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Turkey hunting begins Saturday in Pennsylvania

HuntingBiologyConservationEcosystems

Last Saturday was reserved specifically for the 16-and-under crowd, but come this Saturday, properly licensed hunters of all ages will be heading into the fields and forests of Pennsylvania for spring gobbler season.

Turkey season runs May 3-31 in the Commonwealth, with specific shooting hours changing May 19 for a season that has harvested approximately 30,000 turkeys annually statewide over the last 20 years.

Bearded turkeys — with feathers hanging from the chest like a beard, not the red waddle from the throat — are typically male birds, or Toms, but can occasionally be female. The bearded turkeys are the only legally hunted turkey in the spring, and may be harvested from one-half hour before sunrise to noon May 3-17 with hunters required to exit the woods by 1 p.m. to minimize the disturbance of hens nesting their eggs.

From May 19 through May 31, the hunting hours change from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset to provide more opportunity once the hens have abandoned their nests.

The state's overall turkey population has been in decline for several years, which has necessitated the closing of fall turkey season (gobblers and hens) in Wildlife Management Unit 5C, which includes the vast majority of Lehigh County and the Lehigh Valley.

Mary Jo Casalena, a wild turkey biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, says that reproduction has been on the upswing, however, and that hunters should see far more Jakes, or year-old turkeys, than in recent seasons.

Spring gobblers are allowed to be hunted despite the decrease in population because the season comes after they birds have mated and the eggs are being nested for hatch.

Manually operated or semi-automated shotguns limited to a three-shell capacity in the chamber and magazine combined, Muzzleloading shotguns, crossbows and long, recurve and compound bows are the only legal sporting arms allowed to be used for spring gobbler.

According to Casalena, Pennsylvania produces higher harvests and has more spring gobbler hunters than all other states in the Northeast, and the youth harvest exceeds the total harvest in some other states.

Pa. hunter safety reaches new high: With just 27 hunting-related shooting incidents in 2013, Pennsylvania hunters set a record for lowest number for the second straight year.

"There's still work to do," PGC Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said of the back-to-back record lows. "Even one incident is too many, and as the record shows, we do not take hunter safety lightly."

According to PGC statistics, hunting-related shooting incidents have decreased 80 percent since hunter-education training began in 1959, and many experts agree that the requirements to wear florescent orange in the field during specific seasons has helped hunters not just with target identification, but also with taking shots only when there is a proper backstop behind the prey.

Two of the incidents reported in 2013 were fatal. In 2012, 33 incidents were reported, and for the first time since the PGC began keeping such records in 1915, there were no hunting fatalities.

Top causes for HRSIs in 2013 included unintentional discharge and a victim being in the line of fire.

Walleye opens May 3: Anyone who has ever tasted walleye has to admit that if it's not the best-tasting fish they've ever eaten, then it's certainly right near the top of the list. The Delaware and Lehigh rivers are not part of the state stocking program because they possess a natural reproduction level that maintains a high-quality walleye fishery.

Walleye season runs from Saturday, May 3, through Saturday, March 14, 2015. Anglers are allowed to keep up to six walleye a minimum of 15 inches in length per day.

According to Tim Wilson, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Area 1 Fisheries Biologist, walleye are the fourth-most targeted fish in the state, trailing trout, black bass (largemouth and smallmouth) and panfish.

Lehigh Gap Nature Center ecology camp: LGNC is taking applications for the Young Ecologist Summer Camp for students completed grades 6 and 7.

The camp runs June 23-27 at a cost of $50. The camp experience is worth more than $250 for the week, but generous corporate sponsorships from PPL, Horsehead Community Development Fund, Julius & Kathryn Hommer Foundation, Woman's Club of Slatington and LGNC volunteers has reduced the cost. The $50 fee will be waived for students who receive free or reduced price lunches in school.

The camp will lead the youngsters through some of the amazing flora and fauna of our local environment, teaching skills like identifying birds, trees and butterflies, learning about raptors, building bluebird nest boxes, hiking in Bake Oven Knob and more.

Students receive a free backpack, notebook, pens and emergency rain poncho.

For more information or to receive an application, email lgnc@ptd.net, or call 610-760-8889.

gary.blockus@mcall.com

Twitter @ gblockus

610-820-6782

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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