HARRISBURG, Pa. — The cool spring so far throughout much of Pennsylvania may lead to increased gobbling for hunters planning to take part in the state’s spring wild turkey season.
The general spring gobbler season starts today and runs through May 31, with the traditional noon closure for the first two weeks — through May 11 — and from one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset the remainder of the season — beginning May 13.
Hunters who purchased a second spring gobbler season license may harvest up to two bearded turkeys, one per day.
“Unlike last year’s warm early spring weather, which triggered an early start to gobbling, this year’s cooler-than-normal March and early April have suppressed gobbling activity,” said Mary Jo Casalena, Pennsylvania Game Commission wild turkey biologist.
“The arrival of warmer temperatures will bring more gobbling activity, and just in time for the spring turkey season,” she said.
“Our research has shown that, although weather affects gobbling, it does not affect the onset of egg-laying by hen turkeys,” Casalena said. “Rather, photoperiod, the amount of daylight, triggers it.
“And, similar to previous years, the hen turkeys that are equipped with radio transmitters are on course to begin incubating their nests as the spring turkey season opens,” she said. “We open the spring gobbler season around the peak of nest incubation to minimize hen disturbance and mistaken kills. Nesting hens are less prone to come to a hunter’s call and abandon their nests.”
Another good sign for turkey hunters is that gobblers appear to have weathered winter well.
“Gobblers are in good condition this spring, despite the cold winter, because of abundant mast in most of the commonwealth — excluding the southwest counties,” Casalena said. “That could mean those healthy males may just continue gobbling and looking for mates throughout the hunting season. That will make the coming season a very special time to be afield.”
Game Commission game-take survey results show that spring turkey hunting has become so popular that, since 2000, there now are more spring turkey hunters (227,000) than fall turkey hunters (158,000).
Spring harvests average 34,000 to 39,000 bearded birds, while fall harvests average 14,400 to 20,200 birds of either sex.
“Pennsylvania has become a dream state for spring gobbler hunters, both for residents and out-of-staters, and not only because we manage one of the most prolific wild turkey populations in America,” said Carl G. Roe, the Game Commission’s executive director.
“The steps we have taken in recent years, such as extending the season to include Memorial Day and adding afternoon hours for the second half of the season, have been warmly received by turkey hunters everywhere,” he said. “They welcome the opportunity to get afield more and their feedback and photos to the agency suggest they’re making the most of it.”
During the second half of the season, hunter participation decreases significantly and nesting hens are less prone to abandon nests, that’s why all-day hunting over the final two weeks of the season is less likely to affect nesting.
Moreover, the opportunity it provides to hunt woods occupied by few hunters is appreciated greatly, particularly by veteran callers and hunters who can’t get afield earlier in the day because of work or school.