Pennsylvania’s Spring Gobbler Season Kicks Off Saturday with Youth Hunt

NR029_15_TurkeyHARRISBURG, Pa. – 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 25.

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 2 opener of the statewide spring gobbler season, which runs through May 30.

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 turkey numbers vary from one area of the state to the next, Pennsylvania’s wild turkey population recently has been on the upswing, Casalena said.

The statewide wild turkey population was estimated at almost 235,000 birds last spring, which compares to the previous five-year average of 169,000.

Despite a long and cold winter, the state’s turkeys – once again – escaped without any known, winter-caused mortality. In fact, over the last five years that the Game Commission has monitored satellite-transmittered turkeys, none of the 288 birds monitored ever has died due to winter conditions, and turkey survivability actually is highest in winter.

Casalena said she often gets questions about winter mortality, especially when turkeys in a given area don’t seem to be gobbling much.

The amount of gobbling depends largely on the age structure of the local population, she said. If there’s a high proportion of younger males, known commonly as “jakes,” they might not call much. The same is true of the more seasoned gobblers.

“Just because you’re not hearing much gobbling doesn’t mean they’re not there, and hunters anywhere might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome of a hunt, even if there’s not a lot of calling activity leading up to it,” Casalena said. “Prior to the season gobblers might be quiet because hens are still with them. Once the hens go off to incubate their eggs, gobblers intensify their calling to attract other hens. We time the season to begin, on average, when the majority of hens are incubating and gobbling intensifies.”

Year in and year out, Pennsylvania ranks near the top for turkey harvests. In 2014, the state’s hunters harvested more than 41,000 turkeys during the spring season.

Hunter success typically could be higher, too, given that it is influenced by the fact many hunters choose to pass up chances to take smaller and younger bearded birds for the opportunity to take larger, mature gobblers, Casalena said.

Youth Hunt

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

Hunters also are advised that changes recently were adopted regarding the deer and turkey harvest tags issued to mentored youth hunters, but the changes will not be implemented until the 2015-16 license year to begin in July.

That means mentored youth hunters of any age can continue to use the spring turkey harvest tags that were issued with their permits.

Hunting Hours

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 2 through May 16). 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 18 through May 30, 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.

Licensing and other regulations

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 32 of the Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest.

There is no requirement for hunters to wear fluorescent orange during the spring turkey season, though it is recommended that orange be worn while moving.

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 1 – 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.

Reporting harvests

Successful turkey hunters must immediately and properly tag the bird while afield, and are required by law to report the harvest to the Game Commission.

For most hunters, harvests must be reported within 10 days. Mentored youth hunters must report harvests within five days.

Reporting harvests enables the Game Commission to more accurately estimate harvest and population totals, and is important to effective management.

There are three ways harvests can be reported. Hunters can visit, click the blue “Report a Harvest” button along the right side of the home page, then fill out a form and submit. Alternately, hunters can fill out and mail in the tear-out harvest report cards that are inserted into the Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, or report the harvest by phone at 1-855-PAHUNT1 (1-855-724-8681) .

In all cases, it is helpful to have your license with you, as well as the tag you used in the field after harvesting the bird.

“Even though our turkey research study is completed, there are still plenty of leg-banded turkeys throughout the state,” Casalena said. “If you are lucky enough to harvest a leg-banded turkey please call the toll-free number on the band and we will provide details of when and where the bird was tagged.”

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