PUNXSUTAWNEY — If you thought last year's spring gobbler season was a bust because of the warm winter conditions, this year could be the exact opposite, according to Walter Bingaman, Regional Director for the North Central Pennsylvania Division of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).
Bingaman said last year's extremely warm spring shortened spring gobbler season, which made it more challenging.
"If it's any indication from how the junior season went last week, the turkeys are ramping up for the regular season. If you want to be a successful turkey hunter, you need to be out scouting. Successful hunting is directly proportionate to scouting," Bingaman said, adding if the turkeys are there when you scout them, they'll be there on Saturday morning.
"As always, safety is the top priority — making sure you positively identify your target," Bingaman said.
He said to enhance safety, hunters should practice with their shotguns in a sitting position at the range or have someone sit behind them, since they will be sitting when hunting in the woods.
Bingaman said another helpful tip for practicing with a shotgun is making sure you keep your cheek on the stock and keep movement to a minimum.
He also offered a tip for calling in gobblers, saying too much calling can actually be a bad thing.
"When calling in a bird, I take a watch and time myself for about 20 minutes to a half hour and remember to not overcall," he said. "You need to have a measurement tool to not overcall."
He said practice makes perfect, and you don't have to feel like you should master all of the calls.
"There's nothing wrong with using a push button call or a beginner’s call, both of which are very reliable.
Oftentimes, turkeys get accustomed to hearing certain calls such as box, slate or diaphragm/mouth calls," Bingaman said, adding that not everyone is goodwith all calls.
He said there's a debate as to whether or not decoys work, adding that a gobbler is sometimes spooked when he sees decoys on the premise, because they need to be properly placed.
"Call them to you, and don't place a decoy too far out of range," he said.Bingaman said some hunters say they have personally walked down into a hunting blind and called a bird in.
"A blind gives you concealment of movement," he said. "If you do a lot of hunting, a blind, which is a tent decked out in camo, can be a good thing. But they are cumbersome to move from one location to another."
He also said that when it comes to the younger generation of hunters, Pennsylvania is paving the path to training safe hunters and keeping children interested in the sport.
"Above and beyond other states, our youth season harvests more gobblers," Bingaman said.
Given all the tips, though, Bingaman also said that hunting turkeys is no easy chore.
Long-bearded turkeys become educated and very equipped at avoiding contact with turkey hunters, he said.
"They are the hardest to hunt once a bird becomes educated," he said.
This year marks an important milestone for the NWTF, Bingaman said.
"This year we are celebrating the NWTF’s 40th anniversary. It first began in 1973," Bingaman said, adding that they discuss the hunting heritage at all of their banquets, one of which will be held in July in Punxsutawney.
For more information about The Gobbler's Knob Chapter of the NWTF, contact Scott Herron at 375-7839.