Turkey hunters say conservation is key

SHERMANS DALE, Pa. (WHTM) — Saturday morning will hold a long awaited sunrise for midstate turkey hunters like Heath Nace.

“People talk about buck fever, and I’ve hunted all my life,” says Nace. “And I’ll tell guys a lot of times, when you get bit by the turkey bug, I think it can be worse than buck fever.”

Nace, who serves as both President of the Shermans Valley Strutters chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation in Perry County, and Vice President of the state organization, says the thrill of hearing a bird come down from the roost or gobbling in the distance is addicting. During the spring season, hunters can only use calling to attract male, bearded birds.

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the 2017 spring season looks favorable. The agency cites the combination of a light harvest last season, plus a warm winter that made for excellent nesting conditions. Nace believes the thriving wild turkey population is in part due to the many hunters like himself, who double as conservationists.

“I think a lot of the reason they thrive in Pennsylvania is from the volunteers that put time into making the habitat and improving the habitat for the birds in the state,” he says. “Pennsylvania is the number one state in the National Wild Turkey Federation.”

Among other initiatives, Nace cites a partnership with the PA Game Commission to conduct controlled burns on state game lands and other private lands. The effect is the removal of deep leaf pack from the forest floor, which enhances turkey brooding areas by allowing for the growth of native low growth vegetation. Additionally, Nace says the harvesting of a sustainable amount of wild birds keeps the population healthy, and prevents the spread of avian diseases that could affect the turkey population.

“It is very important to have the hunters play such a huge role in conservation and management of the game,” adds Nace.

The spring gobbler season runs April 29-May31. For full regulations, including permitted hunting hours, visit the Pennsylvania Game Commission website.

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