"Are these season dates true or is it a misprint in the digest?"
Those were the words the phone caller asked me.
I assured him it was not a misprint. He told me that he had decided just to review the digest at the last moment and was really shocked to see that the season dates had changed. Except for the chance look, he would probably have been out hunting fall turkeys at the wrong times. He was angry at the change in dates, as are many hunters who have talked to me about it.
So if you are one who thought you were going to go turkey hunting this Saturday, you better look again. For WMU 4D as well as many other WMUs, the hunting dates were changed. Our season starts Nov. 13 through Nov. 19, takes a few days off then resumes again Nov. 25-27. So we can hunt fall turkeys on Thanksgiving Day. And on the day we usually travel to deer camp.
Historically, hunters don't like changes. The Pennsylvania Chapter of National Wild Turkey Federation, which has supported the Game Commission on some issues over the years, such as the abolishing of the Turkey game farms to focus on trap and transfer methods to reestablish turkeys in this state, is not supporting the Game Commission on these changes.
The Game Commission tells us that seasons are adjusted according to its data on the increase or decrease in the turkey populations in any WMU. The NWTF says that the seasons are adjusted more to entice more hunters to go hunting, since the hunter base seems to be shrinking, than for any concern over populations.
Whatever the truth is, this is the situation: the seasons are different this year, and we better get it straight, or some of us will be finding ourselves in hot water. The Game Commission has produced a cutout that is printed in the license digest this year, listing (in very small print) all the season dates for every species.
I'm cutting it out and tucking it in my license holder so I can check it if need be. Or double-check,since sometimes I begin to doubt if I have it right.
A few years ago, I went fall turkey hunting on a Monday morning. I went to a favorite spot, set up to call after having put out the required fluorescent orange to mark my location, and spent a couple hours watching and calling periodically. Had a turkey appeared I would have shot it.
After a couple of hours, it entered my mind that I hadn't checked the season dates in a while, and I began strongly to wonder if perhaps the seasons had closed the previous Saturday. The more I thought about it, the more I doubted myself. I did not have the bulky license digest in my vest or even in my truck. I became very uncomfortable, so much so that I hiked back to my truck and went home to check it out. The fact that I wasn't passing any other vehicles in the area only confirmed my suspicions that I was out there hunting illegally.
Guess what - indeed I was. Certainly you would expect that I would have it right, but I didn't. Just assuming that the season is the same as it was last year is a big mistake. I confessed my wrongdoing here to a conservation officer, and he gave me a warning but not a fine because I hadn't actually shot at anything.
Last Sunday, I also spoke with someone who was intending to hunt in this past weekend's special deer season for senior and junior license holders and active-duty military personnel, and he told me he had seen a nice buck already in the woods so he was going to go back and hunt for him. I dashed his hopes when I told him he could only hunt for antlerless deer.
I fear that, despite all the warnings given about the rule changes for antlerless deer hunting during the regular deer season this year, lots of folks will still assume it's the same as last year.?It's not. No antlerless deer may be harvested in many WMUs until Saturday of the first week of deer season. Check it all out in the digest.