Extending fall turkey seasons has more of an impact than once thought, so changes could come in 2016.
A couple of notes on fall turkey hunting and the recently concluded elk season…
* It’s not unheard of for the length of fall turkey seasons to change periodically in Pennsylvania.
Far from it, actually.
So it’s not necessarily a shocker that more changes could be coming for 2016. What’s different is that they’ll be based on some new information.
Over the last several years the Pennsylvania Game Commission conducted a fall hen turkey harvest survey. The goal was to see how season length impacted hen survival, and subsequently turkey populations.
The two are linked, said Mary Jo Casalena, the commission’s turkey biologist.
Unlike in spring, when only gobblers are legal, hunters can shoot hen turkeys in fall. And overly high hen harvests can cause turkey populations to decline, she added.
The commission selected a handful of wildlife management units and varied season lengths in them. In some, fall hunts were two weeks long for a period of a few years, then switched to three weeks for an equal period of time. In other units, hunters were three weeks initially, then switched to two.
What the research found is that “a one-week change in season length does impact the harvest,” Casalena said.
There had been a suspicion, if not long-held belief, in some quarters that hunting pressure declined enough over time that few birds were taken late in the season. But Casalena said a full 18 to 20 percent of the fall harvest occurs in the last week of a three-week fall hunt. That’s significant, she added.
“So we might see some new changes to fall season lengths in the years to come. We want to give as much opportunity to hunters as we can. But we also want to sustain a large, vibrant turkey population on the landscape, too,” she said.
“It’s a lot more fun to hunt turkeys when there are a lot of them.”
* Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s 2015 elk season concluded Saturday – at least the first part – and 85 of the 116 participating hunters filled their tag. That’s a 73 percent success rate.
According to the Game Commission’s Doty McDowell, information and education supervisor in the northcentral region office, 20 of the 21 hunters allowed to take a bull did so. Sixty-five of the 95 hunters with a cow tag connected.
That success was pretty evenly distributed across all of the elk hunt zones, with three exceptions.
In hunt zone 13, on the extreme southeast corner of the elk range, toward Centre County, only two of five hunters took an elk, both of them bulls. In hunt zone 11, near Clearfield, two of four did.
Where hunters struggled the most, though, was in hunt zone five, in the southwest corner of the elk range, near Penfield. The commission allocated 23 elk licenses there, 20 for cows, three for bulls. But hunters killed just 11, including three bulls and eight cows, one of which was actually a male calf.
Those hunters who didn’t kill an elk have one last chance. The extended elk season runs Nov. 9-14, though all hunting must be done outside of the elk management area. That’s to give them one final opportunity and potentially remove any elk that have wandered where the commission doesn’t want them.