BY KEVIN WOODRUFF
When hunters enter the woods for fall wild turkey season on Saturday, they can expect to see a healthy population.
According to wildlife conservation officer Victor Rosa, there are as many turkeys out there as there have been in previous years.
“There are an ample amount of possibilities for hunters,” Rosa said. “We have as many turkeys as in the past.”
Season lengths vary in the state’s Wildlife Management Units for fall turkey hunting: For WMUs 3B (Wyoming County), 3C (Susquehanna County) hunting will be open from Saturday, Nov. 6 to Friday, Nov. 19 and from Thursday, Nov. 25, to Saturday, Nov. 27.
Mary Jo Casalena, Game Commission wild turkey biologist, said the fall turkey population is excellent, but some hunters will face the challenge of locating flocks if they don’t do their pre-season scouting.
The widespread abundance of acorns this year likely will keep turkeys and flocks dispersed throughout the woods, making them harder to locate and hunt. However, an above-average turkey population and an open season during the Thanksgiving holiday should improve hunter opportunities.
The Thanksgiving holiday season (November 25-27) in most WMUs is designed to provide additional hunting opportunities for youth and families when schools and many businesses are closed and, hopefully, to reverse the declining trend in fall turkey hunters.
According to Rosa, the split turkey season is a result of bear archery season taking place between Nov. 15 and 19.
Rosa said he isn’t sure if they weeklong break in the middle of turkey season will have an impact on hunters locally.
“It’s hard to tell if it will be an issue,” Rosa said. “Because it is a relatively long season in this part of the state.”
Rosa said that heading to the Pennsylvania State Game Lands #57 is a good bet for local hunters, whether it’s on the Forkston or Noxen side.
He also suggested going to the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and checking out cooperative public hunting lands.
“There are a lot of landowners that offer up their lands for people to hunt on,” Rosa said. “And many of them have issues with too many turkeys on their farmland.”
For hunters further north in Susquehanna County, Rosa said that they can expect an experience close to what hunters in Wyoming County experience.
“It is a more agricultural area in Susquehanna County,” Rosa said. “But I think hunters in that area will have a comparable experience.”
Rosa pointed out that when heading out into the woods, hunters need to wear orange, and follow all the PGC’s safety regulations.
Last fall’s overall turkey harvest was below-average, 20,934, which is 20 percent less than the previous five-year average of 26,082.
Fall harvests have been declining steadily for the last eight years, mainly due to a decrease in the number of fall turkey hunters and shorter fall season lengths to protect from overharvest.
To view maps of turkey harvest by WMU, go to the agency’s website, put your cursor over “Hunt/Trap,” then click on “Hunting” in the drop-down menu listing, and select “Harvest Data and Maps” in the “Big Game” section.
The preliminary spring 2010 harvest, calculated from hunter report cards, was about 43,200, which is three percent above last year, but a sizeable 15 percent above the previous five-year preliminary average of 37,700.
In both spring and fall turkey seasons, it is unlawful to use drives to hunt turkeys. Hunters may take only one turkey in the fall season.
Shot size is limited to No. 4 lead, bismuth-tin, tungsten-iron or No. 2 steel. Turkey hunters also are required to tag their bird before moving it and to report their harvest within 10 days of taking a turkey.
Legal hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
Also, it is lawful to use a dog to pursue, chase, scatter and track wild turkeys during the fall wild turkey season. Hunters are prohibited from using dogs to hunt any other big game animal, including spring gobbler.