Another spring gobbler season is just days away from kicking off.
Hunters ages 16 and younger can take advantage of an early-season opportunity beginning a half-hour before sunrise on Saturday, April 26. Pennsylvania’s youth spring turkey hunt is open to properly accompanied junior hunters and mentored youth.
Hunters of all ages then can participate in the May 3 opener of the statewide spring gobbler season, which runs through May 31.
The season that awaits promises to be a memorable one for Pennsylvania’s turkey hunters, said Mary Jo Casalena, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s wild turkey biologist. While the statewide turkey population has experienced moderate declines in recent years, Pennsylvania hunters for nearly 20 years have consistently harvested more than 30,000 turkeys in the spring season, which is open to hunting only bearded birds – typically males.
This year, Casalena said, hunters should see higher numbers of year-old males – commonly called “jakes” – as a result of above-average reproduction in 2013.
And while many hunters prefer to hold out for the bigger and larger gobblers, the abundance of jakes out there could lead to increased sightings and hunter harvests, she said.
All participants in the youth hunt must be accompanied by adults as required by law. A complete list of regulations applying to mentored youth and junior hunters can be found in the Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, which is issued at the time hunting licenses are purchased and is also available online at www.pgc.state.pa.us.
Hunting hours during the youth hunt end at noon. Junior hunters and mentored youth may also participate in the statewide spring gobbler season.
Hunting hours begin one-half hour before sunrise and end at noon for the first two weeks of the statewide season (May 3 through May 17). Hunters are asked to be out of the woods by 1 p.m. when hunting hours end at noon. This is to minimize disturbance of nesting hens.
From May 19 through May 31, hunting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset. The all-day season allows more opportunity at the point in the season when hunting pressure is lower and nesting hens are less likely to abandon nests.
During the spring gobbler season, hunters may use manually operated or semi-automatic shotguns limited to a three-shell capacity in the chamber and magazine combined. Muzzleloading shotguns, crossbows and long, recurve and compound bows also are permitted. For a complete list of regulations, consult Page 35 of the Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest.
Pennsylvania hunters again this year are able to purchase a license to harvest a second gobbler in the spring season, but only one gobbler may be taken per day. This license must be purchased no later than May 2 – before the statewide season begins.
The $ 21.70 license ($41.70 for nonresidents) may be purchased online, but cannot be printed at home. Therefore if a hunter expects to need the license early in the season, purchasing it directly from an issuing agent might be better. General hunting licenses purchased online also are sent by mail.
Casalena said the spring gobbler seasons likely can’t come too soon for hunters. Pennsylvania has a strong spring turkey hunting tradition. The state has more spring turkey hunters and boasts higher harvests than all other northeastern states, and Pennsylvania’s youth season harvest exceeds the total spring harvest of some states, she said.
“With the warm temperatures, songbirds returning, emerging wildflowers and mushrooms blooming, spring gobbler season is a wonderful time of year to enjoy Penn’s Woods, and share the experience with others,” Casalena said.