The end of winter and the approach of spring gobbler season have Pennsylvania hunters eager to get afield for the 50th anniversary of the season.
Properly licensed junior hunters and mentored youth can head afield Saturday, April 21, to participate in Pennsylvania’s annual youth spring turkey hunt. A week later, on April 28, all hunters can head into Penn’s Woods in pursuit of spring gobblers.
All participants in the youth hunt must be accompanied by adults as required by law. A complete list of regulations applying to mentored youth and junior hunters can be found in the Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, which may be purchased with a hunting license and is available online at www.pgc.pa.gov.
Last year, more than 16,900 licensed and mentored youth hunters participated in the gobbler season, harvesting 2,794 birds.
The forecast for the coming season is a statewide turkey population numbering between 210,000 to 220,000 birds, according to Mary Jo Casalena, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s wild turkey biologist.
“Pennsylvania’s turkey population will provide plenty of excitement for those who choose to head afield for the Commonwealth’s golden anniversary spring turkey hunt,” Casalena said. “Make no mistake, Pennsylvania remains one of America’s premier turkey-hunting destinations.”
Turkeys are coming through a relatively mild winter, and they again had a tremendous acorn crop last fall to help them with winter survival. A light fall harvest – estimated at 11,780 – sparked by greater supplies of fall foods and fewer hunters afield also has helped kindle increased expectations for the spring hunt.
“Last spring, hunters took 38,101 birds in the state’s turkey seasons,” Casalena said. “I expect a similar harvest this spring, somewhere between 36,000 and 38,000 turkeys.”
Pennsylvania turkeys are coming off a trying year. Frequent spring and summer rains in 2017 hampered poultry survival in some areas of the state. What has helped turkeys, though, has been recent mild winters.
“The lighter fall harvests, mild winters and increased acorn crops over the past two years, however, could support increased reproduction this spring, Casalena noted. “But our spring weather will have to cooperate.”
The turkey population remains below its peak of 280,000 in 2001 with substantial fluctuations every three to four years, likely due to fluctuations in recruitment, which is influenced substantially by the interaction of habitat quality, weather, predation and harvest, Casalena said. Overall, the population is slowly increasing from its most-recent low of 192,612 in 2010, with increases in the one- and two-year age classes.
Last spring, 5,049 turkeys were taken with a second spring gobbler license; 20,529 hunters purchased second gobbler licenses.
Hunters should note the second spring gobbler license only is on sale prior to the start of the season. Once April 28 rolls around, it’s too late to purchase one.
“So, hunters who want to ensure their best opportunity to hunt as many days of the season as they can need to buy the license soon,” Casalena said. “There’s promise for a great season.”
Hunting hours during the youth hunt end at noon. Junior hunters and mentored youth also may participate in the statewide spring gobbler season.
Harvest photo contest
A beautiful gobbler might not be the only prize a successful turkey hunter brings home this spring.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is sponsoring its second annual Turkey Harvest Photo Contest, and hunters submitting the photos of themselves with their 2018 Pennsylvania gobblers are eligible to win one of two personalized, engraved box calls.
Entries will be narrowed to a field of finalists in each the adult hunter and youth hunter category, with one winner in each category then selected by voters on the Game Commission’s Facebook page.
But you must enter to win. Hunters should be sure to submit photos of their 2018 Pennsylvania harvests by email to [email protected] Submissions should include the first and last name of anyone in the photo, the hunter’s hometown and the county the turkey was harvested.
The contest will run from youth season April 21 through Monday, June 4, with the winners selected shortly thereafter.
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky