Pennsylvania Game Commission
Pennsylvania Game Commission

HARRISBURG, PA –(Ammoland) Preliminary harvest data indicate wild turkey hunters had one fine season this past fall. In fact, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, it was one of the best in years.

Preliminary harvest information estimates that hunters took 26,485 turkeys in the 2008 fall season. That’s up substantially from the preliminary fall harvests of 21,900 in 2007, and 21,500 in 2006. It also is 19 percent above the previous three-year average for fall seasons.

“This fall harvest increase was expected for several reasons,” said Mary Jo Casalena, Game Commission wild turkey biologist. “Turkey reproduction was average to above average throughout most of Pennsylvania last year, which led to a larger population. More turkeys and poor fall crops of acorns and beechnuts in many forested areas forced turkeys to concentrate around available food sources, and they consequently became more visible and easier for hunters to locate and pattern.

“Turkey harvests fluctuate annually in response to fall season length, summer reproduction, hunter participation, fall mast crops and weather,” Casalena explained. “The population gains made through reproduction last year easily offset the increased take by fall turkey hunters. On the whole, Pennsylvania’s wild turkey populations are in better shape than they have been in recent years as a result of better spring weather for nesting, improved reproduction, and the use of shorter fall seasons when recruitment was below average.

“The outcomes of fall turkey seasons, where hunters may harvest birds of either sex, are very important because they can really influence turkey populations, unlike in the spring, when only gobblers – and a few bearded hens – are being taken by hunters,” Casalena said “We control the harvest of hens in the fall through season length. The longer the fall season, the greater the number of hens harvested. Our goal is to provide optimum wild turkey populations in suitable habitats throughout Pennsylvania for hunters and other recreationists.”

The largest harvests occurred in three of the state’s largest WMUs, which are in the more traditional fall turkey hunting areas and where there are 3-week seasons. WMU 4D was tops with a preliminary harvest of 2,856, followed by WMU 2G, 2,637; and WMU 2D, 2,183.

However, a look at harvests per square mile (harvest density) provides a different perspective. WMU 4D still remained at the top with a rate of 1.04 turkeys harvested per square mile. But what followed differed. WMU 4E was second with a rate of 1.03, then WMU 2D, 0.88; and WMU 4C, 0.87. Statewide results show a preliminary average of 0.6 turkeys harvested per square mile for the 2008 fall season, as compared to the previous three-year average of 0.5.

Preliminary WMU fall turkeys harvests, followed by fall turkey harvest per square mile are: WMU 1A, 1,234 (0.67); WMU 1B, 1,430 (0.68); WMU 2A, 931 (0.51); WMU 2B, 780 (0.57); WMU 2C, 1,595 (0.51); WMU 2D, 2,183 (0.88); WMU 2E, 1,038 (0.82); WMU 2F, 838 (0.35); WMU 2G, 2,637 (0.64); WMU 3A, 1,140 (0.76); WMU 3B, 1,417 (0.63); WMU 3C, 1,448 ((0.67); WMU 3D, 833 (0.38); WMU4A, 1,452 (0.84); WMU 4B, 944 (0.59); WMU 4C, 1,582 (0.87); WMU 4D, 2,856 (1.04); WMU 4E, 1,786 (1.03); WMU 5A, Closed; WMU 5B, closed; WMU 5C, 276 (0.13); and WMU 5D, 9 (0.01).

For more information on wild turkeys, visit the Game Commission’s website – www.pgc.state.pa.us – and at select “Hunting” in the left column and then click on photo of the wild turkey.


The Pennsylvania Game Commission will be completing the fourth and final year of a tri-state study examining the spring harvest rates and annual survival rates of wild turkeys. Joining Pennsylvania in this research effort are New York and Ohio, as well as the generous support of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).

In the study, which began in 2006 and is the largest of its kind, 300 male turkeys are being trapped and leg-banded annually in each state for four consecutive years. Hunters who shoot the birds are encouraged, through $100 reward leg-bands, to report their harvests. The data hunters provide help Pennsylvania State University researchers determine harvest rates. They do this by calculating the percentage of tagged turkey reported using the toll-free telephone number that appears on the leg-band. The rewards are paid through a grant from the NWTF, which has partnered with the Game Commission for more than a quarter-century on many important conservation projects and initiatives for turkeys and other wildlife, and hunters.

“This past winter, 358 wild turkeys – 172 adults, 186 jakes – were taken in trapping throughout the state,” reported Mary Jo Casalena, agency wild turkey biologist. “It was an impressive trapping season, no doubt aided by fall mast crop deficiencies and, as always, the ability of the agency’s personnel and volunteers to locate and successfully trap flocks of gobblers.”

A regional breakdown of the turkeys trapped is: Northwest, 56; Southwest, 55; Northcentral, 70; Southcentral, 54; Northeast, 58; and Southeast, 65. New York also trapped 300 males this winter; Ohio was forced to curtail its trapping this past winter because of budget constraints.

“Over the four years of the study, Pennsylvania has trapped and banded 1,255 turkeys, while New York banded and released 1,313 and Ohio contributed 661,” Casalena said. “Thankfully, we were able to finish up this important work before finances impacted our efforts.

“Since 2006, more than $42,500 has been paid to people who have claimed rewards. In Pennsylvania, $17,100 has been paid so far to people who recovered bands from everything from harvested birds to road-kills,” she said. “With the information these folks are providing, we are confirming that harvest rates vary by age, state and year.”

In Pennsylvania, harvest information has shown that some turkeys were killed up to 20 miles from where they were banded. The harvest rates for Pennsylvania turkeys so far have averaged 38 percent for adults and 22 percent for juveniles.

Since this is the final year of this four-year study, all claims for rewards must be reported by July 30, 2009. Study results are expected to be released in late 2009.

For more information on wild turkeys, visit the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website – www.pgc.state.pa.us – then click on “Hunting,” then “Wild Turkey.”

Jerry Feaser