Hunting gobblers all day long a good thing

Monday begins the season for hunting all day long. Several years ago, when this idea of hunting gobblers all day long was just a proposal, hunters were vocal that it would destroy the turkey population and be fatal to hens and so on.

As usual, science has proved this not to be true, and in fact, Mary Jo Casalena, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s turkey biologist, spoke of the positives.

“This season promised to be a memorable one for Pennsylva-nia’s turkey hunters,” she said. “While turkey numbers vary from one area of the state to the next, Pennsylvania’s wild turkey population recently has been on the upswing.”

The statewide wild turkey population was estimated at almost 235,000 birds last spring, which compares to the previous five-year average of 169,000.

Despite a long and cold winter, the state’s turkeys — once again — escaped without any known, winter-caused mortality. In fact, over the last five years that the Game Commission has monitored satellite-transmitted turkeys, none of the 288 birds monitored has ever died due to winter conditions, and turkey survivability actually is highest in winter.

Casalena said she often gets questions about winter mortality, especially when turkeys in a given area don’t seem to be gobbling much.

“The amount of gobbling depends largely on the age structure of the local population,” she said. “If there’s a high proportion of younger males, known commonly as jakes they might not call much. The same is true of the more seasoned gobblers. Just because you’re not hearing much gobbling doesn’t mean they’re not there, and hunters anywhere might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome of a hunt, even if there’s not a lot of calling activity leading up to it. Prior to the season gobblers might be quiet because hens are still with them. Once the hens go off to incubate their eggs, gobblers intensify their calling to attract other hens. We time the season to begin, on average, when the majority of hens are incubating and gobbling intensifies.

“Year in and year out, Pennsylvania ranks near the top for turkey harvests,” she added. “In 2014, the state’s hunters harvested more than 41,000 turkeys during the spring season. Hunter success typically could be higher, too, given that it is influenced by the fact many hunters choose to pass up chances to take smaller and younger bearded birds for the opportunity to take larger, mature gobblers.”

Hunting all day for gobblers is a long day; before dawn to dusk means you need to have snacks/lunch and water with you or you won’t last. Enduring the long hours sitting is the main reason I use my one-man chair blind. I can sit comfortably in the chair. No more having my butt become numb after hours sitting on the ground and simply having to shift positions to rest my legs.

Gobblers will respond to calls during the day, but I haven’t had a lot of luck screaming out calls. I’ve found that just offering out some seductive, soft yelps a time or two will bring a gobbler near if he is looking for a hen. I can always up the volume if I feel I should but I seldom have any luck by starting loud and trying to soften the calls later.

The main thing with all-day calling is that you must be alert all the time. Some people take a book with them or play phone games during the hours of waiting but I can’t concentrate on a book or anything else since I am busy every moment scanning the woods. During the afternoon hours turkeys have a habit of just showing up and you are caught!

There’s other challenges, too, in hunting all day. Heat and insects are two of them. Tuck some insect repellent into your vest, you’ll need it. The smell won’t bother the turkeys. Might alert deer, bears and other predators but insects buzzing your face all day will drive you crazy.

Spray your outer clothing and your blind with a Permanone or Permathrim spray to save yourself a lot of grief. Still, check yourself each night for ticks just in case one slips past the spray.

Foliage is fully leafed out now and it makes a big difference in the way you hear things in the woods. A gobbler will sound farther away from you than he really is because the foliage muffles calls.

It does so, specially if you heard a gobbler from a distance and decide to try to approach closer to it, you are very apt to overrun him and spook him. Also, other hunters in the woods may see your movement through the brush and mistake you for a turkey. If you are moving in the woods please take the precaution to don an orange cap.

A lot of hunters hunt gobblers in the morning, take a break for lunch, switch gear quickly and spend a couple hours trout fishing, if you are near a stream, then back to the woods for the last couple hours of hunting. It’s a great but exhausting way to take advantage of a day off.