From Pennsylvania Game Commission
-- Officials reporting unusual seasonal conditions throughout much of Pennsylvania believe it will present turkey hunters with a mixed blessing when the season opens April 21 for Youth Day.
Hunting hours are from one half hour before sunrise until noon for Youth Day. The general spring gobbler season runs April 28 to May 31, with the traditional noon closure. Hunting hours from May 14 to 31 are a half hour before sunrise until a half hour after sunset.
Game Commission Game Take Survey results show spring turkey hunting has become so popular that there now are more spring turkey hunters (230,000) than fall turkey hunters (163,000). Spring harvests average 38,000 to 45,000 bearded birds, while fall harvests average 16,000 to 25,000 birds of either sex.
“By the second half of the season, hunter participation decreases significantly and nesting hens are less prone to abandon nests,” said Mary Jo Casalena, wild turkey biologist.
The 2011 spring gobbler season was the first year of all day hunting during the second half of the season, and the overall harvest was a slight decrease from the 2010 harvest. Afternoon harvest was six percent of the total reported harvests and 22 percent of the harvest during the all day portion of the season.
Casalena said the Game Commission will continue to monitor the afternoon harvest in relation to population trends and age class of gobblers to gauge the impact of all day hunting. Of the 49 states that conduct turkey seasons, 34 have all day hunting for all or part of the season, including Maryland, Ohio and Virginia.
Hunters who have purchased a second spring gobbler season license may harvest up to two bearded turkeys, one per day.
“The preliminary 2011 spring gobbler harvest (43,957) was the seventh highest preliminary harvest on record, and only three percent below the previous three-year average,” Casalena said. “This decrease most likely was due to the rainy weather throughout much of last year’s spring season and below average summer reproduction two of the last three years in many WMUs, both of which decreased gobbling activity.”
Because of below average summer reproduction during the last three years, the 2012 harvest is expected to be 15 to 25 percent lower than the previous three year average.
Casalena encourages spring gobbler hunters to spend time scouting, which always plays an important role in hunter success, especially for those experienced older toms.
Legal sporting arms are shotguns plugged to three-shell capacity in the chamber and magazine combined; muzzleloading shotguns; and crossbows and bows with broadhead bolts or arrows of cutting-edge design.
Shot size must be no larger than No. 4 lead, No. 2 steel or No. 4 of any other composition or alloy of nontoxic shot approved by the Unites States Fish and Wildlife Service or an authorized representative under 50 CFR 20.134 (relating to nontoxic shot). Rifle-shotgun combinations also may be used, but no single-projectile ammunition may be used or carried.
Successful 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 their Digest, through the toll free number (855)724-8681 or through the Pennsylvania Automated License System.
Information to be reported includes the hunter’s name and address, date, location and time the turkey was taken, beard and spur length, and sporting arm used.
Hunters also are encouraged to report all leg-banded turkeys they take or find to assist the Game Commission in ongoing research, by calling the toll-free number listed on the leg band. Hunters may keep the band; the agency just needs the information on the band.
With the current hen turkey study, some bearded hens are equipped with leg bands and/or radio transmitters. Bearded hens are legal game for the spring season and hunters are encouraged to report these birds.
Junior hunters who participate in the youth day April 21 are required to have a junior hunting license, and those under 16 years of age must be 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 permit for $2.70, and must be accompanied by a properly licensed adult mentor who is and at least 21 years of age.
A field harvest tag is provided with the mentored youth hunting program permit.