There will be yelps, clucks, purrs and gobbles emanating from Penn’s Woods when the statewide spring gobbler season gets underway Saturday (May2). And according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), the month-long season that ends May 30 should be a good one.
According to the PGC, the statewide flock, expected to mirror 2019’s estimated spring population of 212,170 turkeys, has been aided by good reproduction last year, declining participation in fall seasons, and a mild winter with abundant natural foods.
Mary Jo Casalena, PGC turkey biologist says, “A strong base of old toms is strutting in our forests and fields in their annual quest for companionship followed by a healthy population of high-spirited jakes. There’s also a good supply of 2-year-olds roaming in some Wildlife Management Units (WMUs). Last spring, hunters took 37,300 turkeys, which was down from 2018’s 40,300. The harvest generated a spring hunter first-turkey success rate of 19 percent and has ranged 19 to 21 percent for the past three years.
A good number of hunters bought second gobbler tags – 22,517 – marking the third consecutive year second-tag sales topped 20,000. Those second tags led to 4,811 harvests, making for a 21 percent success rate for those who purchased a second tag. Interestingly, only 13 percent of spring-turkey hunters bought a second tag.
Hunting hours begin one-half hour before sunrise and end at noon for the first two weeks of the statewide season (May 2 through May 16). Hunters are asked to be out of the woods by 1 p.m. when hunting hours end at noon. This is to minimize disturbance of nesting hens, says the PGC. Hunting hours during the youth hunt end at noon. Junior hunters and mentored youth also may participate in the statewide spring gobbler season. From May 18 through through May 30, hunting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset. The all-day season allows more opportunity at the point in the season when hunting pressure is lower and nesting hens are less likely to abandon nests.
Here are a few hunting reminders from the PGC:
*Only bearded birds may be harvested, and hunting is permitted by calling only.
* Hunters should refrain from knowingly harvesting bearded hens.
* There is no requirement for hunters to wear fluorescent orange during the spring turkey season, though it is recommended that orange be worn while moving.
* Blinds used while turkey hunting must be manufactured with manmade materials. It’s unlawful to hunt turkeys from blinds made of natural materials such as logs, tree branches and piled rocks. Added to that, blinds representing the fanned tail of a gobbler do not hide all hunter movement, and therefore are unlawful to use in Pennsylvania.
* Pennsylvania resident hunters can purchase a license ($21.90) to harvest a second gobbler in the spring season, but only one gobbler may be taken per day. This license must be purchased no later than May 1.
* Successful turkey hunters must immediately and properly tag the bird before moving it from the harvest site, and are required by law to report the harvest to the Game Commission.
Casalena pointed out that this past winter the PGC leg-banded over 300 turkeys statewide. If lucky enough to harvest a leg-banded turkey, or find one dead, she asks hunters to please contact the PGC through either the toll-free telephone number or email address printed on the band. In return, Casalena will provide details of when and where the bird was tagged. From these reports, the agency can estimate spring harvest rate and annual survival rate by wildlife management unit, which are critical elements of our turkey population model.”
TURKEY HARVEST PHOTO CONTEST
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is sponsoring its fourth annual Turkey Harvest Photo Contest, and hunters submitting the photos of themselves with their 2020 Pennsylvania gobblers are eligible to win one of two personalized, engraved box calls. Entries will be narrowed to a field of finalists in each the adult hunter and youth hunter category, with one winner in each category then selected by voters on the PGC’s Facebook page.
But you must enter to win. Hunters should be sure to submit photos of their 2020 Pennsylvania spring turkey harvests by email to email@example.com. Submissions should include the first and last name of anyone in the photo, the hunter’s hometown and the county in which the turkey was harvested. The contest will run from youth season April 25 through Monday, June 1, with the winners selected shortly thereafter.
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.