This week begins the beginning of something new for Pennsylvania spring gobbler hunting: we may hunt all day.
As with any change the Game Commission ever makes, this new law has its detractors. But I have hunted all day in a number of states and find it to be quite successful.
Hunting all day is not going to impact the gobbler or turkey population. First of all, the numbers of those who will hunt all day is going to be greatly reduced. Remember that it only takes on gobbler to breed with many hens to reproduce the species. The fact is that most gobblers are just "extra baggage" as far as being necessary for breeding purposes.
PGC turkey biologist Mary Jo Caselena said that the Game Commission will monitor the afternoon harvest in relation to population trends and age class of gobblers to gauge the impact of all-day hunting. Of the 49 states that conduct turkey seasons, 34 have all-day hunting for all or part of the season, including Maryland, Ohio and Virginia.
To further expand opportunity, the Board extended the spring gobbler season through May 31. This change was implemented to provide additional recreational hunting without impacting the resource because disturbance of hens would be minimal since most hens would be in their later stages of nest incubation.
Most hunters who hunt farm country usually take a break at noon, hitting the local diner or their own kitchen for lunch and perhaps a snooze and then hitting the woods and fields again about 3:30 p.m. But, just like deer hunting, if you can find a way to stay out there all day your chances of success are increased.
AT this point, gobblers are conditioned to having the habitat quiet down from all the hunters parading around and all the phony calling at noon. From experience I know that a gobbler will sound off at any time of day; his ardor does not cool off in the afternoon. If he hears a hen call, he'll answer.
From my experience hunting all day in other states, they respond best to what they perceive as feeding hens looking for company. Laid-back calls just sort of wafted out there every now and then will get him going. Loud, prolonged calling will usually make him suspicious since that isn't really natural.
Turkeys love to hang around in fields during the afternoon so setting up along the edges, calling now and then and just waiting for a bird to respond is a good tactic. A blind is a good tool for afternoon hunters and the one-man chair blinds are perfect for comfortable waiting. A decoy or two or three completes the set up and turkeys often respond to the sight of a few more birds in a large field by edging their way toward them, especially if they do a little clucking and/or purring.
Afternoon cutting and running will probably work quite well at least for the first year or two. Put some orange on to alert any sitting hunters you might run into and walk slowly over the habitat, offering some yelps until you get an answer. Then work the bird just like you do in the morning.
LIke fall hunting, positioning yourself close to a roosting area and waiting, offering some clucks and yelps in the late afternoon often persuades birds tramping to roost to swerve around and pick you up.
Hunting all day does not really demand a lot of fancy or different techniques. Most valuable is the age-old patience that turkey hunters are supposed to be known for. Gobblers do not chase hens as aggressively in the afternoon as they do in the morning. But I promise you that any gobbler out there will perk up his head when he hears hen calls, no matter what the time of day.
The all day hours will allow hunters to get in a bit of time hunting after school or work. But foliage will be thick, visibility will be reduced, it will be hot. But when I think of the many times I've had a hot gobbler going strong but had to watch the minute hand creeping toward noon and actually had to walk away from the best bird I had going all morning, I'm thankful for the extra time. I bagged a gobbler last season at 15 minutes before noon. It could just as easily have been 15 minutes after.