Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Gaming Council commissioners recently gave preliminary approval to a measure that would ban the use of muzzleloading rifles, handguns and slug guns during the fall season Turkey.
The move is intended to boost the state’s wild turkey population, which has been declining for years, according to the Game Commission. In 2000, the turkey population was estimated at around 280,000. By 2019, it had dropped to 212,000.
In years past, reducing the length of the fall turkey season was the primary method of increasing turkey populations. But last year, the Game Commission eliminated the use of centerfire and rimfire rifles during the fall turkey season, noting that relatively few hunters used rifles, but rifles were responsible for about a third of the fall turkey crop.
This provides an additional means of protecting turkey populations without reducing the length of the season.
The measure will be brought back to the July committee meeting for a final vote.
When eliminating the use of rifles during fall turkey season, the Game Commission noted that relatively few fall turkey hunters used rifles. Survey data suggests that only 14% of fall turkey hunters statewide primarily used guns, but guns were responsible for 33% of the harvest.
Eliminating the use of other single-shot firearms during the fall turkey season would appear to have even less of an impact on hunters. The Game Commission has observed very few fall turkey hunters with muzzle-loading rifles or single-shot shotguns.
At the same time, eliminating the use of these guns during the fall turkey season aims to find methods other than reducing the length of the season to stabilize the number of turkey catches at fall, noted the Game Commission.
“Season length adjustments are part of managing wild turkey populations, and reducing the season length is sometimes a necessity,” said Commissioner Scott Foradora, who represents Central District 3. northern Pennsylvania. “But through alternative methods such as restricting the firearms that can be used during the season, reductions in the length of the season could be avoided, giving all hunters the opportunity to spend more time in the woods. “