PA Chapter NWTF Comments BOC Meeting June 28th - The Outdoor Community
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PA Chapter NWTF Comments BOC Meeting June 28th

Executive Director Carl Roe
Board of Commissioners
Pennsylvania Game Commission
2001 Elmerton Avenue
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17110-9797

Dear Mr. Roe:

Our chapter members strongly support wildlife management decisions based on sound science. We believe in closely following the recommendations of species management plans prepared by the Game Commission staff. The recent study on gobbler harvest rates and the new research designed to determine fall harvest rates are examples of the dedication of the Pennsylvania Game Commission to developing management strategies based on science. The Pennsylvania Chapter has supported both research projects both in theory and financially and will continue to do so. Our members deeply appreciate the professionalism of the commission employees and the outstanding working relationship we have with this agency.

Safety has always been a primary concern of our chapter members. The preliminary report on Spring Turkey Hunting Related Shooting Incidents in 2010 is disconcerting. While the number of incidents occurring this year was substantially higher than the past few years we would remind the commissioners that twelve or more spring HRSIs occurred in five of the fifteen years that spring hunters were required to wear orange while moving. Spring HRSIs averaged 9.86 annually between 1994 and 2007. In the three years since the orange requirement was rescinded Spring HRSIs have averaged 8.33. It is important to note that nine of the twelve incidents in the preliminary report occurred in the first week of the season when hunter numbers are highest.

Certainly the number of incidents that occurred this spring is too high. Our chapter will continue to promote safety through a variety of venues. We are pleased with the recently developed “Successful Turkey Hunting” curriculum and pledge our support to make this endeavor a success. Our members understand that educational effort rather than mandatory wearing or displaying of orange is the key to maintaining a good safety record among turkey hunters. As part of our safety message our chapter has produced and distributed a tri-fold “Turkey Hunting Success and Safety” brochure with the help of the Game Commission. In addition the chapter has published articles, distributed press releases and sponsored billboards with a safety message.

The concern over declining fall turkey hunter numbers expressed by the commissioners in April is valid. We appreciate the interest of the commissioners in this issue. Many of our members are fall turkey hunters and we encourage participation in this traditional and enjoyable pastime. The decline in fall hunting interest is not unique to Pennsylvania. Fall turkey hunting participation has declined in all the traditional fall turkey hunting states. The reasons for the decline reflect social changes that have occurred within the ranks of turkey hunters. Interest in spring hunting has replaced fall hunting interest. Random surveys of turkey hunters completed several state wildlife agencies indicate that the average turkey hunter prefers to hunt gobblers in the spring and pursue other opportunities such as muzzleloader and archery deer hunting in the fall. Therefore changing season dates and providing additional holiday hunting options are not likely to reverse the decline.

On the other hand, allowing mentored youth hunters to experience the thrill of fall turkey hunting might be a step toward slowing or reversing the decline. Our members support legislation allowing mentors to share the fall turkey tag with a young hunter in the mentored situation. Sharing of the mentor’s fall tag would provide a young hunter with opportunity and would not negatively impact the wild turkey resource.

The Management Plan for Wild Turkeys in Pennsylvania clearly sets forth goals and objectives for managing the wild turkey resource. Included within the plan are guidelines for setting fall seasons and recommendations for further research to provide biologists with better tools for predicting the impact of regulation changes. The plan has resulted in added recreational opportunity for turkey hunters while providing adequate protection for the resource. The fall season structure in place for nearly thirty years allowed wild turkeys to flourish producing not only record turkey numbers but record harvests and increased opportunity. PANWTF members and other turkey hunters were content with fall turkey seasons as they were structured previously and were willing to allow field research to determine whether additional recreational opportunity could be provided in the fall. Our chapter members remain opposed to the changes in fall turkey hunting seasons incorporated at the April commission meeting.

We have always been pleased with our relationship with the Game Commission and with the commissioners. While we disagree with the decisions regarding fall hunting season dates we will continue to work with the commissioners and are open to discussions concerning this and other issues that affect our wild turkey resource.

Dale C. Butler
President, Pennsylvania Chapter NWTF

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