Saturday, November 1, is the start of the fall turkey season in most parts of Pennsylvania. But take heed that there are some varying seasons, lengths and a handful of Wildlife Management Units that have been shortened this year or are starting on a different day of the week.
According the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the seasons are as follows: WMU 1B, Nov. 1-8 and Nov. 27-29; WMU2B, Nov. 1-21, and Nov. 27-29; WMUs 1A, 2A, 2D, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B and 3C, Nov. 1-15 and Nov. 27-29; WMUs 2C, 2E, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D and 4E, Nov. 1-21 and Nov. 27-20; and WMU 5A, Nov. 6-8.
As a result of a decreasing turkey population, there’s a two-week season in WMUs 3A, 3B and 3C. In addition, there’s a two-week season in WMUs 2F, 2G and 2H, as well as a three week season in WMUs 2C, 2E, 4A, 4B and 4D as the result of an ongoing hen study that is in its fourth of four years.
If you’re new to the area, fall turkey season is closed here in WMU 5C and elsewhere in 5B and 5D because of small turkey populations.
In her fall turkey-hunting forecast, Mary Jo Casalena, PGC wild turkey biologist, is hoping for similar hunting participation as last fall, when the number of fall turkey hunters increased to 199,000 (an increase of 70,000). As a result, the 2013 fall turkey harvest saw a harvest of 16,755 birds. This figure was obtained by harvest report cards submitted by turkey hunters.
Casalena said fall hunter success depends on several factors:
*Summer turkey reproduction – Larger flocks translate to larger harvests;
* Food availability – The better the soft and hard mast production, the more nomadic flocks become and the more difficult it is to harvest the birds;
* Weather during the season – Weather affects hunter participation, and:
* Overall hunter participation – More hunters in the woods keep flocks dispersed making it easier for hunters to call in lost birds.
Says Casalena, “Although turkey reproduction this summer was below average in many WMUs, translating to smaller flocks this fall in those units, reproduction did vary and many hens simply nested later than normal due to the harsh winter, and these poults may still be growing when the season opens.”
Casalena said acorn, cherry and hickory-nut production also varied across the state, with red-oak acorn production and soft mast like apples and grapes, seeing average to above-average production in many areas. “That abundance of food might make turkeys harder to locate,” Casalena opines.
In her report she goes on to say, “Abundant natural foods tends to keep turkey flocks on the move as there is no need to concentrate on one food source. Therefore, hunters have the opportunity for plenty of exercise as it might take several miles, or several days, of searching for flocks.”
She advises hunters to not get discouraged if flocks aren’t in their normal locations. And thinks this might be the year to explore more, or new, areas in search of turkeys.
“Overall, I anticipate similar turkey-hunter success rates as last year, when about 8 to 10 percent of hunters were successful. Last year’s success rate was a slight decrease from the previous three years. Hunter success was as high as 21 percent in 2001, a year with excellent recruitment, and as low as 4 percent in 1979.”
Casalena also reminds hunters to report any leg-banded or satellite-transmitted turkeys they harvest or find. Leg bands and transmitters are stamped with a toll-free number to call, and provide important information for the PGCs research project that is being partnered with Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Penn State University with funding from U.S. Fish & Wildlife, the National Wild Turkey Federation and Pennsylvania Chapter of NWTF.
Rewards for reporting marked turkeys are made possible by donations from the National Wild Turkey Federation.
And don’t forget about being a mentored hunter. During the fall turkey season, a mentor may transfer his or her fall turkey tag to a Mentored Youth or Mentored Adult hunter.