This past Saturday’s sunny and relatively warm day was the perfect venue for Pennsylvania’s one-day spring turkey youth hunt for junior hunting license holders and mentored hunters under 16 years old.
This Saturday, May 1, the regular statewide spring turkey season opens for all hunters and will run until May 1. At that time there will be yelps, gobbles and purrs filling Penn’s Woods with hunters attempting to call in a wary gobbler.
And the hunting prospects fairly look good according to Mary Jo Casalena, Pennsylvania Game Commission’s wild turkey biologist.
With a 2020 estimated spring turkey population of 196,200 birds, Casalena said this total was slightly below average as last year’s good summer reproduction and light fall harvest set the stage for a good population this spring.
Said Casalena, “A strong base of adult toms followed by a healthy population of high-spirited jakes are prevalent. And there’s an above-average supply of 2-year olds in many Wildlife Management Units. So hunters stand a good chance for bringing home one – maybe two – of these wary birds.”
As for her latter statement of two birds, that’s permissible provided a licensed hunter purchased - prior to the season - a second Special Spring Turkey License for a second bird.
Last year’s second-tag sales set a new record of 25,524 hunters buying these licenses. It was, says the PGC, the fourth consecutive year second tag sales topped 20,000. As a result, those second tags resulted in 3,731 birds taken that made for a 15 percent success rate for those with a second tag.
Casalena goes on to say that last spring’s estimated harvest of 34,500 turkeys had a success rate of 16 percent.
For this season, Casalena reminds hunters of the following:
*Only bearded birds may be harvested by calling and sportsmen should refrain from knowingly harvesting bearded hens because they do nest and raise future broods.
*Blinds have become popular in hunting not only deer but turkeys as well, but they must be manufactured types that enclose the hunter on all four sides and from above. It’s unlawful to hunt turkeys from blinds made of natural materials such as logs, tree branches and piled rocks. Also, blinds that represent a fanned tail of a gobbler do not hide all hunter movement and are unlawful to use in Pennsylvania.
*It’s unlawful to stalk turkeys or turkey sounds.
*Legal firearms include manual or semi-auto shotguns limited to a three-shell capacity, muzzleloading shotguns, crossbows, long, recurve and compound bows may be used.
*There’s no need to wear fluorescent orange while hunting, but it’s recommended while moving to and from your hunting spot.
* Hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until noon for the first two weeks (May 1-15). Hunters are asked to be out of the woods by 1 p.m. This, says the PGC, is to minimize disturbing nesting hens. From May 17-31, hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset when hunting pressure is lower and nesting hens are less likely to abandon nests.
*Don’t forget to report your harvest by calling toll free 800-838-4431. The number in the Hunting/Trapping Digest is no longer in service.
*If you get a banded turkey, report that as the PGC leg banded nearly 500 birds this winter. In return, the agency will provide details of when and where the bird was banded.
Above all, be sure of your target. Make positively sure it’s a beaded gobbler before pulling the trigger, and not another hunter, a situation that has unfortunately happened in the past.
Oh yes. Don't forget to spray your clothes with a tick repellent as those nasty bugs will be looking for a meal.
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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.