PA Game Commission: Spring Gobbler Seasons Just Around Corner; Turkey Hunting Safety Tips; Wild Turkey Field Reports

Apr 03, 2006, 01:00 ET from Pennsylvania Game Commission

    HARRISBURG, Pa., April 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Although there has been plenty of
 wild turkey calling going on recently in the mountains and woodlots throughout
 Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Game Commission officials believe the upcoming
 spring gobbler seasons aren't expected to be as rewarding to hunters as those
 over the past few years.
     "It stands to reason - and we surely expected - that wild turkey hunter
 success was going to fall off some because of the below-average reproduction
 turkeys have endured for the past three springs in Pennsylvania," explained
 Mary Jo Casalena, Game Commission wild turkey biologist.  "Three consecutive
 years of below-average reproduction, a hard winter in 2002, and below-average
 mast production in some areas have conspired to stem the ability of some
 segments of the Pennsylvania wild turkey population to offset annual losses to
 fall hunting and other limiting factors with recruitment.
     "But what has occurred isn't unnatural, won't ruin Pennsylvania's wild
 turkey hunting and surely will change just as soon as a warm, dry spring paves
 the way for increased turkey reproduction.  For now, hunters can expect this
 spring's gobbler hunting to be similar to last year's - good, but
     The state's one-day youth spring gobbler hunt will be April 22; the
 general spring gobbler season will run from April 29 to May 27.  In both
 seasons, shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until noon.
     Casalena emphasized that hunters should find strong wild turkey
 populations in most mountainous areas and in woodlots bordering agricultural
     "Wild turkeys have experienced some tough springs in recent years and
 their overall numbers are down somewhat," Casalena said.  "However, many
 flocks have been insulated from loss by the difficulties many hunters have
 encountered trying to find birds, particularly last fall when the increased
 availability of mast made patterning flock movements - and even locating birds
 - difficult at best.
     "We believe the wild turkey population has dropped over the past few
 years, and that it is below the five-year average we measure it against to
 keep population trends in perspective.  Saying that, however, it is important
 to point out that turkey populations in many Wildlife Management Units (WMUs)
 remain at or above long-term population trends.  Turkey hunting may not be
 better than ever in Pennsylvania, but for those who put in the preseason work
 and make in-season adjustments, there should be plenty of excitement."
     The statewide preliminary 2005 fall turkey harvest was about 23,300.  It
 marks the third consecutive year the fall harvest has dropped; 25,868 in 2004;
 and 27,400 in 2003.  However, some of this decrease was the result of shorter
 fall seasons in eight of the state's 22 WMUs over the past two years.  The
 preliminary spring gobbler harvest - 38,820 - also documents a drop for the
 third consecutive year.  The spring harvest in 2004 was 41,017; 2003, 43,900.
     "With below average recruitment over the past three springs, hunting
 prospects in many WMUs also will be below average," Casalena explained.
 "Pennsylvania is a diverse state and hunting will vary depending on your
 locale.  Hunters may find that the responses to their calls vary greatly from
 WMU to WMU, possibly even from ridge to ridge.  Some areas will have good
 numbers of vocal two-year-old and older gobblers, others won't.  One-year-old
 jakes likely will come readily - albeit quietly - to your calls.  But there
 are plenty of birds afield.  Just remain flexible and willing.  The rest is up
 to the gobblers."
     Hunters are discouraged from using turkey calls to locate gobblers prior
 to the start of season, because it can educate birds and cause them to be less
 inclined to respond to the early-morning calls of hunters in season.
     "If you're trying to locate a gobbler, it's best to head out at first
 light to listen for calls," Casalena advised.  "Now is a great time!  On a
 still morning, a gobbler's call often can be detected up to a half-mile away
 by a person.
     "Don't get discouraged if you don't hear gobblers every day.  With fewer
 gobblers in local populations, hunters should probably expect less calling.
 Remember, you also can locate gobblers by searching for strutting areas along
 the edges of fields, woods, roads and small openings in wooded areas."
     The largest harvests in the 2005 spring gobbler season occurred in WMU 2D,
 where hunters took 3,006 turkeys (4,004 in 2004); WMU 4C, 2,831 (2,629); and
 WMU 4E, 2,508 (2,332).  The largest fall harvests occurred in WMU 2G, where
 hunters took 2,257 turkeys (1,933 in 2004); WMU 2D, 1,952 (2,246); and WMU 3B,
 1,567 (1,671).
     For the first time since Pennsylvania established a spring gobbler season
 in 1968, hunters were allowed to submit an application for the "special wild
 turkey license" for the 2006 spring gobbler season.  It entitles the holder to
 take a second spring gobbler in any Wildlife Management Unit.  The cost was
 $21 for residents, $41 for nonresidents.  The agency had received more than
 7,600 second spring gobbler tags as of April 1, which was the deadline for
 receiving applications.
     Research has shown that properly timed and implemented multiple-bird
 spring bag limits have not caused population declines in other states,
 according to Casalena.  To monitor hunter success, all hunters who receive the
 special spring gobbler license are required to submit a report, regardless of
 whether they harvest a second spring gobbler.
     Each year, more than 230,000 hunters - or about 20 percent of the state's
 licensed hunters - head afield to participate in the spring gobbler season.
 The season is considered a challenging affair because it requires a hunter to
 place himself or herself in a position within calling distance of a gobbler -
 preferably still roosting - and then call the bird within shooting range using
 a mouth, box or slate call.  Since wild turkeys have keen eyesight and
 hearing, the slightest slipup by the hunter will send an approaching bird
 scurrying in the opposite direction.
     "Calling in and taking a spring gobbler is not something that you
 accomplish by simply putting in your time afield," Casalena emphasized.  "If
 you cough, sneeze, move or blink at the wrong time, that gobbler will be
 heading in another direction, or off the mountain!  Tricking an old tom isn't
 easy, as many hunters can attest.  But when you pull it off, the experience is
 incredibly satisfying and surely will be something you'll share with others."
     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, many hunters have
 been shot for game while approaching a hunter calling for turkeys, and many
 callers have been shot in mistake for game by stalking hunters.
     In 2005, eight hunters were shot - none fatally - by other hunters during
 the spring season.  In all but one case, the offender failed to properly
 identify his target.  Two victims were shot by offenders who were less than 30
 yards away.  This compares with nine non-fatal hunting-related shooting
 incidents in the 2004 spring gobbler season (all mistaken for game).
     "Safety should be the foremost consideration of every turkey hunter,"
 emphasized Keith Snyder, Game Commission Hunter-Trapper Education chief.  "If
 every hunter followed the state's hunting regulations and positively
 identified his or her target as legal game before squeezing the trigger,
 hunters wouldn't be shooting other hunters.  Unfortunately, it doesn't always
 work that way.
     "The Pennsylvania Game Commission encourages all spring gobbler hunters to
 hunt safely and defensively.  Consider wearing fluorescent orange clothing at
 all times - not just while moving as 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.  Wait until the bird is fully and plainly
 visible before you pull the trigger."
     Legal sporting arms are: shotguns plugged to three-shell capacity in the
 chamber and magazine combined; muzzleloading shotguns; and bows with broadhead
 arrows of cutting-edge design.  Crossbows may not be used unless a hunter has
 a permit to use a crossbow instead of a bow.
     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."
     Hunters are required to wear a minimum of 100 square inches of fluorescent
 orange material on the head (a hat) when moving through the woods.  The orange
 may be removed when a hunter reaches his or her calling destination.  While
 not required by law, agency officials recommend that hunters wrap an orange
 alert band around a nearby tree when stationary, especially when calling
 and/or using decoys.
     Successful hunters must properly tag harvested turkeys and report their
 harvests to the Game Commission within 10 days, using the postage-paid report
 card provided when they purchased their hunting license.  Hunters are reminded
 that if they can't find one of the harvest report cards that came with their
 license, they can tear out and use the harvest report card found on page 33 of
 the Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations.
     Young hunters who participate in the youth spring gobbler season are
 required to have a junior hunting license.  Juniors 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.
     Coyotes may be harvested by turkey hunters.  However, turkey hunters who
 have harvested a spring gobbler may not hunt coyotes or woodchucks
 (groundhogs) prior to noon Monday through Saturday during the spring gobbler
                           TURKEY HUNTING SAFETY TIPS
     Spring gobbler season has become a stepping out time for many Pennsylvania
 hunters.  It is a time to get away from the house, and back in the woods; a
 time to match wits with a wily gobbler.  Unfortunately, over the past three
 spring gobbler seasons, 26 hunters also have been shot by other hunters.  All
 but one was mistaken for game, often by very experienced hunters.
     "Spring gobbler hunting is typically enjoyable for the hundreds of
 thousands of Pennsylvanians who annually participate in the season," said
 Keith Snyder, Game Commission Hunter-Trapper Education Division chief.  "But
 it also can be a potentially dangerous sport when hunters disregard proven
 safety measures and hunting regulations to take a gobbler.
     "Every year a handful of hunters take chances they shouldn't, and someone
 gets shot.  The incidents are the result of poor hunting decisions, such as
 hunters illegally stalking turkey sounds; shooting at movement; or not
 positively identifying targets as legal game before shooting.  All are easily
 avoidable if you hunt safely and follow the law.  Be safe.  Hunt defensively.
 Enjoy the season."
     Hunting regulations require all hunters to wear at least 100 square inches
 of fluorescent orange while moving through the woods.  If hunters opt to
 remove their orange clothing after reaching their calling position, which, by
 law, they may, the Game Commission encourages them to display a fluorescent
 orange alert band near their hunting position, especially those who plan to
 call or use decoys.  It may alert a hunter who is closing in on your call or
 decoys that a person is in the area.  Hunters also are encouraged to place
 decoys in a way that will limit their susceptibility to in-the-line-of-fire
 shotgun discharges from approaching hunters.
     Only bearded turkeys may be taken in the spring season.  The beard is a
 grouping of hair-like feathers that protrude from the bird's chest.  Hunters
 are reminded to remove any red, white, blue or black clothing before heading
 afield because these colors are found on a turkey's head or body.  Remember,
 too, its illegal to stalk turkeys or turkey sounds.
     To make sure your next turkey hunting experience is both safe and
 enjoyable, follow these turkey hunting safety tips:
     Positively identify your target. Be absolutely certain it's a legal
     turkey before pulling the trigger. Never shoot at sounds or movement.
     Never stalk a turkey or turkey sounds. Stalking during the spring season
     is illegal. Movement or sounds you think are a turkey may be another
     hunter. Be patient. Let the bird come to you.
     Assume every noise and movement is another hunter. If there is any doubt
     whatsoever - don't shoot.
     Pre-select a zone of fire. Shoot at a turkey only in your predetermined
     zone of fire - and only when you're certain it's safe.
     Make your position known to other hunters - wear fluorescent orange. It
     is mandatory to wear orange when moving through the woods, particularly
     while carrying a bird. It is recommended that you display orange at your
     calling location by wrapping a fluorescent orange band around a tree to
     alert other hunters of your presence. Know and follow the law!
     Protect your back. Select a large tree, rock or other substantial natural
     barrier while calling and sit with your back against it. To improve your
     visibility, hunt in open woods.
     Shout "STOP" to alert approaching hunters. Never move, wave or make
     turkey sounds to alert hunters of your position.
     Eliminate red, white, blue and black colors from your clothing. These
     colors are found on the head, neck and body of mature gobblers. You could
     be mistaken for a turkey if you wear these colors!
                           WILD TURKEY FIELD REPORTS
     Pennsylvania Game Commission turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena has
 prepared field reports for Wildlife Management Units (WMU) statewide to share
 agency filed observations on wild turkey hunting prospects and population
 trends.  If you need assistance locating these WMUs, please consult pages 43-
 46 in the 2005-2006 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest.
     WMU 1A - In most of this WMU - except Beaver County - expect to see a
 continued decline from the peak harvest in 2001. But the WMU will still show a
 good harvest and should still be above the statewide average. In Beaver County
 two-year-old gobblers will be abundant, given the excellent hatch in 2004.
 There will fewer jakes, however, because of the lower predicted hatch of 2005.
 Hunters in Beaver County should hear plenty of gobbling.
     WMU 1B - The harvest peaked here in 2001, and has been declining slightly
 since then, but remains above the statewide average. Even so, the preliminary
 2005 spring harvest of 2,427 bearded birds was the fourth highest in the state
 for 2005, and comprised 6.3 percent of the statewide harvest. Expect to see
 another slight decline in harvest as a result of lower recruitment in 2004 and
 2005, but there are some wily old long-beards that can be a great challenge to
     WMU 2A - The harvest here peaked in 2001, when it was twice the statewide
 average.  Harvests are still expected to be well above the state average, but
 about the same, or slightly below 2005, because the number of jakes and two-
 year-old birds continues to decline from the highs during 1999-2002.
     WMU 2B - Two-year-old gobblers will be abundant. Jakes will be in short
 supply, given the poor recruitment of 2005.  This WMU showed the second
 highest harvest density during the spring 2005 season behind WMU 4C.  So, even
 though WMU 2B is an urban WMU, hunters are succeeding in acquiring access to
 huntable flocks.  For additional opportunities, seek out untraditional hunting
 areas as these may offer some excellent prospects.
     WMU 2C - The turkey population and spring harvest peaked here in 2001 and
 have been declining slightly since then.  Even though the spring 2005 harvest
 was the fifth highest in the state, the harvest density was below the
 statewide average.  Expect this spring's harvest to be equal to or slightly
 above last spring's as a result of better recruitment last spring than in
 2004. But the recruitment in 2005 was still below average.  There will be
 fewer two-year-old gobblers, but more jakes than in 2004.
     WMU 2D - The harvest peaked here in 2003, well above the state average,
 but has been showing a slight declining trend.  WMU 2D had the highest spring
 harvest in 2005 (3,006), and comprised 7.7 percent of the entire state
 harvest.  However, recruitment has decreased in the last two years, so expect
 harvests to be slightly lower than last year, but still well above the state
 average.  Hunters should have better than average success here.
     WMUs 2E and 2F - Harvests have been declining slightly from when they
 peaked here in 2001 and have been below the state average.  The below-average
 recruitment over the past three years will likely decrease this spring's
 harvest slightly, and again is expected to be below average.
     WMU 2G - The harvest has been slowly declining since the peak in 2001 and
 is below the state average.  The below-average recruitment has been slowly
 increasing since 2003, so expect the spring harvest to increase slightly from
 the record low in 2005.
     WMU 3A - 2005 showed the second highest recruitment on record (highest was
 in 2002), so expect an abundance of the quiet jakes during the 2006 spring
 season.  Spring harvests have declined since the peak in 2001.  Harvest
 densities are below the state average.  With the low levels of older birds,
 but abundance of jakes, hunters have the potential to increase the harvest
 levels in 2006 if they successfully call in the quiet jakes.
     WMU 3B - Spring harvest has declined since the peak in 2001 and dropped
 sharply in 2005.  Harvest density fell below the state average in 2005.
 Recruitment was similar to 2004, so expect the spring 2006 harvest to be
 similar to 2005.
     WMU 3C - Even though there will be less two- and three-year-old gobblers,
 with a record number of summer turkey sightings in 2005, it appears that
 recruitment was excellent, providing hunters with an abundance of jakes for
 2006. The low summer production in 2003 and 2004 caused the spring 2005
 harvest to decrease. Expect spring 2006 harvest to be slightly better than
 2005, which still translates to good to excellent hunting. This WMU maintains
 higher harvest densities than the state average.
     WMU 3D - Recruitment in 2005 was slightly below average, but better than
 the previous two years. Therefore, there will be plenty of jakes, but fewer
 two- and three-year-old gobblers. For the experienced hunter, there may still
 be many of the wary and difficult to get four-year-old gobblers given the
 record recruitment in 2002. Expect this spring's harvest to increase slightly
 if hunters successfully call in the jakes and four-year-olds.
     WMU 4A - With record recruitment during the last two summers (2004 and
 2005), expect the spring 2006 harvest to be above average and slightly above
 the 2005 harvest. Fall seasons were decreased to two weeks in 2004, which may
 be aiding the population increase.
     WMU 4B - Many parts of this WMU had record or near-record low reproduction
 in 2005 and 2003, but near record high reproduction in 2004. With many two-
 year-olds, expect to hear more gobbling this year, but harvest may decrease
 because of the absence of jakes and three-year-olds.
     WMU 4C - Prospects look excellent in this WMU as summer reproduction
 during the last two years was above average. Expect this spring's harvest to
 be similar to last year, and well above the state average as this WMU
 exhibited the second highest harvest and the highest harvest density last
     WMU 4D - Spring harvest densities here are consistently below the state
 average, and have been decreasing slightly since the high in 2001. Summer
 reproduction over the past two years has been about average for this WMU, so
 expect the spring harvest also to be similar to last year.
     WMU 4E - Prospects look excellent in this WMU, given the record summer
 reproduction over the past two years. This WMU exhibited the third highest
 harvest and harvest density last spring. There will be an abundance of jakes
 and two-year-old gobblers in the spring population, and a limited supply of
     WMU 5A - Although recruitment during 2005 improved over the previous two
 years in parts of this WMU, it was still slightly below average. Expect the
 harvest to be similar to last year.
     WMU 5B  - Recruitment in 2005 was below average, but was slightly above
 average in 2004.  Expect the harvests to be similar to last year.
     WMU 5C - Even though turkey recruitment in 2004 was low, last year's
 spring harvest was above average for this unit, and the harvest density was
 similar to the statewide average. Recruitment in 2005 was slightly higher, so
 expect the 2006 spring harvest to increase slightly.
     WMU 5D - Harvests in this urban unit are the lowest in the state. With
 below-average recruitment over the past two years, expect harvests to
 decrease. However, there may still be an abundance of the wary three-year-old
     NOTE: Photos to accompany the following article are available from the
 Game Commission's website ( by clicking on "Public
 Photo Library."

SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission