Pennsylvania Turkey Season Opens Oct. 31
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is expecting hunters to encounter a sizeable wild turkey population when they head afield for the opening day of wild turkey season on October 31. And, because of the abundant acorn crop this year, finding birds this fall may be more difficult than it was last year.
"Wild turkey hunting is one of Pennsylvania's premiere outdoor experiences," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "The satisfaction derived from calling in and taking a game bird that can see you twitch at 50 yards is a fulfillment that veteran hunters never tire of and new turkey hunters can't wait to experience.
"The good news for this fall is that we believe there are great opportunities for wild turkey hunters throughout the state. But, as always, pre-season scouting and planning will be important to your hunting success."
Season lengths vary in the state's Wildlife Management Units for fall turkey hunting: WMUs 1A, 1B and 2A (Shotgun and bow and arrow only) - Oct. 31-Nov. 14; WMU 2B (Shotgun and bow and arrow only) - Oct. 31-Nov. 21; WMUs 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 4A and 4B - Oct. 31-Nov. 14; WMUs 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4C, 4D and 4E - Oct. 31-Nov. 21; WMUs 5A and 5B - closed to fall hunting; and WMUs 5C and 5D (Shotgun and bow and arrow only) - Oct. 31-Nov. 4. (NOTE: On page 52 of the 2009-10 Digest, the fall turkey season dates for WMU 2F are incorrect. The correct dates are listed above: Oct. 31-Nov. 14.)
Mary Jo Casalena, Game Commission wild turkey biologist, said fall turkey hunters will face two challenges, but nothing that a little pre-season scouting can't remedy. Those challenges are: smaller flocks of young turkeys in the woods caused by a cool, wet spring that decreased nesting success, which translates to a lower than average population of young turkeys; and an abundant crop of acorns, mostly red oak group, though white oaks tend to be scarce in many areas, which research has shown tends to disperse turkeys and flocks throughout the woods, making them harder to locate and hunt.
"Fortunately, the turkey population in the spring prior to nesting was above average, at about 345,000 birds, rebounding during the past three years from its low, in 2006, of 291,000, so there remains an above-average population of turkeys in Penn's Woods," Casalena said. "The state's wild turkey population is above the 10-year-average thanks to good reproduction the past two springs and generally conservative fall season lengths, which prevents 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.
"Overall, I anticipate turkey hunters to enjoy success rates only slightly lower than last year, when 16 percent of fall turkey hunters harvested turkeys, a great improvement from the 12 percent success rate over the previous three years. Hunter success has been as high as 21 percent (2001, a year with excellent recruitment), and as low as 4 percent (1979). The final 2008 fall harvest was 24,288, similar to the previous several years."
The preliminary spring 2009 harvest, calculated from hunter report cards, was about 41,400, which is similar to last year. Additionally, during the spring season, hunters harvested about 1,880 gobblers using the second tag, or "special turkey licenses." Even though spring harvests are down from the record 49,200, in 2001, Pennsylvania hunters have consistently maintained spring harvests above 30,000 bearded turkeys since 1995, exceeding most other states in the nation.
"Turkey population management is centered on regulating the fall either-sex season," Casalena said. "Our goal is to maximize recreational opportunity without adversely affecting populations. According to guidelines outlined in our Turkey Management Plan, we increase fall season lengths when turkey populations are increasing, but must reduce season lengths when populations are declining."
Casalena noted that fall turkey seasons were changed in three WMUs: WMU 2D was shortened to two weeks (Oct. 31 - Nov. 14) to help the population rebound to former abundance levels; WMUs 5C and 5D were shortened to 4 days (Oct. 31 - Nov. 4). Also, WMU 5A remains closed to fall turkey hunting for the seventh year to help restore the turkey population there.
"Research showed that the fall harvest was one factor adversely impacting that turkey population," Casalena said. "Reopening the fall season in WMU 5A is our goal, and the turkey population has shown improvement. The fall season also remains closed in WMU 5B, where we are continuing to allow the population to grow after three years (2001-2003) of transferring wild turkeys into parts of the WMU that had sufficient habitat, but no turkeys. Citizens now regularly see turkey populations where they had been absent for close to 70 years.
"Also, please remember to report any leg-banded turkeys harvested. Leg bands are stamped with a toll-free number to call, and provide important information for the joint research project being conducted in partnership with other states and the National Wild Turkey Federation."
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.
Shot size is limited to No. 4 lead, bismuth-tin, tungsten-iron or No. 2 steel. Turkey hunters also are required to tag their bird before moving it and to report their harvest within 10 days of taking a turkey.
Legal hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. For more information, please see page 12 of the 2009-10 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 page 70 of the 2009-10 Digest, as the requirements differ depending on the Wildlife Management Unit.