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The Roving Sportsman… Pennsylvania Youth Hunt for Spring Gobblers 2024

The excitement is building, and in less than three weeks, the one-day Youth Hunt for Spring Gobblers will occur — Saturday, April 27, 2024, to be exact. It is a day that many young hunters and their adult mentors have been looking forward to for months. It is held one week prior to the opening of the regular statewide spring gobbler season in order to give the new and young hunters a slight edge at success rather than wait until the throngs of spring hunters enter the woods. Even though the big day is almost upon us, there are still several things to do to prepare for the hunt.

The limit is one bird, and it must be bearded, which means it could be a young Jake with a short beard or an old Tom with a long beard. Even a bearded hen is legal; however, bearded hens do nest and raise broods, so it might be advisable to pass up a bearded hen. The hunting hours begin one-half hour before sunrise and end at noon. Hunters should be out of the woods by 1 p.m.

Only licensed junior hunters and properly permitted mentored youth (16 and under) may participate and must be accompanied by an adult as required by law (see License information section of the current Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest). Birds taken by mentored youth under age seven must be tagged with a harvest tag transferred to the mentored youth from his or her adult mentor. Remember that dogs may not be used during this season, and hunting should be done by calling only — stalking is not permitted.

Wearing fluorescent orange is not a requirement during this spring gobbler season. However, it is recommended that while moving, a hunter wear a fluorescent hat and/or vest. Once in a stationary position or in a blind, it is advisable to display a banner of fluorescent orange within 15 feet of your location.

The use of a blind is highly recommended, depending on the age and activity level of the young hunter you are taking. We all know how fidgety a young person can be, and the blind will hide any extra movement that a new or young hunter will be engaged in when they become restless. The blind will also mask any activity by the hunters as they talk (whisper) about the morning’s activities. While the day of the Youth Spring Gobbler Hunt is really only several hours long, you might consider allowing youth to bring along a game that will occupy their time during any lull in activity. Otherwise, you may be bombarded with questions and talking throughout most of the morning!

Depending on the age and physical makeup of the youth, you need to think about what shotgun would be appropriate for the occasion. Grandpa’s old 12 gauge double-barreled shotgun will, no doubt, be too much for a new hunter who has little experience in shooting a shotgun. A wise alternative just may be a semi-automatic shotgun since much of the recoil is taken up in operating the action of the gun — thus, the “felt recoil” is much less. Another good option is to allow the young hunter to use a 20-gauge shotgun. This gun will operate just like a 12 gauge, with a lot less recoil. Here, too, a semi-auto will produce noticeably less recoil than a pump, single-barrel or double-barreled shotgun. The ammunition that is produced today for the 20 gauge that is used for turkey hunting is highly effective, and you should not hesitate to consider this option, especially if the youth’s size and stature warrant it. Today’s TSS (Tungsten Super Shot) ammunition provides much better penetration and pellet density than older lead shot, thus making the 20 gauge and even the .410 gauge an extremely good choice for a young hunter. Yes, TSS ammunition is pricey; however, it is much more deadly than previous turkey loads.

We should recognize that introducing young hunters to our sport is critical for the long-term survival of the outdoor activities that we have grown to cherish over the years. It is a great bonding experience and a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time together when you take advantage of this one-day Youth Hunt with an eager-to-learn youth. This day together in the spring turkey woods can be a very important one in laying the foundation for passing on our hunting tradition.

Safety is paramount, so remember to emphasize to a new or young hunter to always positively identify the target and the area around and beyond.