Rise Early for Turkey
Inside the Outdoors, May 10
, 2013

Now that hunters have taken to the field to gun for turkeys, it may be of interest what the Pennsylvania Game Commission compiled as far as facts that may help those looking to harvest a bird. This is what was noted in the Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest:

“During the all-day season, the majority of the harvest remained before 9 a.m., and 78% of the harvest occurred by noon. For the afternoon segment, the majority of the harvest occurred between six and eight p.m.”

According to a chart devised in 2011, specified times of the day were found to be so significant that one is lead to believe that the best time of the day is 6 a.m. followed by 7 a.m. Then there is a drastic drop off between eight and seven p.m. A matter of fact, hunters harvested two percent of the game birds both at five a.m. and 1 p.m.

The manual also revealed some interesting facts about turkeys, in case one thinks of them as only food for festive holidays, such as Thanksgiving, for example. Again, here is what was disclosed:

  • Wild turkeys are the second most pursued species in Pennsylvania;
  • Pennsylvania hosts more than 230,000 spring turkey hunters; 160,000 in the fall;
  • Spring gobbler harvest’s range: 34,000 to 45,000; fall harvest’s range: 16,000 to 25,000;
  • Spring harvests by Pennsylvania youth hunters (6,000 birds) exceed total spring harvests for most other northeastern states;
  • Spring turkey hunting has become more popular in Pennsylvania while fall turkey hunting has become less popular;
  • Finally, fall harvests still exceed those of all other northeastern states.

Spring turkey season began April 27 and will run until May 31. These are the rules: “Only turkeys with visible beards are legal. To attract them, only calling and no stalking is permissible. One may hunt one-half hour before sunrise until noon, now until May 11. After that, hunters may call birds one-half hour before sunrise from May 13 until May 31. They are asked to be out of the woods by 1 p.m. when closing hours are noon.”

The Pennsylvania Federation of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the PGC recommend, “Positively Identify Your Target.” This is a good rule of thumb.

To make today’s column complete, I dug out a bit of turkey trivia via About.com in a story about “Birding/Wild Birds," by Melissa Mayntz. This is what she had to say:

  • Due to over-hunting and deforestation that eliminated turkey’s habitat, these birds were nearly extinct in the 1930’s;
  • There are approximately 5,500 feathers on an adult wild turkey including 18 tail feathers that make up the male’s distinct fan;
  • Wild turkeys have very powerful legs and can run at speeds up to 25 miles per hour;
  • Their top speed in flight is 55 miles per hour;
  • Domestic birds are heavier and cannot fly;
  • The average life span of a wild turkey is three to five years. The oldest living wild turkey was reported to have reached 13 years old; Domestic birds live only a few months;
  • The wild turkey was Benjamin Franklin’s preference for the national bird;
  • A turkey’s gobble can be heard one mile away;
  • Alaska and Hawaii are the only two states without extensive wild turkey populations;
  • The wild turkey’s bald head and fleshy facial wattles can change color in seconds with excitement or emotion. The birds’ heads can be red, pink, white or blue.
  • Wild turkeys see in color and have excellent daytime vision that is three times better than a human’s eyesight and covers 270 degrees, but they have poor vision at night;
  • Just hatched wild turkeys are born with feathers and can fend for themselves quickly and leave the nest in 24 hours;
  • Turkey meat is low in fat and high in protein, making it healthier than other meats;
  • The wild turkey is the official game bird of Alabama, Massachusetts and South Carolina.
  • Finally, though they may not be designated as official game birds in other states, wild turkeys are widely hunted – in fact, are the most hunted of all birds..

- Paul J. Volkmann
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