The extended cabin-fever brought on by the coronavirus has hunters across Pennsylvania looking forward to the start of spring turkey season.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission said Gov. Tom Wolf’s travel restrictions permit turkey hunting as a form of outdoor recreation along with fishing, walking, jogging and hiking.
The commission said turkey hunting will be different this year because of COVID-19, particularly during the youth spring turkey hunt on April 25.
However, the commission emphasized hunters still have the obligation to follow the social-distancing and stop-the-spread guidelines.
The commission offered some “simple rules” to make turkey hunting safer this spring. The first, for example, is if hunters live together, they can hunt together.
For people living in the same home, there’s relatively little risk of spreading COVID-19, so long as no one has the virus. If someone does, everyone is expected to self-quarantine for two weeks.
The commission said hunters should carefully consider options because hunting in a blind is out as it doesn’t meet social-distancing guidelines of being at least six feet apart.
Sharing a vehicle with another hunter is also out, according to the commission, and hunters are encouraged to turkey hunt as close to home as possible.
The commission provided other tips for turkey hunters.
- Wear gloves at all times.
- Use a camouflaged bandana or gaiter to cover your nose and mouth.
- Any equipment should be cleaned thoroughly before hunting.
- Carry hand sanitizer for cleanups afield.
- Coordinate with pre-arranged hand signals.
“There’s no doubt turkey hunting will be tough on hunters used to hunting with friends and at camp,” noted Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “The same applies to hunters who usually mentor young hunters interested in gobbler hunting.
“But COVID-19 is bigger than spring gobbler hunting, and we all must do our part to ensure this pandemic stops haunting all Pennsylvanians,” Burhans said.
“I’m not asking anyone to stop hunting this spring. On the contrary, I’m hoping you’ll get afield and make the most of the spring season without taking COVID-19 risks.”
The statewide spring gobbler season runs from May 2 to May 30. The commission said that the statewide flock is expected to mirror 2019’s estimated spring population of 212,170 turkeys.
The commission said it has been aided due to good reproduction last year, declining participation in fall seasons and a mild winter with abundant natural foods.
“A strong base of old toms is strutting in our forests and fields in their annual quest for companionship followed by a healthy population of high-spirited jakes,” said Mary Jo Casalena, Game Commission turkey biologist. “There’s also a good supply of two-year-olds roaming in some Wildlife Management Units (WMUs).
“So, if you’re willing to invest some time pursuing spring gobblers, you surely have a chance to bring home one – maybe even two – of these cabin-fever-chasing birds for you grill or dinner table.”
Last spring, the commission said hunters took 37,300 turkeys, which was down from 40,300 in 2018. The harvest generated a spring hunter first-turkey success rate of 19 percent and has ranged 19 to 21 percent for the past three years.
The commission said a record number of hunters again bought second gobbler tags – 22,517 – marking the third consecutive year second-tag sales topped 20,000.
It was also noted that those second tags led to 4,811 harvests, making for a 21 percent success rate for those who purchased a second tag.
Interestingly, the commission said that only 13 percent of spring-turkey hunters bought a second tag.