The mild winter was a blessing for turkeys and may be a blessing for Pennsylvania hunters who dream of hunting all day long as well. A higher proportion of hens will likely be incubating nests on opening day, which makes gobblers more vocal in their search for hens.
The mild winter has also left Pennsylvania’s gobblers in good condition. “That means those healthy males may just continue gobbling and looking for mates throughout the hunting season,” Carl Roe, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s executive director said. The only negative aspect of the warm winter is the early emergence of leaves that is a safety concern for hunters. The leaves will make it more difficult for hunters to see and hear their target.
Therefore, for the second year in a row, the Commission will allow for all-day hunting during the second half of the spring turkey hunting season as they continually evaluate the measure. All-day fall hunting has been in place since hunting turkeys in Pennsylvania became legal decades ago. This leaves only the first half of the spring season that requires hunters to put down their weapons by noon.
Pennsylvania’s spring turkey hunting season lasts from April 28 until May 31. The first two weeks (April 28 – May 12) will have the traditional noon closure time. From May 14 to May 31, hunters can take turkeys between one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset.
“By the second half of the season, hunter participation decreases significantly and nesting hens are less prone to abandon nests,” said Mary Jo Casalena, Game Commission wild turkey biologist.
A Game-Take survey by the Commission showed that spring turkey hunting has become so popular that there are now as many as 230,000 spring hunters, while there are usually 163,000 fall hunters. The average harvest for the spring is 38,000-45,000 bearded birds, while in the fall there is an average of 16,000-25,000 birds harvested of either sex.
Casalena said the Commission will continue to monitor the impact of all-day hunting. It will look at harvest in relation to population trends and age class of gobblers to determine the impact. Forty-nine states in the United States conduct turkey seasons. Of those, 34 have all-day hunting for all or part of the season, including Maryland, Ohio and Virginia.
Photo: Charlie Day (flickr)