PGC: Gobbler hunt outlook good

Harrisburg – The upcoming gobbler season April 26 to May 26
should provide excellent hunting opportunities for the nearly
quarter million hunters who are preparing to participate, according
to Pennsylvania Game Commission officials.

New this year, the season includes the Monday of the Memorial
Day holiday, affording hunters who have off work or school an
additional opportunity to participate. Shooting hours are one-half
hour before sunrise until noon.

“Spring gobbler hunting looks promising throughout the state and
should be better than 2007, which was an above-average season,”
said Mary Jo Casalena, the agency’s wild turkey biologist. “Last
year’s statewide harvest was the seventh best on record.”

Last year, hens entered the breeding season in good physical
condition, the result of a mild winter with abundant food, allowing
above-average nesting, noted Casalena.

“Those young turkeys were further supported by warm, dry spring
weather and an abundance of summer food, which translated into
above-average reproduction and recruitment, reversing the recent
declining population trends in some local populations,” she
said.

Wildlife conservation officers’ wild turkey summer sighting
survey work documented that recruitment last year was higher than
the long-term average, just not as good as in 2000-02, when
Pennsylvania’s had its largest wild turkey populations, Casalena
explained.

“This translates into more jakes in the statewide population
than last spring” she said. “There also will be more 2-year-olds
than last year, but not as many as in 2002-04. We also anticipate
there will be fewer of the older, experienced, 3- and 4-year-olds
than the past few years.”

With a mild winter and abundant winter food sources in many
areas of the state, turkeys are coming into the spring breeding
season in good condition, Casalena pointed out, which means a
majority of the hens should be available to breed.

“The larger turkey population should spur hen and jake
populations, so hunters will likely be competing with the real hens
and will have to stay alert for those sneaking jakes that often
appear out of nowhere,” she said. “Last year, in many parts of the
state, it seemed gobblers had hens with them all season long, which
made it even more challenging to call gobblers to hunters.

“This year’s early spring may cause gobbling to begin sooner
than usual, but egg laying for the nesting season is related more
to the amount of daylight than air temperature, and the hunting
season is timed to open after the majority of hens have started
incubating to reduce nest disturbances during egg-laying,” Casalena
added.

“That is when hens are more prone to run than sit tight. If hens
remain on nest, there is less chance they’ll be shot
mistakenly.”

The preliminary spring harvest for 2007 was about 39,500, and an
additional 1,507 turkeys were taken with special spring turkey
licenses that provided for the taking of a second gobbler.

That compares with a 2006 harvest of about 38,500, and an
additional 1,454 turkeys taken with special spring turkey licenses
that provided for the taking of a second gobbler.

The harvest in 2005 was 40,000; in 2004, it was 41,000; in 2003,
it was 43,900; and in 2002, it was 44,500. The spring turkey
harvest has exceeded 30,000 since 1994.

In 2007, about 7,500 special licenses were issued to allow
hunters the opportunity to take a second spring gobbler, and 1,507
second gobblers were killed, amounting to 4 percent of the gobbler
harvest.

In 2006, the first year it was legal to take a second gobbler in
Pennsylvania, more than 8,000 special licenses were issued, and
hunters harvested 1,454 second gobblers, again about 4 percent of
the total gobbler harvest.

According to the Game Commission, research has shown that
properly timed and implemented multiple-bird spring bag limits have
not caused population declines in other states.

To monitor hunter success, all hunters who receive the special
spring gobbler license are required to submit a report, regardless
of whether they harvest a second spring gobbler.

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