There will be lots of clucks, purrs, yelps and gobbles emanating from Penn’s Woods beginning April 23 when the one-day junior and mentored youth spring gobbler hunting season kicks off. That will be followed by the statewide turkey season that runs April 30 until May 31.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission says more than 150,000 hunters will take to the fields and forests to lure in a spring gobbler. According to May Jo Casalena, PGC turkey biologist, there’s plenty of opportunity awaiting hunters as the statewide flock is among the largest anywhere in the East, and is likely bigger right now than at any time in the last few years.
Casalena attributes this healthy population to a good recruitment as dry, warm weather last spring, and in some places, lots of cicadas to eat, produced 3.1 poults per hen on average statewide.
She goes on to explain, “That was our highest ratio since we began monitoring recruitment and a smaller than usual spring 2021 harvest plus shorter fall turkey season in some Wildlife Management Units coupled to a statewide elimination of rifles for fall turkey hunting, all of which boosted flocks.”
Casalena added, “This should translate into a lot of high-spirited jakes and hunters should find a larger than-normal percentage of older, 3-year-old turkeys out there.
The PGC points out that these birds won’t necessarily be easy to harvest; neither jakes no older birds typically are as vocal as 2-year-olds, but hunters can up their odds by preparing before opening day by scouting. Casalena suggests looking for actual birds, turkey sign such as droppings, feathers, scratching’s and tracks. And above all, practice calling.
As for the latter, and if you’re in the market for a new turkey call, 4-Play Turkey Calls is a local company based in Bangor, PA that makes several unique box calls. They’re handmade by owner Brian Benolken and used by several pro turkey callers/hunters. Check out their fine line at 4PlayTurkeyCall.com or call them at 610-984-4099.
It’s important to note that the PGC admits success isn’t always guaranteed as only about 15 percent of hunters harvested one gobbler last spring. And about 18 percent of the near-record 25,210 hunters who bought a special turkey license or second gobbler tag, took a second bird.
As a reminder, hunting hours during the youth hunt end at noon while hours are one-half before sunrise and end at noon for the first two weeks of the statewide season (April 30 through May 14). From May 16 through May 31, hunting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset.
Other reminders are that harvested birds must be tagged before moving them and hunters must report harvests within 10 days either by visiting www.pgc.pa.gov and clicking on “Report a Harvest,” by calling 800-838-4431, or sending in the harvest report card in the Hunting/Trapping Digest that came with the hunting license. Leg banded birds feature a toll-free number along with an email address to report it.
Two more reminders. Ticks. Yes, they’ll be abundant so hunters should spray their clothing before going afield. And be conscious of any Avian influenza infected birds that could look unhealthy such as stumbling, circling, exhibiting tremors, with a twisted neck or unable to fly.
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.