 2009 harvest density (harvest per square mile) in the state. Also, summer turkey sightings show a record number of jakes (juvenile males) and two- year-old gobblers in the population. Expect this year’s harvest to be even better than last year’s.
WMU 5A – Above average for this WMU; far below the statewide average. Although harvests and summer turkey sightings continue to be some of the lowest in the state, the closed fall turkey season has been aiding in population increase. Even though summer reproduction last year was below average, the above-average reproduction in 2008 means an abundance of the vocal two-year old gobblers this spring for this WMU.
WMU 5B – The data set for this WMU is minimal, but overall, expect an above average harvest compared to itself. Hunters could be very successful if they seek out the younger, juvenile (jake) males due to the above average summer reproduction last year in parts of this WMU. There are below average proportions of two-year and three-year-old gobblers. Harvests and summer turkey sightings are some of the lowest in the state.
WMU 5C – Below average for this WMU and below average compared to the state. Summer reproduction was below average for the last two years in much of this WMU, providing below average proportions of juvenile (jake) and two-year gobblers, which typically comprise the majority of the harvest.
WMU 5D – Data set is too small to predict harvest.
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission