elk_ci_2

elk_ci_2Elk were gone from Pennsylvania for about 50 years at the time the Game Commission began efforts to reintroduce them to the state in 1913.

One-hundred years later, the state’s elk herd is the largest in the Northeast and restoring elk to Pennsylvania is considered one of the great accomplishments in wildlife conservation history.

And for those hoping in this anniversary year to participate in Pennsylvania’s annual elk hunt, there’s still time to enter your name in the drawing for licenses.

“Like so many other aspects of hunting, the elk hunt quickly has become a tradition here in Pennsylvania,” said Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe. “But hunters need to enter the drawing soon if they’re hoping to take part in this year’s hunt.”

Hunters have until Aug. 25 to submit an application through the Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS).

Applications can be submitted anywhere hunting licenses are sold, or online at the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.state.pa.us. Perhaps the easiest way to submit an online application is by clicking on the “Enter Elk Drawing” icon on the website’s homepage.

Applicants must pay a $10.70 non-refundable application fee to be included in the drawing.

This year’s drawing provides a greater opportunity for hunters to obtain an elk license. The number of licenses to be allocated has been increased to 86, up from the 65 licenses issued in the 2012-13 season.

The drawing will be held on Friday, Sept. 13 in the auditorium at the Game Commission’s headquarters in Harrisburg.

Names will be drawn first for the 26 antlered licenses available, followed by the drawings for the 60 available antlerless licenses.

Individuals are not required to purchase a resident or nonresident general hunting license to apply for the drawing. However, if they are drawn for one of the elk licenses, hunters then will be required to purchase the appropriate resident or nonresident general hunting license and view the elk hunt orientation video produced by the Game Commission before being permitted to purchase the elk license. The elk license fees are $25 for residents and $250 for nonresidents.

There is no cap, or limit, for the number of licenses that may be awarded to nonresidents. Individuals who applied in each year from 2003 through 2012, but were not awarded an elk license, have 10 preference points heading into this year’s drawing if they submit an application this year, and will have their name entered into the drawing 11 times (10 preference points plus the point for this year’s application).

As part of the preference-point system established by the agency in 2003, consecutive applications are not required to maintain previously earned preference points, but those points can be activated only in years that a hunter submits an application. For instance, if a hunter has 10 preference points, but does not enter the 2012 drawing, he/she will not have any chances in the upcoming drawing. However, their preference points will remain on hold until they apply in a future drawing. Once a hunter is awarded an elk license – either an antlered or antlerless elk license – the hunter’s preference points will revert to zero.

Additionally, hunters who want to earn a preference point for this year, but know that they would not be able to participate in the elk hunting season if drawn, have the option of simply purchasing a preference point for $10.70. While they will not be included in the drawing for the 2013 elk licenses, they will continue to build their preference points.

Those applying for an elk license can choose either an antlered or antlerless elk license, or they may select either-sex on their application. For those who select “antlered only,” if they are drawn after the antlered licenses are allocated, they will not receive an elk license. For those who do receive an antlered elk license, they will not be permitted to re-apply for future elk hunting opportunities for five years. However, those who received an antlerless elk license in any of the previous hunts may submit an application this year.

Applicants also have the opportunity to identify their elk hunt zone preference, or they may select “NP” (no preference). If drawn and their preferred hunt zone is filled, applicants will be assigned a specific zone by the Game Commission.

The public drawing of applications to be awarded licenses will be webcast on Sept. 13. To view the drawing, a special icon will be posted online the morning of the public drawing for individuals to click on and watch the drawing.

Those who can neither attend nor watch the drawing can check the status of their applications online using PALS.

To access this information, go to the Game Commission website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), and click on the blue box in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. Click on the “Purchase License Permit and or Application/Replace License and or Permit” option, which includes the ability to “Check on the status of any Lottery Application,” scroll down and click on the “Start Here” button at the bottom of the page. At this page, choose one of the identification options below to check your records, fill in the necessary information and click on the “Continue” button. Click on the appropriate residency status, which will display your current personal information. At the bottom of the page, choose the “Check on the status of any Lottery Application” button, and then hit “Continue.”

Details on the elk season and drawing are available on pages 86 to 88 of the 2013-14 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, which is provided to license buyers and may be viewed on the agency’s website.

By law, only one application is permitted per person per year, and the Pennsylvania Automated License System will prohibit an individual from submitting more than one application.

For those who want to participate in this year’s elk hunt, the first step is to get their applications submitted.

“Pennsylvania’s elk truly are something to be proud of, and in the 100th anniversary year of elk restoration in Pennsylvania, we are celebrating the herd’s success all year,” Roe said. “The hunt this fall also could be one for the ages, and anyone looking to take part needs to sign up soon.”

huntered

hunteredHunter – Trapper Education classes are filling up!

Hunter – Trapper Education is a six-hour training class required by law for all first-time hunters and trappers before they can buy a license. You must pass a certification exam at the end of the class to complete this training.

Scheduling is done online. Visit the Pennsylvania Game Commission website to register.

An Independent Study option is also available.

After taking the online course, you must attend this 2-3 hour class to be tested and certified. To prepare for this class, you must study the entire course content on your own by clicking on the link below. The independent study part of your training will require about 8-10 hours to complete.

If you do not want to study online, please telephone the PGC Hunter-Trapper Education Division at 717-787-7015 (M-F from 8:00am to 4:00pm) to request a printed version of Today’s Hunter & Trapper in Pennsylvania. A $2.53 postage fee will apply.

Note: All registrants must be at least 11 years old to register for Hunter Education Classes.

huntinglicense

huntinglicenseIt’s that time again.

Hunting and furtaker licenses for Pennsylvania’s 2013-14 seasons go on sale Monday, June 10.

And once again in the 2013-14 license year, all license fees remain unchanged since 1999.

Licenses can be purchased online through the Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS) website.

Licenses also can be purchased over the counter at all Game Commission region offices and the Harrisburg headquarters, as well as through more than 600 in-state and out-of-state issuing agents.

A list of issuing agents is available at the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.state.pa.us.

The 2013-14 hunting and furtaker licenses are effective July 1, when the licenses that now are valid expire. The new licenses are valid through June 30, 2014.

The launch of license sales for the upcoming seasons also serves as a reminder for Pennsylvania hunters who hold senior lifetime hunting or furtaker licenses, or combinations of those licenses. While those hunters need not pay a license or transaction fee, they must pick up new licenses and harvest tags.

Licenses purchased through PALS are subject to a 70-cent transaction fee for each license or permit, and that fee is paid directly to the Nashville-based company that runs PALS.

Through PALS, hunters can purchase not only their general hunting and furtaker licenses, but add-on licenses needed for archery or muzzleloader hunting, specialty licenses to hunt bears or set out after second spring gobbler, permits to hunt and trap bobcats and fishers, and more.

In short, what can be purchased from an issuing agent, can be purchased online.

Hunters also can use PALS to apply for the elk-license drawing or purchase Deer Management Assistance Program permits.

Many specialty licenses or permits have application or purchase deadlines, or launch dates for sales.

Fast approaching is the launch date for the sale of antlerless deer licenses. Applications for antlerless deer licenses must be sent by mail using official pink envelopes available from issuing agents or Game Commission offices.

County treasurers statewide on July 8 will begin accepting antlerless license applications from Pennsylvania residents. Nonresidents can apply starting July 29. Beginning Aug. 5, treasurers will begin selling the remaining unsold licenses for any wildlife-management unit for which licenses remain available. A second round of unsold license sales will begin Aug. 19.

Except in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 2B, 5C and 5D, hunters may only apply for one license during each application period. In those WMUs, hunters may apply for an unlimited number of licenses, however, the longstanding tradition of limiting applications to three per envelope remains in place for all applicants.

Over-the-counter antlerless license sales in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D begin Aug. 26.

Meanwhile, the deadline to apply for a 2013 elk license is Aug. 25. Those wishing to hunt bears during the early seasons must purchase licenses by Nov. 22, with bear licenses going back on sale from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1. The deadline to purchase a bobcat or fisher permit is Dec. 20. And those wishing to purchase a second spring gobbler license must do so by May 2, 2014.

Harvest permits through the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) will be available for sale beginning June 10, but hunters should be advised that permits for some properties might not become available until after that date.

DMAP permits will be available once landowner applications are approved and landowners are notified by the Game Commission. If permits for a particular DMAP unit have not gone on sale, hunters can continue to check back until sales begin.

Hunters purchasing their licenses early also might not be able immediately to get a copy of the 2013-14 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest regulations booklet. Some issuing agents won’t receive the booklets until late June. A complete version of the publication is posted on the agency’s website. And hunters who don’t receive a printed copy of the booklet initially may return to the issuing agent and pick one up after the booklets are delivered.

ci_deer_hunters_3

ci_elk_cow_3PGC News Release #026-13

HARRISBURG – The Board of Pennsylvania Game Commissioners today adopted seasons, bag limits, and elk and antlerless deer license allocations for the 2013-14 license year, which begins July 1. The board also finalized the inclusion of Wildlife Management Unit 2H during its quarterly meeting.

An antlerless deer allocation of 839,000 was approved by the Board for the 2013-14 seasons. Allocations by WMU are as follows: WMU 1A, 49,000; WMU 1B, 31,000; WMU 2A, 49,000; WMU 2B, 62,000; WMU 2C, 43,000; WMU 2D, 61,000; WMU 2E, 22,000; WMU 2F, 29,000; WMU 2G, 28,000; WMU 2H, 6,000; WMU 3A, 23,000; WMU 3B, 39,000; WMU 3C, 35,000; WMU 3D, 32,000; WMU 4A, 28,000; WMU 4B, 24,000; WMU 4C, 27,000; WMU 4D, 35,000; WMU 4E, 26,000; WMU 5A, 19,000; WMU 5B; 50,000; WMU 5C, 103,000; and WMU 5D, 18,000.

The board also approved an elk license allocation of 86; 26 will be antlered elk tags. Allocations by Elk Hunt Zone (EHZ) are as follows: EHZ 2 – 3 antlered, 10 antlerless; EHZ 3 – 2 antlered, 6 antlerless; EHZ 4 – 3 antlered, 2 antlerless; EHZ 5 – 4 antlered, 11 antlerless; EHZ 6 – 3 antlered, 12 antlerless; EHZ 7 – closed; EHZ 8 – 1 antlered, 1 antlerless; EHZ 9 – 1 antlered, 4 antlerless; EHZ 10 – 3 antlered, 5 antlerless; EHZ 11 – 1 antlered, 1 antlerless; and EHZ 12 – 5 antlered, 8 antlerless.

Other highlights of the new slate of seasons and bag limits included subdividing WMU 2G into two WMUs, which are now recognized as WMUs 2G and 2H (they will be featured in the 2013-2014 Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest); allowing qualified adult mentors to transfer one Deer Management Assistance Program antlerless deer permit to a youth they are mentoring as part of the Mentored Youth Hunting Program; changes to fall turkey seasons in several Wildlife Management Units to accommodate ongoing research; a return of the statewide snowshoe hare hunting season with a shortened season in WMUs 3B, 3C and 3D; increased daily and season bag limits for beavers in certain WMUs; and the addition of WMUs 3A, 3D and 4E to the list of WMUs open for fisher trapping. Another change eliminates the extended regular firearms season in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, except in Special Regulations Area counties – Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, which will retain the extended regular firearms season in these WMUs.

Hunters and trappers – particularly those setting vacations for this fall and winter – also are advised that several seasons will open or run about a week later in the 2013-14 license year to accommodate calendar swings – related to the timing of Thanksgiving – that occur about every seven years.

A listing of most 2013-2014 seasons and daily bag limits is as follows:

SQUIRRELS, Red, Gray, Black and Fox (Combined): Special season for eligible junior hunters, with or without required license, and mentored youth – Oct. 12-18 (6 daily).

SQUIRRELS, Red, Gray, Black and Fox (Combined): Oct. 19-Nov. 30; Dec. 16-24 and Dec. 26-Feb. 22 (6 daily).

RUFFED GROUSE: Oct. 19–Nov. 30, Dec. 16-24 and Dec. 26-Jan. 25 (2 daily).

RABBIT (Cottontail) Special season for eligible junior hunters, with or without required license: Oct. 12-19 (4 daily).

RABBIT (Cottontail): Oct. 26-Nov. 30, Dec. 16-24 and Dec. 26-Feb. 22 (4 daily).

PHEASANT: Special season for eligible junior hunters, with or without required license – Oct. 12-19 (2 daily). Male pheasants only in WMUs 2A, 2C, 4C, 4E, 5A and 5B. Male and female pheasants may be taken in all other WMUs. There is no open season for the taking of pheasants in any Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas in any WMU.

PHEASANT: Male only in WMUs 2A, 2C, 4C, 4E, 5A and 5B – Oct. 26-Nov. 30, Dec 16-24 and Dec. 26-Feb 22. Male and female may be taken in all other WMUs – Oct. 26-Nov. 30, Dec. 16-24 and Dec. 26-Feb. 22 (2 daily). No open season for pheasants in any Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas.

BOBWHITE QUAIL: Oct. 26-Nov. 30 (4 daily). (Closed in WMUs 4A, 4B, 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D.)

HARES (SNOWSHOE RABBITS) OR VARYING HARES: Dec. 26–Jan. 1, in all WMUs except WMUs 3B, 3C and 3D, where season will run from Dec. 26-28 (1 daily).

WOODCHUCKS (GROUNDHOGS): No closed season, except on Sundays and during the regular firearms deer seasons. No limit.

PORCUPINES: Sept. 1-Mar. 31 (3 daily with a season limit of 10). Closed during the overlap with the regular firearms deer seasons.

CROWS: July 5-April 6, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only. No limit.

WILD TURKEY (Male or Female): WMU 1B – Nov. 2-9 and Nov. 28-30; WMU 2B (Shotgun and bow and arrow) – Nov. 2-22 and Nov. 28-30; WMUs 1A, 2A and 2D – Nov. 2-16 and Nov. 28-30; WMUs 2C, 2E, 4A, 4B and 4D – Nov. 2-22 and Nov. 28-30; WMUs 2F, 2G and 2H – Nov. 2-16 and Nov. 28-30; WMUs 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4C and 4E – Nov. 2-22 and Nov. 28-30; WMU 5A – Nov. 5-7; WMUs 5B, 5C and 5D – CLOSED TO FALL TURKEY HUNTING.

SPRING GOBBLER (Bearded bird only): Special season for eligible junior hunters, with required license, and mentored youth – April 26, 2014. Only 1 spring gobbler may be taken during this hunt.

SPRING GOBBLER (Bearded bird only): May 3-31, 2014. Daily/season limit is 1; season limit may be expanded to 2 by persons who possess a valid special wild turkey license. From May 3-17, legal hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until noon; from May 19-31, legal hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset.

BLACK BEAR (Statewide) Archery: Nov. 18-22. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.

BLACK BEAR (Statewide): Nov. 23-27. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.

BLACK BEAR (WMUs 4C, 4D and 4E): Dec. 4-7. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.

BLACK BEAR (WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D): Dec. 2-14. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.

BLACK BEAR (WMUs 3A, 3B, 3C and 3D): Dec. 2-7. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.

BLACK BEAR (WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D) Archery: Sept. 21-Nov. 16. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.

BLACK BEAR (WMUs 5B) Archery: Oct. 5-Nov. 16. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.

BLACK BEAR (WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D) Muzzleloader: Oct. 19-26. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year.

BLACK BEAR (WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D) Special Firearms: Oct. 24-26, for junior and senior license holders, disabled hunters with a permit to use a vehicle as a blind and resident active duty military.

ELK (Antlered or Antlerless): Nov. 4-9. Only one elk may be taken during the license year.

ELK, EXTENDED (Antlered and Antlerless): Nov. 11-16. Only one elk may be taken during the license year. Eligible elk license recipients who haven’t harvested an elk by Nov. 9, in designated areas.

Elk, Special Conservation Tag (Antlered or Antlerless): Sept. 2-Nov. 9. One elk tag for one antlered or antlerless elk that was auctioned at the annual Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Banquet.

DEER, ARCHERY (Antlerless Only) WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D: Sept. 21-Oct. 4, and Nov. 18-30. One antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

DEER, ARCHERY (Antlered and Antlerless) WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D: Jan. 13-25. One antlered deer per hunting license year. One antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

DEER, ARCHERY (Antlered and Antlerless) Statewide: Oct. 5-Nov. 16 and Dec. 26-Jan. 11. One antlered deer per hunting license year. One antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

DEER (Antlered and Antlerless) WMUs 1A, 1B, 2B, 3A, 3D, 4A, 4C, 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D: Dec. 2-14. One antlered deer per hunting license year. An antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

DEER (Antlered Only) WMUs 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3B, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E: Dec. 2-6. One antlered deer per hunting license year. (Holders of valid DMAP antlerless deer permits may harvest antlerless deer on DMAP properties during this period.)

DEER (Antlered and Antlerless) WMUs 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3B, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E: Dec. 7-14. One antlered deer per hunting license year. An antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

DEER, ANTLERLESS (Statewide): Oct. 24-26. Junior and Senior License Holders, Disabled Person Permit (to use a vehicle) Holders, and Pennsylvania residents serving on active duty in U.S. Armed Services or in the U.S. Coast Guard only, with required antlerless license.

DEER, ANTLERLESS MUZZLELOADER (Statewide): Oct. 19-26. One antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

DEER, ANTLERED OR ANTLERLESS FLINTLOCK (Statewide): Dec. 26-Jan. 11. One antlered deer per hunting license year, or one antlerless deer and an additional antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

DEER, ANTLERED OR ANTLERLESS FLINTLOCK (WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D): Dec. 26-Jan. 25. One antlered deer per hunting license year, or one antlerless deer and an additional antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

DEER, ANTLERLESS EXTENDED REGULAR FIREARMS: (Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties): Dec. 26-Jan. 25. One antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

COYOTES: No closed season. Unlimited. Outside of any big game season (deer, bear, elk and turkey), coyotes may be taken with a hunting license or a furtaker license, and without wearing orange. During any big game season, coyotes may be taken while lawfully hunting big game or with a furtakers license.

RACCOON and FOXES: Oct. 26–Feb. 22, unlimited.

OPOSSUM, SKUNKS and WEASELS: No closed season, except Sundays. No limits.

BOBCAT (WMUs 2A, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4C, 4D and 4E): Jan. 21-Feb. 11. One bobcat per license year, but all licensed furtakers may obtain one permit.

2013-14 TRAPPING SEASONS

MINK and MUSKRAT: Nov. 23–Jan. 5. Unlimited.

COYOTE, FOXES, OPOSSUM, RACCOON, SKUNKS and WEASELS: Oct. 27–Feb. 23. No limit.

COYOTE and FOXES (Statewide) Cable Restraints: Dec. 26-Feb. 23. No limit. Participants must pass cable restraint certification course.

BEAVER (Statewide): Dec. 26–March 31 (Limits vary depending on WMU).

BOBCAT (WMUs 2A, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4C, 4D and 4E): Dec. 21-Jan. 12. One bobcat per license year, and all licensed furtakers may obtain one permit.

FISHER (WMUs 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3D, 4D and 4E): Dec. 21-26. One fisher per license year, and all licensed furtakers may obtain one permit.

wild_turkey_ci_2

SpringTurkeyHARRISBURG – The cool spring so far throughout much of Pennsylvania may lead to increased gobbling for hunters planning to take part in the state’s spring wild turkey season.

The state’s one-day youth spring gobbler season is April 20, and will run from one-half hour before sunrise until noon. The general spring gobbler season is April 27 to May 31, with the traditional noon closure for the first two weeks – through May 11, and from one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset the remainder of the season, beginning May 13. Hunters who purchase a second spring gobbler season license may harvest up to two bearded turkeys, one per day. Second tags must be purchased by April 26; they’re available from any license-issuing agent.

“Unlike last year’s warm early spring weather, which triggered an early start to gobbling, this year’s cooler-than-normal March and early April have suppressed gobbling activity,” explained Mary Jo Casalena, Pennsylvania Game Commission wild turkey biologist. “The arrival of warmer temperatures will bring more gobbling activity, and just in time for the spring turkey season.

“Our research has shown that, although weather affects gobbling, it does not affect the onset of egg-laying by hen turkeys,” Casalena said. “Rather, photoperiod, the amount of daylight, triggers it. And, similar to previous years, the hen turkeys that are equipped with radio transmitters are on course to begin incubating their nests as the spring turkey season opens. We open the spring gobbler season around the peak of nest incubation to minimize hen disturbance and mistaken kills. Nesting hens are less prone to come to a hunter’s call and abandon their nests.”

Another good sign for turkey hunters is that gobblers appear to have weathered winter well. “Gobblers are in good condition this spring, despite the cold winter, because of abundant mast in most of the Commonwealth – excluding the southwest counties, Casalena noted “That could mean those healthy males may just continue gobbling and looking for mates throughout the hunting season. That will make the coming season a very special time to be afield!”

Game Commission Game-Take Survey results show spring turkey hunting has become so popular that, since 2000, there now are more spring turkey hunters (227,000) than fall turkey hunters (158,000). Spring harvests average 34,000 to 39,000 bearded birds, while fall harvests average 14,400 to 20,200 birds of either sex.

“Pennsylvania has become a dream state for spring gobbler hunters, both for residents and out-of-staters, and not only because we manage one of the most prolific wild turkey populations in America,” noted PGC Executive Director Carl G. Roe. “The steps we have taken in recent years, such as extending the season to include Memorial Day and adding afternoon hours for the second half of the season, have been warmly received by turkey hunters everywhere. They welcome the opportunity to get afield more and their feedback and photos to the agency suggest they’re making the most of it.”

During the second half of the season, hunter participation decreases significantly and nesting hens are less prone to abandon nests, that’s why all-day hunting over the last two weeks of season is less likely to impact nesting. Moreover, the opportunity it provides to hunt woods occupied by few hunters is appreciated greatly, particularly by veteran callers and hunters who can’t get afield earlier in the day because of work or school.

The 2011 spring gobbler season was the first year of all-day hunting during the second half of the season, and the overall harvest has not increased from previous harvests. Since 2011 afternoon harvests comprise six percent of the total reported harvests and 22 percent of harvests during the all-day portion of the seasons. During the all-day portions of the seasons, 78 percent of the harvests occur by noon. For the afternoon segment, the majority of the harvest occurs between 6 and 8 p.m.

The Game Commission will continue to monitor the afternoon harvest in relation to population trends and age class of gobblers to gauge any impacts from all-day hunting. In the 49 states that conduct turkey seasons, 34 have all-day hunting for all or part of the season, including Maryland, Ohio and Virginia.

Recent spring and fall harvests are: 35,392 spring gobblers and a preliminary report of 13,995 fall turkeys in 2012 (final figures available this summer); 35,465 spring gobblers and 14,383 fall turkeys in 2011; 33,876 spring gobblers and 16,059 fall turkeys in 2010; 44,639 spring gobblers and 20,934 fall turkeys in 2009; 42,437 spring gobblers and 24,288 fall turkeys in 2008; 37,992 spring gobblers and 25,369 fall turkeys in 2007; and 39,339 spring gobblers and 24,482 fall turkeys in 2006.

Casalena encourages spring gobbler hunters to spend time scouting, which always plays an important role in hunter success, especially for those experienced older toms.

“Scouting improves hunters’ chances, especially if they line up multiple locations for the spring season,” Casalena said. “Learning several gobblers’ favorite strutting areas also is helpful for determining the best in-season set-up. This requires early-morning, pre-season scouting, but the potential in-season reward is worth it. Prior to the season, however, hunters should consider not using turkey calls to locate gobblers, because it will educate birds and cause them to be less inclined to respond to the early-morning calls of in-season hunters.”

Casalena also noted the importance of patience while hunting. “Last spring I wanted to move on a gobbler, but my hunting partner insisted on waiting,” she said. “Luckily I heeded his advice. Three gobblers finally came within gun range and we had a nice trophy to take home!”

Hunters are reminded that it is illegal to stalk turkeys or turkey sounds in the spring gobbler season. Given the wild turkey’s keen senses, it’s not a wise move anyway, but more importantly, it makes a tremendous difference for the personal safety of everyone afield. Every year, hunters are shot in mistake for game while approaching a hunter calling for turkeys, and/or callers are shot in mistake for game by stalking hunters.

The Game Commission encourages all spring gobbler hunters to hunt safely, defensively and to consider wearing fluorescent orange clothing while moving and posting a fluorescent orange alert band around a nearby tree when stationary – even though it is no longer required by law. Hunters should treat every sound and movement in the forest as if it’s another hunter until they can confirm positively it’s a legal turkey. Make an informed shooting decision by waiting until the gobbler is fully visible. Then look for the beard on the chest and take the bird if it’s within range.

Legal sporting arms are: shotguns plugged to three-shell capacity in the chamber and magazine combined; muzzleloading shotguns; and bows and crossbows with broadheads of cutting-edge design.

Shotshells must have shot size no larger than No. 4 lead, bismuth-tin and tungsten-iron, or No. 2 steel. Rifle-shotgun combinations also may be used, but no single-projectile ammunition may be used or carried.

Carrying or using rifles, handguns, dogs, electronic callers, drives and live decoys is unlawful. The use of blinds is legal so long as it is an “artificial or manufactured turkey blind consisting of all manmade materials of sufficient density to block the detection of movement within the blind from an observer located outside the blind.”

Coyotes may be harvested by turkey hunters. However, turkey hunters who have filled their spring turkey tag or tags may not hunt coyotes during the legal shooting hours of the spring gobbler season, unless they have a furtaker license.

Successful spring gobbler hunters must properly tag their turkey and report the harvest to the Game Commission within 10 days. Hunters also are encouraged to report all leg-banded turkeys they take to assist the Game Commission in ongoing research.