Sunday, May 3, 2015

Gobbler Outlook Good In Region

By Bob Frye, Pittsburgh Tribune review

It's not too late to find a hot spot.

Spring turkey season opened Saturday — it runs through May 30 — but some gobbler hunters have been scouting for weeks. If they didn't kill a bird on the opener, they at least have flocks located and hunting spots in mind.

But that's not everyone. Maybe you're one of those who will be scouting and hunting at the same time, in season. Where should you start looking?

Some areas offer more promise than others, said Mary Jo Casalena, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's turkey biologist. Every year, she puts together a forecast for gobbler season based on past success rates and turkey densities.

This year's outlook is that some of the best turkey hunting will be found in Western Pennsylvania.

Wildlife management unit 1A, which takes in Mercer and Lawrence counties and parts of Beaver, Butler, Crawford and Venango, is the star. The outlook there is “excellent,” 
Casalena said. The spring turkey harvest density — birds killed per square mile — is tops in the state and last year was 39 percent higher than the five-year average.

Casalena said the season there “should be a good one.”

The second-best unit for spring gobblers should be 2B, which takes in most of Allegheny County and parts of Westmoreland, Butler, Beaver, Washington and Fayette, she said. It ranks second statewide for harvest density, up 26 percent above the long-term average each of the past two years.

If you're going to hunt 2B, do it soon. The commission's goal is to decrease turkey populations there to ease conflicts with people in the suburbs, so “populations may again be declining,” she said.

The season should be slightly above average in other nearby wildlife management units.
The situation in unit 2C, which takes in Somerset County and parts of Westmoreland, Fayette, Indiana, Cambria, Bedford and Blair, appears on the upswing, she said, given increases in turkey reproduction in 2012 and '13. In units 2F and 2G in northwestern and northcentral Pennsylvania, turkey populations remain below the statewide average but are on the rise, and hunters should do a bit better this spring than last, Casalena added.

One other unit in this region is holding its own — albeit at a high level — while another is struggling.

Unit 2D, which takes in Armstrong County and parts of Butler, Westmoreland, Indiana, Jefferson, Clarion and Venango, is prime turkey country. It ranks fifth statewide in spring harvest density.

But populations vary within the unit, not just by locations but also by type of gobbler.
Casalena said hunters should expect a “slightly above-average population of the experienced and wary 3- and 4-year-olds, slightly below-average populations of more-easily-called-in 2-year-old gobblers and an above-average population of jakes.”

Things aren't as rosy in unit 2A — once the best of the best — which takes in Greene County and parts of Washington, Westmoreland, Beaver and Fayette. The harvest there should continue to be below average, she said.

Remember that anywhere can be good. Locate some birds and call one — just one — in, and you can fill a tag. 

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