Despite criticism, gobbler hunting strong after 50 years

It was predicted by experts to be a very good spring gobbler season this year. Time will tell if the harvest was a record but the weather was not our friend. Cold weather up until time to start hunting, then rain nearly every day.

Hard to believe this season just past marked 50 years that hunting for gobblers in the spring was permitted in Pennsylvania. I well remember that first season and all the opposition that accompanied its inception in our state.

“It will be the extinction of turkeys in this state,” cried many sportsmen. “Like shooting fish in a barrel, not at all sporting,” and similar sentiments peppered the pages of outdoor writers and microphones of radio hosts.

What actually has happened is that hunting gobblers in the spring has become the premier hunting season in our calendar now, second only to deer season. None of the awful predictions for it came true. In fact, it is noted now as the ultimate challenge for hunters, to be able to bag cautious, extra wary gobblers. It takes skill, learning how to speak their language and when to speak it. It takes hours of practice to develop good calling skills and hunting tactics.

Yet, critics continue on. These days, many hunters are still complaining that the seasons are not set correctly, that they start too late, that the peak of gobbling is nearly over by the time season begins.

Many hunters beef about the two weeks allowed for all-day hunting, claiming that too many hens are disturbed by hunters marching around in the woods all day. Someone has suggested that different regions of the state have different opening days of gobbler season to more “perfectly” match up with expected weather. Trouble with that is, How do you predict the weather? This past year, we had winter, snow and cold, right up until the eve of opening day.

The divide between hunter’s wishes and the wildlife professionals from the Game Commission is this, as I see it: hunters want everything adjusted to their convenience. This season or that will give them the most benefit for success.

The researchers and professionals use their research data as the base for deciding what boundaries and seasons will be of the best benefit for the wild turkey populations. Mary Jo Casalena, Game Commission wild turkey biologist is famous for holding the line on this. Her recommendations for seasons and other considerations for both spring gobbler and fall seasons are set entirely by what will benefit the turkey population. Hunters’ personal preferences for their convenience take a definite second place.

And no one can deny that the resurgence of the wild turkey population in Pennsylvania is one of the foremost conservation successes of the century.

Great father’s day idea

At the Jaffa Outdoor Show last winter I ran into local writer Dennis Keller and acquired a copy of his newest book, “Whitetail Deer, Facts and Strategies.”

This beautiful, glossy-cover paperback book will be the ideal gift for Father’s Day, birthdays or any gift occasion. I have read the book from cover to cover and found it wonderfully helpful. What I like a lot about the book is that it does not contain a bunch of personal stories, but rather is full of practical information to make us all better, smarter whitetail deer hunters in this state.

For instance, here is a piece of advice I found so very helpful and so I quote it directly from the book: “Deer drives often take place between one logging road and another. But deer often do not want to cross logging roads and will run parallel to the road.

“Standers should not stand on logging roads but instead, stand just inside the woods and preferably behind a tree or in some cover so deer can’t see them.”

That is but one of scores of helpful, practical tips for hunting whitetails in Pennsylvania’s crowded woods. Every page is crammed with similar practical, helpful tips. I really love this book and recommend it as a perfect gift for any hunter you know. Try finding it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble or wherever books are found.