“The statewide turkey population this past spring prior to nesting was above average, at about 360,000 birds, rebounding from its low, in 2005, of 272,000, so there’s a bountiful population of turkeys in Penn’s Woods,” Casalena said. “The state’s wild turkey population is above the five-year-average thanks to good reproduction the past three springs and generally conservative fall season lengths, which minimizes the overharvest of hens.”
Locating a flock is only part of the hunt, Casalena said. Properly setting up and bringing a turkey within range is another challenge, and is what makes turkey hunting simultaneously tricky and enjoyable. This challenge is revealed with a look at hunter success rates, which ranged from 12-16 percent during the last five years.
“Overall, I expect turkey hunters to enjoy success rates similar to last year when 13 percent of fall turkey hunters harvested turkeys because of similar turkey reproductive success and abundant mast crops. But success this fall will probably be lower than the 16 percent success rates of 2007 and 2008, when the above-average reproduction coupled with below average acorn crops translated to large flocks that were relatively easy to find,” Casalena said. “Hunter success has been as high as 21 percent in 2001, which was a year with excellent recruitment, and as low as four percent in 1979.”
The preliminary spring 2010 harvest, calculated from hunter report cards, was about 43,200, which is three percent above last year, but a sizeable 15 percent above the previous five-year preliminary average of 37,700. Additionally, during the spring season, hunters harvested about 1,980 gobblers using the second tag, or “special turkey license.” Even though spring harvests are down from the record 49,200 of 2001, spring harvests have been back above 40,000 bearded turkeys for the last three years, exceeding most other states in the nation.
In both spring and fall turkey seasons, it is unlawful to use drives to hunt turkeys. Hunters may take only one turkey in the fall season.
Legal hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. For more information, please see page 14 of the 2010-11 Digest for the legal hunting hours table. Also, it is lawful to use a dog to pursue, chase, scatter and track wild turkeys during the fall wild turkey season. Hunters are prohibited from using dogs to hunt any other big game animal, including spring gobbler. For minimum orange requirements, please see pages 72-73 of the 2010-11 Digest, as the requirements differ depending on the Wildlife Management Unit.
Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officers (WCOs), Land Management Group Supervisors (LMGSs) and foresters spend a considerable amount of time gathering information about wildlife population trends in their districts. With the wild turkey season just around the corner, the Game Commission, once again, is sharing that information – through its website – with those who enjoy Penn’s Woods.
“The Game Commission offers this information to hunters and trappers to help them in making plans for the upcoming seasons. Many WCO, LMGS and forester reports offer information on where to hunt or trap within their districts, as well as guidance on where to get more information, particularly for trapping certain furbearers, such as beaver and coyotes.”
Roe noted the Game Commission divides the state’s 67 counties into six regions, and then each region is divided into WCO districts comprised of about 300 square miles each. There are 136 WCO districts statewide. Each of the 29 LMGS groups is comprised of a number of counties or portions of counties within each region, and seeks to equally distribute the amount of State Game Lands and public access lands within the region. The number of foresters ranges per region, from four to nine.
Snyder said that the Game Commission and NWTF offer the following safety tips:
In addition, while wearing orange is required for all fall turkey hunters while moving, hunters should consider wearing or posting orange at all times. For orange requirements, please see pages 72-73 of the 2010-11 Digest.
All hunters harvesting a turkey are required to file a harvest report. Those participating in the state’s fall turkey season will be able to file their harvest reports through the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s online system or by using the postage-paid report card provided in the annual digest.
Roe noted that responses to all harvest questions are required.
“Hunters still have the option to file harvest report postcards, which are included as tear-out sheets in the annual digest they received when they purchased their licenses,” Roe said. “We certainly are encouraging hunters to use the online reporting system, which will ensure that their harvest is recorded.
“Either way, the more important point is that all hunters who harvest a turkey report it to the agency.”
“The Game Commission is supporting legislation to remove the statutory requirement that licenses be displayed, and thereby allow hunters to place their hunting license in their wallet with other ID,” Roe said. “However, until such time as the General Assembly removes this statutory requirement, hunters and trappers will need to continue to display their licenses.”
Roe noted the license can be pinned to a hat, sleeve or outer portion of the coat.
SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission