Hunters are taking to the woods for some fresh air and the thrill of the hunt as the fall turkey-hunting season opens in much of Pennsylvania. South of Interstates 81 and 78 the region either is closed to hunting or will open later in the fall. At any rate, hunters are likely to see more birds this year, says Pennsylvania Game Commission wild turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena.
Dry, warm weather in early June, produced above-average nest success during the peak of the hatching phase and there is now a large quantity of young turkeys roaming many areas of the state. This is a reversal of the below-average trend we have been seeing in the last four years.
However, the spotty acorn crop will concentrate the birds around available food sources, so bringing the birds within shotgun range for a successful hunt will still be a challenge. Considering this challenge, Casalena forecasts hunters will experience success rates similar to last year when 12 percent of hunters harvested turkeys — a slight improvement over the previous three years’ 11 percent success rate.
Hunters killed 14,704 turkeys last fall about 5 percent lower than 2008-10. By comparison, success has been as low as 4 percent in 1979 to as high as 21 percent in 2001, an excellent year for recruitment of young turkeys and nesting success.
The fall season has been shortened by a week in some wildlife management units (WMU) and lengthened by a week in others based on an ongoing Pennsylvania Game Commission study to determine how the length of the fall season affects the female turkey harvest. However, Saturday is the opener for most of the state.
“By switching season lengths between study areas, we can attempt to answer the question of whether the harvest gained by adding an extra week to a two-week season exceeds a sustainable level of harvest,” said Casalena. “Ultimately, results from this study will allow us to provide the longest fall seasons without overharvesting hen wild turkeys.”
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