HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 18 /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 2010-11 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) – Nov. 13-19, and Nov. 25-27; WMU 2B (Shotgun and bow and arrow only) – Nov. 6-19, and Nov. 25-27; WMUs 2C, 2D, 2E, 4A, 4B and 4D – Nov. 13-19, and Nov. 25-27; WMUs 2F, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4C and 4E – Nov. 6-19, and Nov. 25-27; WMU 5A – Nov. 16-18; 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, but some hunters will face the challenge of locating flocks if they don't do their pre-season scouting. The widespread abundance of acorns this year likely will keep turkeys and flocks dispersed throughout the woods, making them harder to locate and hunt. However, an above-average turkey population and an open season during the Thanksgiving holiday should improve hunter opportunities. The Thanksgiving holiday season (November 25-27) 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 have a three-day (Nov. 16-18) 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 above average, at about 360,000 birds, rebounding from its low, in 2005, of 272,000, so there's a bountiful population of turkeys in Penn's Woods," Casalena said. "The state's wild turkey population is above the five-year-average thanks to good reproduction the past three springs and 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 success rates similar to last year when 13 percent of fall turkey hunters harvested turkeys because of similar turkey reproductive success and abundant mast crops. But success this fall will probably be lower than the 16 percent success rates of 2007 and 2008, when the above-average reproduction coupled with below average acorn crops translated to large flocks that were relatively easy to find," 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, 20,934, which is 20 percent less than the previous five-year average of 26,082. Fall harvests have been declining steadily for the last eight years, mainly due to a decrease in the number of fall turkey hunters and shorter fall season lengths to protect from overharvest. 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 2010 harvest, calculated from hunter report cards, was about 43,200, which is three percent above last year, but a sizeable 15 percent above the previous five-year preliminary average of 37,700. Additionally, during the spring season, hunters harvested about 1,980 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 three 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 and the National Wild Turkey Federation. 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 our funding sponsors."
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. (For more information on the new online harvest reporting system, please see the fourth article in this news release titled TURKEY HUNTERS ENCOURAGED TO REPORT HARVEST ONLINE).
Legal hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. For more information, please see page 14 of the 2010-11 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 72-73 of the 2010-11 Digest, as the requirements differ depending on the Wildlife Management Unit.
LOCAL WILD TURKEY INFORMATION ALSO AVAILABLE ONLINE
Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officers (WCOs), Land Management Group Supervisors (LMGSs) and foresters spend a considerable amount of time gathering information about wildlife population trends in their districts. With the wild turkey season just around the corner, the Game Commission, once again, is sharing that information – through its website – with those who enjoy Penn's Woods.
To view these field forecasts offered by Game Commission officers, go to the agency's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on the "Field Officer Forecasts" photo link in the middle of the homepage, then select the region of interest in the map, and choose the WCO district of interest from the map. For LMGS or forester reports, select the link to the LMGS Group or forester link of interest within that region.
"Our field officers and foresters provide wildlife forecasts for small game, furbearers, wild turkey, bear and deer within their respective districts," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "These forecasts are based on sightings field officers have had in the months leading up to the 2010-11 seasons, and some offer comparisons to previous wildlife forecasts. Some WCOs and LMGSs include anecdotal information, as well as hunting and trapping leads in their districts.
"The Game Commission offers this information to hunters and trappers to help them in making plans for the upcoming seasons. Many WCO, LMGS and forester reports offer information on where to hunt or trap within their districts, as well as guidance on where to get more information, particularly for trapping certain furbearers, such as beaver and coyotes."
Roe noted the Game Commission divides the state's 67 counties into six regions, and then each region is divided into WCO districts comprised of about 300 square miles each. There are 136 WCO districts statewide. Each of the 29 LMGS groups is comprised of a number of counties or portions of counties within each region, and seeks to equally distribute the amount of State Game Lands and public access lands within the region. The number of foresters ranges per region, from four to nine.
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 72-73 of the 2010-11 Digest.
TURKEY HUNTERS ENCOURAGED TO REPORT HARVEST ONLINE
All hunters harvesting a turkey are required to file a harvest report. Those participating in the state's fall turkey season will be able to file their harvest reports through the Pennsylvania Game Commission's online system or by using the postage-paid report card provided in the annual digest.
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, and click on the checkbox for the harvest tag being reported. 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.
Roe noted that responses to all harvest questions are required.
"Hunters still have the option to file harvest report postcards, which are included as tear-out sheets in the annual digest they received when they purchased their licenses," Roe said. "We certainly are encouraging hunters to use the online reporting system, which will ensure that their harvest is recorded.
"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