By Don Heckman, PA Chapter NWTF Executive Officer
The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) Board of Commissioners adopted Season and Bag Limits regulation changes on April 19, 2011 to go back to traditional opening of the fall turkey hunting season on the last Saturday of October for 2011. Review your 2011-2012 “PGC Hunting & Trapping Digest” to get the complete list of start and end dates for the Fall 2011 season.
Hen Harvest Rate Study Area 1 and Study Area 2 WMU’s are intact and the study is currently scheduled to run 3 more years through 2013. Both short term and long term impacts on the Hen Harvest Rate Research Study are now back on track for 2011 to be reviewed yearly so the research study data will not be jeopardized.
With Fall 2010 turkey hunting season now behind us, the real questions continue to be asked, what fall season framework will be recommended by PGC Bureau of Wildlife Management after the study is completed and research data are fully documented, analyzed, and reported? And with or without Thanksgiving Day, Friday, and Saturday turkey hunting?
That’s one reason PGC is conducting a 4 year hen harvest rate research study. Its research data will provide answers to these questions by acquiring hen harvest rate data under the current fall seasons, then changing fall season lengths during the study to see how harvest rates change in relation to season length. PGC Commissioners can not be changing fall turkey hunting season lengths during the course of research projects. I believe that reasoning has now been fully recognized and will continue to be followed throughout the study.
To me, that means continuing the traditional 3 weeks, 2 weeks, 1 week, or closed fall turkey seasons according to turkey population trends in each WMU. With the introduction of turkey management areas (TMAs) in 1981-1983, followed by the new wildlife management unit structure being adopted in 2003, that is 28 years of doing it right by the book, Resource First, wild turkey management.
The 2010 fall turkey hunting seasons were changed for 2011 reverting back to the traditional structure, except with the continuation of Thanksgiving Day, Friday, and Saturday. I believe that decision to change back to traditional fall seasons was absolutely the correct decision for Commissioners to get wild turkey management by the book back into the “Management Plan For Wild Turkeys In Pennsylvania”, PAGE ii, EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.
I also firmly believe the larger wild turkey management picture is obtained through the wild turkey population model by using constant and controlled wildlife management units, actual field data for monitoring population trends, continued updates to current information, charts and graphs, and using all this to document future management planning.
Pennsylvania’s wild turkey management improved immensely from 1958 to present. I start with 1958 because that is the 50+ years I am familiar with and have been provided invaluable wild turkey management information, articles, and been around long enough to remember my discussions with PGC biologists Roger Latham, Jerry Wunz, Arnie Hayden during the building days, and then Bill Drake, Mary Jo Casalena, and Bob Eriksen up to the completion of the restoration days.
From the mid 1960s to spring 2010 wild turkey state-wide populations, wild turkey management, and turkey hunting opportunities have steadily improved due to PGC professional based management decisions for the wild turkey resource. Just look at the estimated statewide population density chart from 1960 to 2010 as one of many documented data proofs. Add in wild turkey harvests, and turkey hunter numbers and you have the basis for the next 40 years of Resource First wild turkey management and not social management.
Wild turkey management decisions and turkey hunting improvements have been well received and well managed in the Commonwealth from spring season 1968 (when spring hunting re-opened) to spring season 2011. My personal thank you and I would believe a state-wide chorus of thank yous to PGC and its 6 Regions for providing the best wildlife management, wildlife habitat, wildlife protection, information/education, and automated technology services and administrative support they can do.
I personally believe that proof has been well documented and displayed to the public through PGC articles in Game News, “Hunting and Trapping Digest”, News Releases, PGC web site, and many technical presentations. And I personally have written several articles in “PA Turkey Talk” over the past 10 years detailing the facts that not one PGC state-wide wild turkey management decision can be documented in those 40+ years as providing a negative or disruptive impact on the state-wide wild turkey populations. NOT ONE!
I tip my camo hat to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, as I have done many times in my 36+ years with the Pennsylvania Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation, for its successful wild turkey management planning and accomplishments.
Now, just think how much better the future of wild turkey management and turkey hunting will be in the next 40+ years if the PGC “Management Plan For Wild Turkeys In Pennsylvania” is completely followed and fully funded to provide better and up to date wild turkey management data and information. This focus is spread across all aspects of wild turkey and wildlife management planning including adequate funding for: improved wildlife habitat management, improving turkey hunting safety education, improving wildlife protection opportunities, and hunter information & education opportunities.
My personal thinking on that last one would be to place a copy of PGC Game News into each hunter’s hands that purchases a hunting and trapping license. PGC Game News, PGC Website, “PGC Hunting & Trapping Digest”, and PGC Staff attending sportsmen’s club meetings, conservation organization activities, and school presentations are the fundamental and highest profile communications vehicles for hunters and trappers and future hunters and trappers across the Commonwealth. Without reaching out to every license buyer with a monthly publication like Game News, or similar publication, opportunities can and will be missed.
The Hen Harvest Rate Research Study actually was conceived years ago and proposed back around 2008, mid way through the 4 year Gobbler Leg Band Research Study. The Statewide Gobbler Leg Band Study ended in 2009, and Hen Harvest Rate Study started in 2010. Hen Harvest Rate Study is not statewide and involves WMUs 2C, 2E, 4A, 4B and 4D in Study Area 1, and WMUs 2F and 2G in Study Area 2.
I had hoped the Hen Harvest Rate Study would have been a statewide project with WMUs in all 6 PGC Regions selected. Since that did not happen, I asked about WMUs in the Northeast PA be included in the Study. PGC had an opportunity to add a Study Area 3 but could not due to lack of adequate funding.
Maybe when the next rounds of wild turkey research studies are planned and scheduled more WMUs can be added to a very important wild turkey management key goal – improve documenting statewide survival and harvest rates. Maybe a better plan to estimate statewide wild turkey population densities can be defined and utilized. Possibly Northeast Study Area 3 and Southwest Study Area 4 could be done after 2016 when the next revision of PGC “Management Plan For Wild Turkeys In Pennsylvania” is
scheduled for signing.
I was there in June 1975, 1985, 1995, 2005, and still in 2011, involved with the PA Chapter NWTF Board, helping to understand and making recommendations to PGC to improve wild turkey management, even starting and running a wild turkey task force back in 1996, supporting habitat management funding on Game Lands, while doing what PA Chapter NWTF could do for turkey hunting safety given the opportunities, and keeping a constant, almost weekly vigil on spring turkey hunter orange to be finally rescinded and regulated for turkey hunter’s choice.
Many of today’s youth hunters will be adult hunters by 2035 and my hope is they will be hunting statewide wild turkey flocks numbering in the 450,000-500,000 range compared to the current 360,000. However without increased PGC funding, additional documented research data, improved information database, updated wild turkey population model, improving supporting indices, and nominal fee ($3 or $5) spring and fall turkey hunting licenses, my worst fear is wild turkey management and research projects will fall into the same funding problem as between 1975 – 2005.
Many of us have witnessed and hunted the greatest 25 year history of statewide wild turkey population growth in wild turkey management history thanks to the PGC, and their wild turkey biologists, and the support from NWTF, PA Chapter NWTF, and our Local Chapters. Will 2011-2024 and 2025-2049 continue that historic trending for wild turkey management and turkey hunting?
A lot has been completed for wild turkey management and turkey hunting as I documented in my PA Turkey Talk article, Summer Issue 2007 on accomplishments and achievements article between 1958 and 2007; and revised and updated October 2009. In fact my article documents 52 major PGC and PA Chapter NWTF accomplishments. Plus there are another 15+ that were not done and another 25+ that will need to have answers so PGC does not miss any wild turkey management and turkey hunting opportunities over the next 40 years.
When PGC completed and implemented the “Management Plan For Wild Turkeys In Pennsylvania” back in 1999, the opportunity to begin to reach out to 2049 was clearly documented using proven sound scientific wildlife management principles as the foundation. I hope by making management plan revisions every 10 years, as management data and regulation changes are implemented, future Wild Turkey Management By the Book articles will be written to document new successes accomplished and challenges that were overcome.
If I come across as wanting icing on my 4 layer cake, and not settling for just one layer, absolutely so be it! After all Pennsylvania Chapter NWTF from day one, June 1975, has stood up for RESOURCE FIRST, PENNSYLVANIA WILD TURKEY MANAGEMENT DONE RIGHT – BY THE BOOK. For that I personally salute all the past and present state chapter Officers, Board Members, and members of PA Chapter NWTF, and NWTF Staff, Board Members, and all those members that made a decision back in 1973 and in 1975 to get involved because it needed to be done and was the right decision. I tip my camo hat to all of you, past and present members. Thank You.
As this will be my last article written for “PA Turkey Talk” I have written almost 40 articles about many of my favorite, passionate, (and as my wife often tells me, you’re obsessed), subjects that have been part of my life. I can only hope I have made a positive difference through a positive attitude these last 36 years.
The future challenges of wild turkey management, improving habitat, turkey hunting safety, turkey hunting opportunities, supporting communications, press releases, articles and information education, agency participation, legislative involvement, all those sportsmen’s and conservation organization involved opportunities, all those outdoors events and sports shows, and growing NWTF membership are now yours to be involved.
By providing your ideas and leadership, results and positive focus, the future will continue to be bright. I hope you all are up to the tasks and challenges ahead, I will be counting on you to succeed in all you choose to do. My best with God speed, and safe turkey hunting – THINK SAFETY – HUNT SAFELY.