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Opportunity abounds in Pennsylvania spring turkey season

From the Pennsylvania Game Commission

-- Pennsylvania turkey hunters should expect to find good opportunities afield for both the youth and regular spring season openers.

The state’s one-day youth spring gobbler season is April 23 from one-half hour before sunrise until noon.  The general spring season is April 30 to May 31.

Legal hunting hours from April 30 through May 14 are one-half hour before sunrise until noon, and the remainder of the season May 16 to 31 expands to run all day, one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset.

“Although all-day hunting will increase disturbance of nesting hens, the impact will be minimal because all day hours only covers the last two weeks of the season,” said Mary Jo Casalena, wild turkey biologist.

The Commission will monitor the afternoon harvest in relation to population trends and age class of gobblers to gauge the impact of all-day hunting, Casalena said.

In 2010 preliminary harvests show hunters took 44,788 bearded wild turkeys in the spring gobbler seasons—43,201 first harvests and 1,587 second harvests via the special spring gobbler license—from an estimated statewide spring population of about 360,000.

“The status of wild turkeys has improved dramatically over the past 40 years. Nationwide, the 2009 estimated population of Eastern wild turkeys was almost 5 million, and is the most abundant of the five subspecies of wild turkeys,” Casalena noted.  Populations of other subspecies are Rio Grande, 1.1 million; Merriam’s, 336,000; Gould’s, 1,100. There is no population estimate available for Florida or Osceola turkeys.

Casalena expects an above-average harvest because of the abundance of three-year-old gobblers in the population, a result of excellent 2008 spring reproduction. 

Hunters are reminded that it is illegal to stalk turkeys or turkey sounds in the spring gobbler season.

“Safety must be the foremost consideration of every turkey hunter,” said Keith Snyder, hunter-trapper education division chief. “If every hunter followed the state’s hunting regulations and positively identified his or her target as legal game before squeezing the trigger, we could nearly eliminate hunting-related shooting incidents during the spring gobbler season.”

While not required by law, hunters are encouraged to wear fluorescent orange when moving through the woods. Officials also recommend hunters wrap an orange alert band around a nearby tree when stationary, especially when calling and/or using decoys.

Successful spring gobbler hunters must properly tag their turkey and report the harvest to the Game Commission within 10 days, using the postage-paid report card provided with the Digest or through the Pennsylvania Automated License System.

Hunters also are encouraged to report all leg-banded turkeys they take to assist with ongoing research, by calling the toll-free number on the leg band. Hunters may keep the band.

Junior hunters who participate in the April 23youth spring gobbler day are required to have a junior hunting license, be less than 16 years of age and accompanied by an adult who cannot carry a sporting arm. Accompanying adults may only provide guidance, such as calling or scouting. All other hunting regulations are the same as those for the general spring gobbler season, including the hunting hours of one-half hour before sunrise until noon and only bearded turkeys may be taken.

Youths under the age of 12 years may participate in the spring gobbler seasons through the Game Commission's Mentored Youth Hunting Program. They can hunt with a mentor during either the one-day youth or general spring gobbler season.  Mentored youths need to obtain a $2.70 permit and must be accompanied by an adult mentor at least 21 years old who is a properly licensed.

Hunters who have purchased a second spring gobbler season license may harvest up to two bearded turkeys, one per day.

Second spring gobbler tags can be purchased before April 29 at any issuing agent or online.  If purchased online, it can take up to 10 business days for the license to be received by mail. Fees set by state law for the special license are $21.70 for residents and $41.70 for nonresidents.

Additional information about mentored youth hunting is here.