On the rebound: WMUs dictate Pennsylvania turkey hunting seasons
Pennsylvania’s turkey hunting season opens Oct. 28, with hunting season lengths varying depending on the Wildlife Management Unit (WMU).
While season lengths in most WMUs remain unchanged from last year, the first season segment has been shortened from three weeks to two in WMU 4E, and from two weeks to one in WMUs 4A and 4B – to help those populations rebound from declining trends, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
A big change this year is the opening of WMU 5B to a three-day Tuesday through Thursday season (Oct. 31-Nov. 2) because population trends have rebounded sufficient enough to allow for some fall hunting pressure, according to Game Commission wild turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena.
The three-day Thursday through Saturday season remains intact in WMU 5A to provide greater opportunity for hunters whose schedules do not allow for a weekday hunt. And, as usual, fall turkey hunting remains closed in WMUs 5C and 5D in southern Pennsylvania.
Hunters who didn’t participate in the fall turkey season during the last few years might be unaware of season length changes in some other WMUs, due to declining population trends and the results of an agency study that showed the longer the fall season the higher the female turkey harvest, the Game Commission said in a news release Friday, Oct. 20.
In most of the state, the fall turkey season opens Saturday, Oct. 28. The seasons are as follows: WMU 1B – Oct. 28-Nov. 4; WMU 2B (shotgun and bow and arrow) – Oct. 28-Nov. 17 and Nov. 23-25; WMUs 1A, 2A, 4A and 4B, – Oct. 28-Nov. 4 and Nov. 23-25; WMUs 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4C, 4D and 4E – Oct. 28-Nov. 11 and Nov. 23-25; WMU 2C – Oct. 28-Nov. 17 and Nov. 23-25; WMU 5A – Nov. 2-4; WMU 5B – Oct. 31-Nov. 2; WMUs 5C and 5D – closed to fall turkey hunting.
Last year’s fall harvest of 10,844 was 35 percent below the previous three-year average of 16,688, likely due to a combination of a decrease in fall hunting participation, shorter fall season lengths in many WMUs, below-average turkey reproduction (translating to smaller turkey flocks) and abundant acorn crops in much of the state, which tended to scatter flocks making them more difficult to locate, Casalena said.
The relatively new Thanksgiving three-day season provides additional opportunities for participation and is also a very successful season with about 18 percent of the harvest occurring during those three days, according to the Game Commission release.
Last year’s fall hunter success rate of 9 percent was similar to the previous three-year average. Fall hunter success varies considerably depending on summer reproduction, food availability, weather during the season, and hunter participation. Hunter success was as high as 21 percent in 2001, a year with excellent recruitment, and as low as 4 percent in 1979, according to the Game Commission.