Wild turkeys should be plentiful during spring gobbler season, which begins Saturday and runs through May 31, according to officials with the state Game Commission.
Due to the mild winter weather, birds are expected to be in good condition, and males may be more vocal in looking for mates this season.
"On the positive side, a higher proportion of hens likely will be incubating nests by opening day, thanks to the unusually early spring, making gobblers more vocal in search of hens," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director.
However, the early vegetation growth in the forests may cause some challenges.
"An early spring green-up may make it more difficult to hear the birds, with the leaves on the trees," said Dave Carlini, information and education supervisor for the commission's northcentral region office.
The leaves can muffle the calls, making it harder to judge how the close the birds are to a hunter.
Seeing the birds will be a little more difficult, too, because the leaves will provide more cover, Carlini said.
Hunters who use Wildlife Management Unit 2G should know they may not find as many of the coveted 2-year-old gobblers here.
"Reproduction is the reason. Weather is a limiting factor when it comes to reproduction. For example, last year's cold and wet spring would have a negative effect on poult (turkey young) survival," said Tony Ross, wildlife biologist for the commission. "Poor food resources (such as the low acorn production in most areas last year) could also would be a limiting factor on turkey survival."
WMU 2G is in McKean, Elk, Clearfield, Centre, Clinton, Potter, Tioga and Lycoming counties.
"They are young birds who tend to be more vocal," Carlini said, adding that they respond to calls more easily than do the younger jakes or older birds.
He said the 2-year-old birds still are considered young, but at the same time are more mature and tend to come to calls quicker.
During the spring season, hunters are not allowed to stalk or sneak up on birds. Only males may be harvested.
Carlini said hunters should be sure to positively identify a bird as a bearded male before shooting it.
Only shotguns may be used in the spring, unlike in the fall when rifles and shotguns are legal.
According to the Game Commission, the legal sporting arms are shotguns plugged to a three-shell capacity in the chamber and magazine combined; muzzleloading shotguns; and crossbows and bows with broadhead bolts or arrows of cutting-edge design.
Hunters may use blinds that fall into the category of an "artificial or manufactured turkey blind consisting of all manmade materials of sufficient density to block the detection of movement within the blind from an observer located outside the blind," according to the commission.
The Game Commission recommends hunters wear fluorescent orange when on the move, to help alert other hunters and prevent accidental shootings. It also urges hunters to wrap an orange alert band around a nearby tree when stationary, especially when calling and/or using decoys.
A one-day youth spring gobbler was held April 21.
Youths under age 12 may participate through the Mentored Youth Hunting Program in the youth hunt or general season.
Mentored youths need to obtain a permit for $2.70 and must be accompanied by an adult mentor who is a properly licensed and at least 21 years old. A field harvest tag is provided with the mentored youth hunting program permit.
Spring season hours from one-half hour before sunrise to noon for the first two weeks, April 28-May 12, and from
one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset for the remaining two weeks, May14-31.
Hunters who have not filled their turkey tag(s) may shoot coyotes, but those who have are not allowed to hunt coyotes during the legal shooting hours of the spring gobbler season unless they have a furtaker license.
Rick Macklem, law enforcement supervisor with the northcentral Game Commission office, said the rule helps keep unethical hunters from carrying rifles and other firearms not approved during spring gobbler season.
"We could stop someone and they could say they are out coyote hunting," he said, referring to hunters who may be carrying a rifle.
Rifles are not allowed during spring gobbler season.
Groundhog hunting also is legal during the spring turkey season, as is shooting starlings, English sparrows, opossums, skunks and weasels during legal hunting hours.
Successful turkey hunters should fill out and report their harvests to the Game Commission, Carlini said. This provides solid information of how many turkeys are being taken and it helps the commission set seasons and bag limits.
Harvest report cards may be submitted in several ways - mailing in the traditional hard copy; calling the commission; or submitting the data online.
Carlini said he hopes hunters participate and submit their harvest information.
"We do have birds out there that are tagged," he added. "Some bands are money bands and may be worth up to $100."
From those tags, the Game Commission only is interested in the information off the tag, which can be provided through a phone call. Other birds may have radio transmitters attached.