All-day gobbler hunt continues to be evaluated by commission
Harrisburg — Unusual seasonal conditions experienced throughout much of Pennsylvania will present turkey hunters with a mixed blessing in spring gobbler season, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
On the positive side, a higher proportion of hens likely will be incubating nests by opening day thanks to the unusually early spring, making gobblers more vocal in search of hens, noted Carl Roe, Game Commission executive director.
“Also, gobblers are in good condition this spring because of the very mild winter,” he said. “That means those healthy males may just continue gobbling and looking for mates throughout the
However, on the negative side, Roe added, the early spring means leaves emerged early, which will make it more difficult for hunters to hear and see their target.
“That will make it even more important to consider using a fluorescent orange band to alert other hunters to your stationary location or while moving,” he said.
Game Commission Game-Take Survey results show that spring turkey hunting has become so popular that there now are more spring turkey hunters (230,000) than fall turkey hunters (163,000).
Spring harvests average 38,000 to 45,000 bearded birds, while fall harvests average 16,000 to 25,000 birds of either sex.
The state’s one-day youth spring gobbler season was April 21. The general spring gobbler season is April 28-May 31, with the traditional noon closure for the first two weeks (April 28-May 12), and from one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset for the remaining two weeks (May14-31).
“By the second half of the season, hunter participation decreases significantly and nesting hens are less prone to abandon nests,” said Mary Jo Casalena, Game Commission wild turkey biologist.
The 2011 spring gobbler season was the first year of all-day hunting during the second half of the season, and the overall harvest was a slight decrease from the 2010 harvest.
Afternoon harvest comprised 6 percent of the total reported harvests and 22 percent of the harvest during the all-day portion of the season. During the all-day season, 78 percent of the harvest occurred before noon.
For the afternoon segment, the majority of the harvest occurred between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., with the last reported harvest at 8:35 p.m. (NOTE: Hunting hours closed between 8:39 p.m. in the eastern part of the state, and 9:11 p.m. in the western part.)
Casalena noted the Game Commission will continue to monitor the afternoon harvest in relation to population trends and age class of gobblers to gauge the impact of all-day hunting. Of the 49 states that conduct turkey seasons, 34 have all-day hunting for all or part of the season, including Maryland, Ohio and Virginia.
Hunters who have purchased a second spring gobbler season license may harvest up to two bearded turkeys, one per day.
In 1968, the first spring gobbler season started on a Monday and ran only six days so biologists could get a handle on hunter success and the season’s impact on the more than 60,000 wild turkeys inhabiting about half of the state’s forestland at the time.
It worked! More hunters were afield on the last day of the season – a Saturday – than the opener, and hunters took a total of 1,636 turkeys in the new season.
Comparatively, in 2011, preliminary harvests show hunters took 43,957 bearded wild turkeys in the spring gobbler seasons from an estimated statewide spring population of about 341,000.
Pennsylvania manages one of the most prolific wild turkey populations in America. It is an accomplishment that is directly related to both previous and ongoing research and management practices, the state’s outstanding tapestry of turkey-friendly habitats and the resiliency of Pennsylvania’s wild turkeys.
“The preliminary 2011 spring gobbler harvest (43,957) was the seventh highest preliminary harvest on record, and only 3 percent below the previous three-year average,” Casalena said.
“This decrease most likely was due to the rainy weather throughout much of last year’s spring season and below average summer reproduction two of the last three years in many WMUs, both of which decreased gobbling activity.”
Recent spring and fall harvests are: 44,788 spring gobblers and 15,884 fall turkeys in 2010; 44,639 spring gobblers and 20,934 fall turkeys in 2009; 42,437 spring gobblers and 24,288 fall turkeys in 2008; and 37,992 spring gobblers and 25,369 fall turkeys in 2007.
While the final 2011 harvest estimates won’t be available until this summer, the preliminary 2011 spring gobbler harvest was 43,957 and the preliminary fall turkey harvest was 17,017.
Due to below-average summer reproduction during the last three years, the 2012 harvest is expected to be 15 to 25 percent lower than previous years.