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Fall hunting season looking up for turkey hunters

From staff reports

HARRISBURG — Two consecutive light fall wild turkey harvests and a substantial statewide turkey population of 212,000 birds should provide plenty of action in the fall turkey hunting season, which opened Saturday in most Wildlife Management Units.

Turkey season openers and season lengths vary by Wildlife Management Unit (WMU), and fall-turkey hunting is closed in some WMUs.

Locally, turkey season runs until Nov. 16, and again Nov. 28-29.

The Game Commission has eliminated the requirement for fall turkey hunters to wear fluorescent orange material. It also applies to archery deer hunters throughout their six-week season.

The Game Commission still strongly encourages turkey hunters and deer bowhunters in November to wear orange, but it remains a hunter-choice issue.

“Time has shown that fluorescent orange makes hunters more visible and saves lives,” noted Meagan Thorpe, the agency’s hunter-education administrator. “But a lot of hunters have asked to hunt without it, and the number of fall turkey hunters is down. So, we’re reminding hunters that conditions afield this fall have changed and they need to be aware of those changes.”

Another significant change is the elimination of fall turkey hunting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The short, holiday-based season now ends a half-hour after sunset on the Friday immediately after Thanksgiving. In recent years, the season closed on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which is now the opening of the statewide firearms deer season.

Mary Jo Casalena, agency wild turkey biologist, assures hunters there are plenty of birds afield.

“Pennsylvania remains one of the best states in the nation to hunt fall turkeys,” she emphasized.

Unlike the spring turkey season, in which hunters are permitted to harvest only bearded birds, any turkey can be harvested in the fall season. But research has proven that overharvesting hen turkeys in the fall can impact the population. So, fall season lengths are adjusted by WMU, based on available population data, Casalena explained.

“Young male turkeys, also called jakes, are difficult to distinguish from females,” Casalena said. “Our research shows females, both juvenile and adult, comprise a larger portion of the fall harvest than males, and our management and research also have shown that we shouldn’t overharvest females, so we shorten the fall season length when turkey populations decline to allow them to rebound.

“If you can distinguish a jake from a hen, please consider taking the jake,” Casalena recommended. “Every time a fall hunter passes on a hen, there’s a greater chance for improved recruitment in the following year’s statewide population.”

Successful hunters are reminded reporting your turkey harvest is mandatory. There are three easy options: on line at www.pgc.pa.gov (go to Report a Harvest on the Home Screen); by phone, toll-free at 1-855-PAHUNT1 or 1-855-724-8681; or by mail using the postage-paid harvest report card found with 2019-2020 Hunting and Trapping Digest issued free with each hunting license.

Casalena also reminds hunters to report any leg-banded turkeys they harvest or find.

Leg bands are stamped with a toll-free number to call. Although the agency’s research project is completed, and rewards are no longer valid, the information provided is still beneficial and hunters can learn the history of the bird.

Pennsylvania’s fall turkey season is among those open to Mentored Youth and Mentored Adult hunters. During the fall turkey season, a mentor may transfer his or her fall turkey tag to a Mentored Youth or Mentored Adult hunter.

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