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280 Kane St. STE #2
South Williamsport, PA
United States

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What’s Happening With Our Turkey Hunting?

I climbed out of my stand last week near quitting time and headed for my vehicle about a 20-minute walk away. I spotted a couple of does at about 40 or 50 yards but definitely out of my compound bow range. I continued a slow quiet walk when I heard that familiar cluck from a

I climbed out of my stand last week near quitting time and headed for my vehicle about a 20-minute walk away. I spotted a couple of does at about 40 or 50 yards but definitely out of my compound bow range. I continued a slow quiet walk when I heard that familiar cluck from a startled turkey and when I peered over the edge of the logging road down into the ravine about a dozen turkeys took to the woods on the other side of the ravine. Of course, there was no threat to the turkeys since I was carrying my compound and besides, turkey season was already over in the WMU that I was hunting.

For those of us who are into turkey hunting we are well aware that our seasons have become more limited. A quick glance at your hunting digest reveals only a one-week season for fall turkeys in six WMUs and only a two week fall season in nine other units and some units are closed entirely. These shortened seasons and other restrictions have been put into place to help bolster future turkey populations.

To be honest I have personally seen a pretty good number of turkeys all summer and into the fall and that includes a fair number of new young birds. Of course, those sightings are in my local area in the Muncy/Williamsport area but such turkey sightings are apparently not occurring in other parts of the state and statewide numbers are down from previous years.

As a result of these dropping numbers the Game Commission has initiated a couple of steps to help restore our turkey populations. There are a number of factors that contribute to reduced turkey numbers including weather patterns, nesting success, spring and fall harvest, predation, disease and more. Mary Jo Casalena, the Game Commission turkey biologist, said a four-year study is about to begin; the study will involve capturing and tracking turkeys with radio transmitters.

In the meantime, it is hoped that the shorter seasons will help cut down on the number of turkeys harvested. Another additional restriction was the elimination statewide of the use of rifles and pistols to take fall turkeys. Such a restriction will also cut down on the number of “incidental” turkeys taken by hunters that were actually hunting other game. While most fall turkey hunters used shotguns Casalena pointed out that fourteen percent of the hunters using rifles actually took thirty-three percent of the harvest. Personally, I think the elimination of rifles and pistols for fall turkey hunting was a good move to further provide safer hunting situations; sitting in the woods in complete camouflage while calling like a turkey could be a bit unnerving.

Casalena also pointed out that about every three years turkeys would produce a healthy crop of turkey poults but that doesn’t seem to be occurring in recent years and possibly weather could play a role. Like a lot of other turkey hunters I will be keeping a close eye out through the winter months in hopes of spotting thriving groups of turkeys and maybe the new study that’s getting underway will further improve the odds of seeing increased turkey numbers in the days to come.

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