By Bryan Burhans, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Game Commission
Turkey calls should come with the following warning label: “Exposure to turkey hunting can result in loss of sleep, rapid heart rate, severe fatigue, dry mouth, and sore muscles. Highly addictive, please consult your physician prior to undertaking this activity.” There is no other experience, in my opinion, that even comes close to the thrill and excitement of turkey hunting. Well, there is fall turkey hunting with my turkey dog, Tucker, but that’s another story.
Pennsylvania has a deep turkey hunting heritage, actually rooted in fall turkey hunting. This deep heritage has resulted in producing some notorious turkey hunters: Rob Keck, former CEO for the National Wildlife Turkey Federation (NWTF), and turkey call makers Dale, Terry, and Robby Rohm just to name a few. One other famous turkey chaser, Matt Morrett, will actually join the Game Commission as our new director of marketing later in April!
There is really no secret to calling in and harvesting your first spring gobbler. You don’t have to be a great caller and you don’t need a fancy shotgun. But you will need to put your time in, remain patient, and avoid becoming frustrated when the birds don’t gobble or refuse to come into gun range. That’s turkey hunting!
However, honing your turkey hunting skills will increase your likelihood of success. During 2018, the success rate for spring turkey in Pennsylvania averaged around 20 percent. Notably, the hunters that purchased a second spring turkey tag and hunted had a success rate of 65 percent. Developing your turkey hunting skills will result in more hunting success!
Compared to other states in the Northeast, Pennsylvania’s average spring harvest of 38,600 turkeys makes up 34 percent of the total average spring harvest for all of the Northeastern states combined. The states with the next largest average spring harvest were New York and Virginia, each with a total harvest of approximately 18,700 birds. Pennsylvania has abundant birds, and plenty of places to chase them.
To help us celebrate the state’s rich turkey hunting heritage, I invite you to share your stories and photos with the agency by submitting them to our Turkey Harvest Photo contest (details coming soon) and entering the Turkey Hunting Gear Giveaways. We have much to celebrate!
Bryan Burhans is a passionate turkey hunter and the leader of the Pennsylvania Game Commission as its Executive Director.