Proposed changes to hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits for the 2013-2014 license year are open to public comment until the next Board of Commissioners’ meeting, April 14-15. Among these are proposed changes in 8 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) for the next two years as part of our current wild turkey study, the goal of which is to more effectively establish our fall wild turkey season lengths. The research study calls for switching from a three- to a two-week fall wild turkey season in WMUs 2F and 2G (now 2G and 2H) and from a two- to a three-week season in WMUs 2C, 2E, 4A, 4B, and 4D. The change will be for the fall 2013 and 2014 seasons. Our objective is to determine how fall season length affects wild turkey harvest rates so that we can provide the longest fall seasons without over-harvesting hen wild turkeys.
Fall season lengths are the primary means of wild turkey population management by WMU. Season lengths are set to meet a conservative level of harvest because, when combined with natural annual population fluctuations, small changes in hen harvests can adversely affect population growth. Research based on simulation modeling suggests that harvests exceeding 10% of the population will lead to declines. The purpose of this study is to determine the actual levels of fall hen harvest and survival, as well as to determine whether an increased season length will result in harvest levels that lead to decline.
This study incorporates a crossover design composed of two study areas. Study area 1 (WMUs 2C, 2E, 4A, 4B, and 4D) has shown sensitivity to three-week seasons whereas study area 2 (WMUs 2F, 2G and now 2H) has traditionally had three-week fall seasons but lower wild turkey densities than the state average. Now that two years of data have been collected in both study areas with the traditional season lengths, the study design necessitates switching the season lengths between study areas. By switching season lengths between study areas we can attempt to answer the question of whether the harvest gained by adding an extra week to a two week season exceeds a sustainable level of harvest. The information we gain will lead to more effective scientific management of wild turkeys in Pennsylvania.