The fall turkey hunting season kicked off this past Saturday (Oct. 28) in 19 of Pennsylvania’s 22 Wildlife Management Units (WMU). Unfortunately, it’s not open locally in WMU 5C, 5D and 5A as the turkey population is not sufficient to allow spring and fall hunts in these units.
During the fall season, any turkey can be harvested, and female turkeys make up over 50 percent of the fall harvest. When turkey populations are below goal in a WMU, the fall season structure is reduced to allow more female turkeys to survive to nest, explains the PGC.
As for the season outlook, turkey reproduction in 2023, as measured by the number of poults observed, was lower than in 2021 and 2022. But it was greater this year than in 2019 and 2020 across many WMUs, says the PGC.
According to Mary Jo Casalena, PGC wild turkey biologist, “Although fall flock sizes may be smaller this year, there may be more flocks due to the above-average reproduction the previous two years. Hunters should expect to find flocks concentrated on available food sources, such as areas with acorn production or agricultural areas.”
Casalena encourages hunters to cover a lot of ground in areas where acorn or beechnut production is abundant because flocks are not constrained by limited food. “Where food is abundant, determining turkey movement patterns around that food will improve hunting success,” Casalena opines.
During the 2022 season, the fall harvest (7,600 turkeys) was 12 percent greater than in 2021 (6,800 turkeys). Statewide fall hunter participation (70,500 hunters) was 14 percent less in 2022 than in 2021 (81,500 hunters). Fall hunter success of 10.8 percent was 29 percent greater than the 8.4 percent in 2021 per the PGC.
Successful turkey hunters are reminded that they must tag their birds immediately after harvest and file a turkey harvest report within 10 days of harvest. That can be done by going online to the PGC’s website (www.pgc.pa.gov.), by calling toll free (800-838-4431), or by mailing in a prepaid post card. When doing so, hunters are asked to identify the WMU, county, and township where the bird was taken. If hunters harvest a leg-banded turkey, or has a transmitter attached, follow the instructions on the band or transmitter as last winter the PGC leg-banded more than 900 turkeys that include backpack style transmitters on more than 260 turkeys. The effort was to help track turkey populations.
Also keep in mind that while it’s not required to wear fluorescent orange, the PGC highly recommends wearing some while moving through the woods.
Since 2021, there have been one or fewer turkey-hunting related shooting incidents each year, and 2022 marked the sixth year with no incidents. The other years with no incidents were 2012, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2021. Incidents can be avoided by positively identifying the target before shooting.
FALL TURKEY HUNTING MYTHS
According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, here are two myths about fall turkeys.
MYTH: You can’t call fall longbeards - Not unless you try. Fall longbeard hunters know a post-scatter wait can take time. But the birds can come back gobbling, yelping, even strutting after a flock break. Sometimes it happens quickly, often it takes longer if at all. Be persistent.
MYTH: Fall gobblers don’t strut or gobble - Fall turkeys roost-gobble, ground-gobble and gobble after an intentional flock break as they regroup during your effort to call them back. Fall gobblers strut too.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.