Optimism surrounds 50th anniversary of spring gobbler hunt

The sportsmen and women of our nation are the original conservationists – they have done more to protect wildlife, open space and encourage wise use of our natural resources than all other groups combined. (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)

Pennsylvania’s 50th anniversary spring wild turkey hunt has the makings of being a memorable one, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Properly licensed junior hunters and mentored youth can head afield Saturday, April 21 to participate in Pennsylvania’s annual youth spring turkey hunt. A week later, on April 28, all hunters can head into Penn’s Woods in pursuit of spring gobblers.

The forecast for the coming season is a statewide turkey population numbering between 210,000 to 220,000 birds, said Mary Jo Casalena, Game Commission wild turkey biologist.

Turkeys are coming through a relatively mild winter, and they again had a tremendous acorn crop last fall to help them with winter survival, the Game Commission said in a new release. A light fall harvest – preliminarily estimated at 11,780 – sparked by greater supplies of fall foods and fewer hunters afield also has helped kindle increased expectations for the spring hunt, the release said.

“Last spring, hunters took 38,101 birds in the state’s turkey seasons,” Casalena said. “I expect a similar harvest this spring, somewhere between 36,000 and 38,000 turkeys.”

Pennsylvania turkeys are coming off a trying year. Frequent spring and summer rains in 2017 hampered poult survival in some areas of the state. What has helped turkeys, though, has been recent mild winters.

“The lighter fall harvests, mild winters and increased acorn crops over the past two years, however, could support increased reproduction this spring, Casalena said. “But our spring weather will have to cooperate.”

The turkey population remains below its peak of 280,000 in 2001 with substantial fluctuations every three to four years, likely due to fluctuations in recruitment, which is influenced substantially by the interaction of habitat quality, weather, predation and harvest, Casalena said. Overall, the population is slowly increasing from its most-recent low of 192,612 in 2010, with increases in the one- and two-year age classes.

Last spring, 5,049 turkeys were taken with a second spring gobbler license; 20,529 hunters purchased second gobbler licenses. According to the Game Commission, the second spring gobbler license only is on sale prior to the start of the season – once April 28 rolls around, it’s too late to purchase one.

All participants in the youth hunt must be accompanied by adults as required by law. A complete list of regulations applying to mentored youth and junior hunters may be found in the Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, which may be purchased with a hunting license and is available online at www.pgc.pa.gov.

Categories: Hunting News, Turkey