In the throes of today's Steeler fever, few care what is happening in the outdoor world.
In the week that just passed, I have learned more minutiae about every player on the team than I ever wanted to know. And I am a dedicated fan of all the Pittsburgh teams, seldom missing a game.
But in the midst of more ice and snow and the general winter misery of the past week, remember that in just a week or two wild turkeys will begin gobbling! The hormones that activate the gobbling season are less dependent on weather than on the lengthening of light. I've seen and heard plenty of gobblers advertising their lust while they negotiated through snow. As I write this, our favorite rodent, Phil, has just predicted an early spring. I'm sure his compatriot, the wild turkey, is celebrating that announcement.
If you have not purchased your new mouth calls or a new turkey vest now is just the right time to do it. And the exciting Altoona Mirror Outdoor Show at the Convention Center starting next week is exactly the right place to see and purchase all the new stuff.
Mouth calls usually take some breaking in to get them just right. I brought out some that I had left over from the fall season a few days ago and the reeds were stuck together on some and took some working on to get the usable again. I know exactly what I need to replace for this spring.
The Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation - a watchdog organization dedicated to the welfare of the wild turkey in our state - has been pushing for years the idea that we need to institute a special turkey hunting license. Don Heckman, a founder of and tireless worker in the chapter ever since, winner of more conservation and sportsman awards than I can count, espouses this idea strongly and recently testified to such before the recent meetings of the Game Commission. Hunters, however, rarely see any need for more special licenses, thinking them to be nothing more than fund-raising devices.
The state chapter sees a special turkey hunting license as a way to identify just how many turkey hunters there are and then be able to target them with information that they need. Safety material, for instance, can be sent directly to every turkey hunter if his or her name and addresses were readily available. They say that wild turkey management decisions can be made more efficiently by biologists if they are based on actual turkey hunter density numbers. The Game Commission could also contact turkey hunters directly with any info that is pertinent to them.
As statewide wild turkey populations increase better research data will provide additional information biologists need to make future management decisions. Better law enforcement aimed specifically at wild turkey violations would also be a desired effect.
How will the turkey hunter benefit? A license will provide turkey hunters with specific turkey hunting and wild turkey biology information, turkey hunting safety and ethics material.. Turkey hunter surveys will give you the ability to express your concerns and opinions about wild turkey management in Pennsylvania.
Better research data and hunting information about our wild turkey populations could result in expanded hunting opportunities in the future, says the state chapter.
Wild turkey populations peaked above 400,000 in 2001; spring 2010 population was 360,000, above the previous 6-year average of 318,000. With more than 258,000 estimated turkey hunters additional state-wide wild turkey research needs to be completed, obtaining better data on state-wide population and harvest densities, hunter densities, and improved turkey hunter safety education and informational material needs to be developed.
Our wild turkey resource is a valuable asset to our state. During the past 20 years the Pennsylvania Game Commission has completed wild turkey restoration throughout the Commonwealth.
Wild turkey management is now shifting focus to acquiring additional wild turkey population and turkey hunter management data while helping Pennsylvania remain a leading wild turkey research and resource management state.
A Spring turkey hunting license will identify the number of turkey hunters in order to support communications and safety initiatives, improve methods to provide better wild turkey management data, support increased habitat management programs, and support the future for the wild turkeys in our state.
You will remember that most turkey hunters were more than a little upset about the complicated changes in last fall's turkey hunting seasons. Having a readily available data base of every turkey hunter in the state could have been a way to rally the troops efficiently and in a hurry.