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HARRISBURG, PA - There’s one guarantee that comes with each spring turkey season. Matching wits with wily gobblers is what turkey hunting’s all about. And opportunities will be there, often in large and vocal fashion.

Pennsylvania’s 2024 spring gobbler season begins on Saturday, April 27 with a half-day hunt for junior hunters and mentored hunters 16 and under. All participants must be accompanied as required by law, while hunting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise until noon. The regular season runs May 4-31, with hunting hours going from one-half hour before sunrise until noon from May 4-18, then from one-half hour before sunrise until one-half-hour after sunset from May 20-31.

If that general opener seems later in spring than usual, it is. But that’s simply due to the calendar.

The regular season opens the Saturday closest to May 1. In some years that’s the last Saturday in April. In other years, like this one, that’s the first Saturday in May. The difference between the two can be almost a week.

Closing day of the season, meanwhile, is May 31. That gives hunters 24 days to chase gobblers, including four Saturdays.

And rest assured, the birds will be out there, thanks to three consecutive years of good reproduction. The Game Commission’s 2023 summer turkey sighting survey – an annual, long-term measure of productivity – found 2.9 poults per hen statewide. That varied by Wildlife Management Unit (WMU), of course. WMU 4E, for example, saw 4.51 poults per hen last summer; that was highest in the state. WMU 5D saw 1.39; that was lowest.  

But the statewide figure, if down from the record high of 3.1 seen in both 2021 and 2022, was still above average and significantly more than seen in 2019 or 2020.

That should mean plenty of gobblers – jakes, 3-year-olds and, best for most hunters, 2-year-olds. As a general rule, 2-year-olds are more vocal, noisier than both younger, more-timid gobblers and older, warier ones. Having more of them around typically is good for turkey hunters.

“There’s nothing more exciting than sitting in the woods in springtime and calling to a gobbler that answers with his emphatic gobble,” said Mary Jo Casalena, the Game Commission’s turkey biologist. “So take advantage of what’s available, even if you’ve never turkey hunted before. Just being out there is fun and the more time you spend in the turkey woods, learning about these amazing birds, the better hunter you’ll become.”

About 172,000 people, on average, hunt spring turkeys in Pennsylvania every year. Last season, those hunters harvested about 39,500 gobblers. That was up from about 35,700 in 2022 and about 28,100 in 2021.

Casalena said hunters who want to up their odds of taking a gobbler this spring should concentrate on areas with good turkey habitat. That’s typically a 60/40 mix of woods and shrubby areas, with either agriculture or, in big woods areas, openings of emerging vegetation or nut-producing trees that still have nuts remaining from last fall.

Then, she said, look for turkeys in those places. Try to determine how many different gobblers are gobbling, where their typical roost areas are, and what areas they may switch to on rainy, windy, cold mornings. It pays, too, to figure out the age structure of local flocks, something that can be done by observing gobbler tail fans (adults have even fans, whereas jakes have a “bump” of longer tail feathers in the center) and watching for displays of dominance. Scout, too, by looking for gobblers’ preferred strutting areas and searching for sign on the ground, such as scratchings, droppings, feathers and tracks.

Just don’t call to those birds to make them reveal themselves. Casalena limits any preseason calling to using shock calls like owl and crow calls, and even then sparingly. 

“This knowledge will help as the season progresses, to keep track of birds and search for them in their more secretive areas,” Casalena said. “But whatever it takes, just get out there. So long as you’re in the woods, you’ve got a chance.”


Licensing and regulations

All participants in the youth gobbler hunt must by law be accompanied by adults. Mentored hunters 16 and under must hunt with an adult mentor. The mentor may not supervise any other youth hunters and must carry the sporting arm at all times the pair is moving. Hunting hours during the youth hunt end at noon.

During the spring gobbler season, hunters may use manually operated or semiautomatic shotguns limited to a three-shell capacity in the chamber and magazine combined. Muzzleloading shotguns, crossbows and long, recurve and compound bows also are permitted.

Only bearded birds may be harvested during the spring season. Hunters should refrain from knowingly harvesting bearded hens because they do nest and raise broods.

There is no requirement for hunters to wear fluorescent orange during the spring turkey season, though wearing it is recommended while moving.

Blinds used while turkey hunting must be manufactured with manmade materials of sufficient density to block movement within the blind from an observer outside the blind. Blinds must completely enclose the hunter on all four sides and from above. It is unlawful to hunt turkeys from blinds made of natural materials such as logs, tree branches and piled rocks.

Blinds that represent the fanned tail of a gobbler do not hide all hunter movement and are unsafe, and therefore are unlawful to use in Pennsylvania.

Hunters may pursue spring gobblers only by calling birds. It is unlawful, as well as unsafe, to stalk turkeys or turkey sounds. When in a stationary position, a hunter should sit with his or her back against a large tree, rock or other barrier that shields movement and offers protection from others who might approach from the rear. All hunters are to wait and properly identify their targets prior to pulling the trigger.

Pennsylvania hunters may purchase a license to harvest a second gobbler in the spring season, with a limit of one gobbler harvested per day. Sales of this license end May 3, one day before the regular statewide season begins.

The $21.97 license ($41.97 for nonresidents) may be purchased online but cannot be printed at home, so purchasing it directly from an issuing agent might be the better option. The same goes for general hunting licenses. General hunting licenses purchased online also are sent by mail, and shipping charges apply.

For more information on spring turkey hunting rules and regulations, pertaining to the youth or regular hunts, check the 2023-24 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, which is provided with a hunting license and is available online at


Turkey hunting safety

Hunting is safer in Pennsylvania now than at any other time in history. That applies to spring turkey hunting, too.

Overall, hunting accidents, or Hunting Related Shooting Incidents (HRSIs) as they’re called, have declined by 80% since 1959 when measured in number of incidents per 100,000 hunters. Not coincidentally, 1959 is when the Game Commission instituted mandatory hunter education.

In 2022, the most recent year for which full statistics are available, there were 14 HRSIs statewide. That was down from 27 in 2020 and 19 in 2021 and the lowest total since record keeping began in 1915. What’s more, none of those accidents were fatal.

None of the 2022 HRSIs involved spring turkey hunters either. That’s a big improvement over years past. In the 2010 spring gobbler season, for example, there were 12 HRSIs, including one fatality.

There was one fatal turkey hunting HRSI last year, though, involving the accidental discharge of a firearm. So when you go into the turkey woods this spring, remember these safety tips:

  • For safety, turkey hunters should not wear clothing that contains black, like the color found on a turkey’s body, or red, white or blue, like those on a turkey’s head.
  • Sit against a large stump, tree trunk or boulder that is wider than your shoulders and higher than your head. This hides your movement from turkeys and offers protection from other hunters who might approach from the rear.
  • Never wear bright colors – especially red, white, blue or black – because those are the colors of a wild turkey gobbler. 
  • Positively identify your target. Be absolutely certain it’s a legal turkey and that there’s nothing in your line of fire beyond it, like another hunter, before pulling the trigger.
  • If you shoot a bird, put your gun’s safety on and approach the downed bird with your firearm pointed in a safe direction. Never run with it.
  • If you see another hunter, never move, wave or make turkey sounds. Rather, remain still and speak in a loud, clear voice to announce your presence.
  • Leave an area if you suspect there’s another hunter already working the same bird.
  • Finally, while there is no requirement to wear fluorescent orange while turkey hunting, it’s a good idea to wear it while moving.


Reporting harvests

Successful turkey hunters must immediately tag their bird before moving it from the harvest site and are required by law to report the harvest to the Game Commission within 10 days. Those reports are key to managing turkeys, as they allow the Game Commission to estimate harvest and population trends.

Hunters can report turkeys in three ways: by visiting and clicking the blue “Report a Harvest” button near the top of the home page; by calling 1-800-838-4431; or by filling out and mailing the harvest report card in the digest hunters get when they buy a license.

Have your harvest tag in front of you when reporting to be sure you can provide all the requested information.

The public also is asked to report any turkeys harvested or found with leg bands or radio transmitters. Not only does the reporter learn when and approximately where the bird was trapped, but the information received on those birds – which are legal to take – helps estimate spring harvest rate and annual survival rate by Wildlife Management Unit, Casalena said. Those are critical pieces of data for the state’s turkey population model. What’s more, the radioed turkeys are part of ongoing research studies.

Leg bands feature a toll-free number or email address for reporting. New last year is a website address for people to immediately report and receive the information of when and where the bird was banded.


Learn more about turkey hunting

Hunting turkeys is challenging, even for veterans of the sport. It can seem especially confounding to newcomers.

But not to fear, help is available.

Hunters are encouraged to visit the Game Commission’s YouTube page at and search “turkey hunting.” That brings up a series of how-to videos covering everything from how to hunt, what gear to use and shot placement to how to work calls, how to be comfortable in the woods and safety.

Information on the wild turkey’s near disappearance and ultimate rebound in Pennsylvania, as well as some general life history information, is available at

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