Wednesday, April 22, 2015

It's Turkey Time In PA!

Pennsylvania’s spring gobbler season kicks off Saturday with youth hunt.

Another spring gobbler season is just days away from kicking off. 

Hunters ages 16 and younger can take advantage of an early-season opportunity beginning a half-hour before sunrise on Saturday, April 25. Pennsylvania’s youth spring turkey hunt is open to properly accompanied junior hunters and mentored youth.

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          Hunters of all ages then can participate in the May 2 opener of the statewide spring gobbler season, which runs through May 30. 

The season that awaits promises to be a memorable one for Pennsylvania’s turkey hunters, said Mary Jo Casalena, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s wild turkey biologist. While turkey numbers vary from one area of the state to the next, Pennsylvania’s wild turkey population recently has been on the upswing, Casalena said. 

The statewide wild turkey population was estimated at almost 235,000 birds last spring, which compares to the previous five-year average of 169,000. 

Despite a long and cold winter, the state’s turkeys – once again – escaped without any known, winter-caused mortality. In fact, over the last five years that the Game Commission has monitored satellite-transmittered turkeys, none of the 288 birds monitored ever has died due to winter conditions, and turkey survivability actually is highest in winter.

Casalena said she often gets questions about winter mortality, especially when turkeys in a given area don’t seem to be gobbling much. 

The amount of gobbling depends largely on the age structure of the local population, she said. If there’s a high proportion of younger males, known commonly as “jakes,” they might not call much. The same is true of the more seasoned gobblers. 

“Just because you’re not hearing much gobbling doesn’t mean they’re not there, and hunters anywhere might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome of a hunt, even if there’s not a lot of calling activity leading up to it,” Casalena said. “Prior to the season gobblers might be quiet because hens are still with them. Once the hens go off to incubate their eggs, gobblers intensify their calling to attract other hens. We time the season to begin, on average, when the majority of hens are incubating and gobbling intensifies.” 

Year in and year out, Pennsylvania ranks near the top for turkey harvests. In 2014, the state’s hunters harvested more than 41,000 turkeys during the spring season. 

Hunter success typically could be higher, too, given that it is influenced by the fact many hunters choose to pass up chances to take smaller and younger bearded birds for the opportunity to take larger, mature gobblers, Casalena said.


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