Talkin’ turkey: surveys, seasons, plans

Posted on: September 2, 2016 | Bob Frye | Comments

Tom and hensHow well did the spring turkey breeding season go? Answers might be available next week.

There’s a lot happening on Pennsylvania’s turkey front.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is wrapping up its inaugural wild turkey sighting survey. It was an attempt to enlist the public’s help in accounting for the success of this past spring’s breeding season by having people report where and when they saw birds.

The survey ended on Aug. 31, but people who observed birds in August have until Sept. 4 to file a report. That can be done here.

A summary of the survey’s findings will be published on the commission’s website on Sept. 6.

It might be substantial. As of Aug. 29, the commission had received more than 2,300 reports.

“So it’s been a great success,” said Mary Jo Casalena, the commission’s turkey biologist.

People filing reports were asked to note the kind of turkeys they saw — gobblers, hens with broods, hens without broods, or unknowns – along with their general location and date.

Several Northeast states are running similar studies, so the commission and those other respective wildlife agencies can compare breeding success.

At the same time, the commission is in the midst of revising its turkey management plan. This new version is meant to guide management of the species through 2025.

The goal of the plan is lofty: “to provide the optimum wild turkey population in suitable habitat throughout Pennsylvania for hunting and viewing recreation by current and future generations.”

The plan right now calls for reaching that using 59 strategies. The commission doesn’t have the money to implement them all right now, Casalena said, without an increase in license fees.

In general, they focus on such things as determining the biological and social carrying capacity of turkey populations, doing landscape level habitat management, crafting a model for setting fall season lengths and more.

One thing the plan doesn’t advocate is opening the spring gobbler season earlier in April, say mid-month. Commissioner Jim Daley asked if that might be possible, as it’s something turkey hunters often ask for.

“Are we sure it’s as early as we can make it?” he asked.

It is, Casalena said. Research has shown the timing of the season is right; opening it sooner would endanger too many hens, she said.

“Erring on the side of the resource is always best,” Casalena said.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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