This year, Pennsylvania hunters will be able to purse spring gobblers from Saturday, May 1, through the entire Memorial Day Weekend, with the Pennsylvania Game Commission extending the season to include Monday, May 31.
Ironically, for the hardcore element among turkey hunters, their "preseason" scouting for 2011 will begin a few weeks later in June. That is when they will search for hens with poults and begin monitoring the survival rate of the young birds.
These are the same hunters who spend as many spring mornings in the woods as possible – even if they fill their tag and bonus tag. Many times, their biggest satisfaction comes from calling in a gobbler for a novice hunter, and they often spend the entire spring season focusing on one particular bird.
Veteran turkey hunters have their favorite spots and know where birds hold from year to year. Still, flocks can move from one end of a valley to the other or over a mountain to the other side between now and the opening of the season.
So, while keeping tabs on the whereabouts of wild turkey flocks the year-around contributes to the enjoyment of hunting them, this week is the time for locating the birds. Serious scouting and developing a game plan is something that should be done 10-14 days before opening day of the season – especially if guiding a hunter with a Junior License or unlicensed Mentored Youth Hunter younger than 12 on a Youth Turkey Hunt, Saturday, April 24.
Carl Mowrey of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation teaches clinics on hunting spring gobblers at various seminars and clinics. In addition to talking about safety, calling, clothing and firearms, he also conveys the mystic of hunting wild turkey in general and spring gobblers in particular.
"Some hunters will find a bird or two, and those will be the only gobblers they will hunt the entire spring," Mowrey said. "Sometimes, a particular bird will survive the entire season and the hunter keeps an eye on that bird and hunts it the following spring.
"I know some hunters who won't shoot that big gobbler in the fall, just because they want the challenge of calling the bird in the spring. That's why it's important to know where the flocks are in the fall and over the winter.
"Know the habits of the birds, or bird, you plan to hunt as much as possible, and once a gobbler gets ready to breed, zone in on his roosting, strutting, feeding and watering areas. Know where the bird wants to go, then, when it time for the hunt, calling him to an area he wants to go can work in your favor."
Mowrey stresses that scouting trips should consist of listening and observing – not calling turkey. Nothing educates a gobbler to the presence of hunters like preseason calling.
Once a turkey becomes call shy, many times it refuses to gobbler and travels in the opposite direction when called. For that reason, there are some states where hunters can be fined for calling birds in the preseason.
"Get out as soon as possible and locate birds, but remember that over the next few weeks they will disperse," Mowrey said. "A boss gobbler may have a few jakes with him, and many times those extra eyes can bust a hunter when calling.
"You can never learn too much about turkey hunting. What has to be understood is there is no way to learn everything you need to know."
What should not be forgotten, however, is that it is never too early to begin scouting and patterning flocks of wild turkeys.
For more information on turkey hunting and membership in the National Wild Turkey Federation, access the Web site at www.nwtf.org. National members are assigned membership to local chapters based upon their zip code.