Limiting hunters to taking gobblers and not hens in fall hunting seasons would be tough to do, according to the Game Commission’s turkey biologist.
One species is too indistinguishable at a young age, the other too mobile and too abundant.
Those were the answers.
Pennsylvania Game Commissioners had questions of their biologists concerning turkeys and black bears at their meeting earlier in February.
Mary Jo Casalena, the agency’s turkey biologist, gave commissioners a presentation on the status of the state’s turkeys. She noted that flocks have decreased in some areas.
Her recommendation — one that’s gotten preliminary approval — is to shorten fall turkey season in some wildlife management units, as the take of hens at that time of year really determines what happens to populations.
That prompted commissioner Jim Daley of Cranberry to ask a question.
Spring turkey hunting is for gobblers only, to protect hens that are nesting. Could not the commission limit fall hunting to gobblers only, too, he asked?
“That would be fantastic to do,” Casalena said.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible, she said.
The problem is that jakes, or juvenile male turkeys, are virtually indistinguishable from jennies, or juvenile hens. Most hunters could probably not tell them apart, she said.
“My own first fall turkey, I didn’t know what it was, other than it was a turkey,” she said.
That’s perhaps why there’s no state, so far as she knows, that has a gobbler-only fall hunt.
Daley also asked if it eliminating fall hunting for a year or two would offer any benefits.
“If we really think that there’s a lot of potential, because of good habitat, would it make sense to close (fall hunting) for a year or two to get an immediate bump?” he asked.
Casalena said no, simply because of the weather. Flocks could increase quickly if the spring following a closed fall was optimal for nesting success. But there’s no way to guarantee that, she said.
To see any real benefit, Casalena said the commission would have to close a unit to fall hunting for a minimum of three years. She’s not ready to recommend that, she added.
As for bears, the problem with them is they just wander too much.
Game Commissioner Tim Layton of Windber said conservation officers are concerned hunters aren’t taking enough bears in southern Somerset County. Nuisance complaints remain high, as do complaints about crop damage.
Wildlife management unit 2C, which takes in Somerset, already has an extended bear season. Hunters can shoot a bruin on the Wednesday through Saturday or the first week of the firearms deer season.
Layton wondered if there was a way to tighten things up, and offer the extended hunting in a more confined area.
The answer is no, said commission bear biologist Mark Ternent.
Bear are incredibly mobile, he said. Their home range can take in several counties at times of year as they wander about seeking food. The place they seem concentrated one day can be without bears the next, Ternent said.
Given that, there’s no way to be especially specific in directing hunters to problem areas smaller than a wildlife management unit, he added.