Robins have arrived en masse, pussy willows have blossomed and forsythia will soon be blooming. But that’s not all. Spring gobbler season will be kicking off April 27 when over 227,000 turkey hunters will take to Penn’s Woods in pursuit of a bearded gobbler or two.
Prior to the opener, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has set April 20 as a one-day youth spring gobbler season that will run from one-half hour before sunrise until noon. At that time, licensed youths must be accompanied by a licensed adult or mentor and can only assist in calling in a bird.
According to the PGC, the spring gobbler season should be a good one based on the fact we experienced a mild winter, snow wise, and gobblers appeared to have weathered winter well.
“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,” explained Mary Jo Casalena, PGC’s wild turkey biologist. “The arrival of warmer temperatures will bring more gobbling activity, and just in time for the turkey season,” she reasons.
Casalena goes on to say “Our research has shown that although weather affects gobbling, it does not affect the onset of egg-laying by hen turkeys. Rather, photoperiod, the amount of daylight, triggers it. And, similar to previous years, the hen’s that are equipped with radio transmitters are on course to begin incubating their nests as the spring turkey season opens. We open the spring gobbler season around the peak of nest incubation to minimize hen disturbance and mistaken kills. Nesting hens too are less prone to come to a hunter’s call and abandon their nest,” Casalena explains.
During the 2012 spring and fall seasons, hunters took an estimated 35,392 spring gobblers and 13,995 fall turkeys. In 2011, there were 35,465 spring gobblers and 14,383 fall turkeys taken.
With the spring season running until May 31, hunting times are from one-half hour before sunrise until noon for the first two weeks through May 11, then change from one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset the remainder of the season. And hunters who purchase a second spring gobbler tag may take up to two bearded turkeys, but only one per day. Second tags must be purchased by April 19.
Casalena thinks turkey hunters should spend time scouting multiple areas, but not necessarily calling. She says learning several gobblers’ favorite strutting areas are helpful for determining the best in-season set up. But she cautions not to use calls to locate gobblers because it educates birds making them less inclined to respond during the season.
During the second half of the season, Casalena says hunter participation decreases and nesting hens are less prone to abandon their nests, that’s why all-day hunting at that time is less likely to impact nesting which builds next years stock.
Interestingly, the PGC points out that since 2011, afternoon harvests comprise six-percent of the total reported harvest and 22 percent were taken during the all-day portion of the seasons. During the all-day portions of the seasons, 78 percent of harvests occur by noon and for the afternoon segment, the majority of harvest occurs between 6 and 8 p.m.
Gobbler hunters should keep in mind that carrying rifles, handguns, dogs, electronic callers, drives and live decoys is unlawful. Blinds are permissible provided they are artificial or manufactured, not branches or bushes from natural habitat.
You’ve probably all heard stories of coyotes running off with a freshly downed gobbler. Well coyotes may be harvested by turkey hunters however, turkey hunters who have filled their spring turkey tag or tags, may not hunt coyotes during the legal shooting hours of the spring gobbler season unless they have a furtaker license.
And don’t forget. If harvesting a turkey, it must be tagged and reported to the PGC within 10 days. And if you happen to down a leg-banded bird, you’re encouraged to report it to the PGC for their ongoing research.
One other item during this spring season and because we had very little snow this year, are ticks. They’ll be abundant and waiting to attach themselves to you. Check out www.sealyurpants.com, a Whitehall-based supplier, as well as the embedded You Tube video, to see how their gaiters can help prevent having ticks navigate up your pants legs.
Every year over 30,000 people (hunters in particular) in the U.S. develop Lyme disease. Even after medication, it never goes away completely.
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