Dave Kule’s approach to preseason scouting for the spring gobbler season is an easy one.
He doesn’t do it.
The Sullivan County resident limits his scouting to what he observes from the road. Kule won’t disturb an area by walking through the woods, and when it comes to using a call to locate a gobbler in the preseason, it’s something he won’t even consider.
“I wish they would put out ‘do not disturb’ signs before the season,” Kule said. “This running around the woods before the season, we don’t do that. When there’s an older bird in an area, we don’t touch it and he doesn’t even hear a call until after the start of the season.”
A lack of scouting doesn’t mean that Kule, 71, isn’t anxious for the May 3 opener of the spring gobbler season.
“I still dream about it,” he said.
And from what Kule has seen so far, there is plenty to dream about. In the Muncy Valley area, Kule has seen flocks of 30-50 birds in corn and soybean fields. A friend who owns a large farm in Dushore, Kule said, has seen large flocks with as many as 25 gobblers.
The sightings are good news not only for the upcoming spring season, but as evidence that despite a hard winter, turkeys came through it pretty well.
“Maybe in the mountain areas the turkey population was affected by the ice, but in general, the population did alright in my area,” he said. “I don’t think hunters will notice a big difference because of the winter.”
They might notice a difference in the number of younger gobblers, however.
According to Pennsylvania Game Commission wild turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena, hunters could see higher numbers of jakes — year-old males — as a result of above average reproduction in the spring of 2013.
Those jakes might not be the huge gobblers that many hunters target, but the abundance of young birds could lead to an increased harvest this year, she said.
Such a harvest could further cement Pennsylvania’s reputation as a top gobbler hunting state in the northeast. While the statewide turkey population has experienced moderate declines in recent years, Pennsylvania hunters for nearly 20 years have consistently harvested more than 30,000 turkeys in the spring season. The spring harvest and number of gobbler hunters in Pennsylvania is higher than all other northeastern states, Casalena said.
“With the warm temperatures, songbirds returning, emerging wildflowers and mushrooms blooming, spring gobbler season is a wonderful time of year to enjoy Penn’s Woods, and share the experience with others,” Casalena said.
That’s exactly what Kule is looking forward to on May 3. Although there may be plenty of jakes, he’ll be hunting for a large, old bird.
“You really have to get back in the woods to get to those elusive old gobblers,” Kule said. “Those 3- to 5-year old birds, you only get one chance at them. The only time we’ll try to call in a big boy is when conditions are right.”
Last year hunters harvested 34,158 gobblers in the spring, which was down from 35,392 in 2012. The largest harvest since the spring season was implemented in 1968 was 49,186, which occurred in 2001.