Spring gobbler season becoming more challenging in Pennsylvania
Hunting wild turkeys — at least in Pennsylvania-during current times — has become more difficult for a number of reasons.
It was never an easy endeavor to take a tom during the spring season. Turkeys aren’t dumb, rather the opposite. They are equipped with fantastic senses of sight and hearing, plus blessed with a high amount of caution in any circumstance while living in the wild. Hunting them has always been a challenging task.
According to dedicated turkey-hunting friends I speak with, hunting springtime gobblers is even harder nowadays. Their reasoning comes from the fact that there has been a proliferation of predators, which have decreased turkey numbers for one. The second problem is revealed in the form of a change in the springtime and fall rituals of wild turkeys, which is due to that increase in predators.
Egg eaters such as possums, raccoons, skunks and even some bird species, have always been known to diminish turkey numbers when raiding nests. Bobcats, fishers and foxes, being larger predators, can feed on both nests and the turkeys themselves. But the hunters I speak with believe the increase in coyote populations is the major reason turkey hunting has changed in both spring and fall.
As perhaps the number one predator in terms of both abundance and intelligence in North America, coyotes certainly seem to be the major factor behind the decline of the overall wild turkey population. Their increase seems to have paralleled the wild turkey decrease.
These serious wild turkey hunters also insist that the presence of increased coyote numbers, and how they are attracted to the calls of wild turkeys, has changed the calling of the birds.
They mention that gobbling, both on the roost and on the ground, has reduced. The back and forth talk between live birds has also decreased. All it takes is a few encounters with coyotes when the birds are doing their “turkey talk” and birds that survive those moments both alter volume at times, and curtail their preferred sounds.
This, of course, makes locating birds more difficult, plus adding a huge increase of shyness. A shy and hushed bird that has an experience with a coyote may often appear silently to a calling hunter, who is surprised enough that the bird is spooked away.
There are probably other factors that have changed spring gobbler hunting, but it seems the majority of opinion blames coyotes for increasing the challenge.
Either way, there seems to be little that can be done to change this imbalance of predator to prey. Perfect habitat for turkeys can help hide nesting birds, and that may increase numbers, but the coyote is here to stay.