Thanksgiving weekend offers more than just turkeys for Pennsylvania hunters
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s only natural for turkeys to be the talk of the table. After all, they have a long-standing tradition as main centerpieces for festive family feasts. However, there are multiple game birds and waterfowl worth pursuing for Pennsylvania hunters during their time away from work and school.
Each of the following bird species is fair game through Saturday Nov. 24 in most areas of the state, and the following tips for each respective fowl just might help hunters fill their game pouches during this extended holiday weekend.
This time of year, doves are suckers for unpicked grain fields. Walk a standing cornfield in late afternoon and you’re sure to put up birds. As dusk approaches, stake out barren roosting trees along the field edges and give birds plenty of lead as they head toward their evening perches.
These fast-fleeing timber-doodles love thick, wet, boggy areas. Find a low-lying creek flowing through the heart of a dense chop-off and your chances of encountering a long-beaked butterball improve dramatically. Send a good flushing dog into cover and stay ready for fast shooting.
Grouse are tough to find, tough to hunt, and tough to kill. They tend to frequent some of the thickest coverts imaginable, making clear shots difficult, even with a good pointer and a predictable flush. While you may miss on your first try, a follow-up opportunity may be granted to those who mark the general location of the bird’s landing. Head to that area, and stay ready for a do-over. This time, make it count.
Ring-necked pheasants sometimes hold tight or run through field cover instead of flying. As you near the end of a block of vegetation, be sure to finish out the last 10 yards with full attention. Many times, the birds will head to the row end and only flush at the last minute. Stay ready for this final stand, and don’t overlook those last few steps.
Mallards can sometimes be finicky with water landings, preferring not to fly overtop of roosted birds. When leaving a landing zone in your decoys, be sure to keep the opening on the downwind side of the fakes. This will allow cupped birds to coast right in behind their comrades, offering hunters an easy chip shot without flaring.
The birds migrating through Pennsylvania this time of year are likely Canadian imports. The flocks are much larger than the local residents targeted in September. That means confidence comes in numbers. If there’s ever a time for a trailer dump, it is now. Lean on larger spreads to pull in the big flocks for a fun day afield.
I would be remiss to omit the star of the holiday show, as most WMUs do offer three days of fall turkey hunting from Thanksgiving Thursday through Saturday. The trick of the trade this time of year is to do whatever you can to break up a flock. Once that’s accomplished, sit right down and start reeling them back in. With naïve young-of-the-year eager for their voices to be heard, soft yelps and kee-kee runs will serve as an assembly whistle to pull birds right into your lap.
A wild turkey harvest on Thanksgiving weekend is a real treat, but hunters need not limit themselves to the holiday’s main attraction. Taking advantage of the ample opportunities to pursue Pennsylvania’s diverse bird species is a great way to spend time afield with family and friends, and you may even add a few extra fowl to the family feast.