For turkeys, the next month is not going to be a whole lot of fun.

For turkey hunters, on the other hand, May is filled with a fresh opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy Pennsylvania's forests as they slowly emerge from a long winter hibernation.

Saturday marks the kickoff of the spring gobbler season. It lasts through the end of the month. And by the time the season comes to a close, some 30,000 turkeys will get bagged.

This is a unique and great time to be in the woods. In fact, it is my favorite time to be in the woods. Unlike the frigid, dark days of deer season, Pennsylvania's forests and fields are alive right now with the fullness of spring.

The weather is warm. The sun is bright. And, most important, the turkeys are eager to respond to our calls. With mating season in high gear, gobblers are anxious to strut their tail feathers in hopes of catching the eye of a nearby hen.

After the winter we just put in the history books, it's anybody's guess as to how the gobblers will behave this year. Chances are, this will be a good season. Cold winters tend to extend the mating season. That means the male turkeys we're hunting for will respond to our calls with increased eagerness.

Mary Jo Casalena, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's wild turkey biologist, tells us to expect to see more young birds this year. With a strong breeding season last year, she says there's an above-average population of year-old turkeys in the woods.


This year's opening day is a week later than last year. Some hunters have argued the later start means we're taking to the woods after the peak of breeding activity. In some regions of the state, that may be the case. But again, with the area's cold winter, the cycle is likely lagging this year.

The trick to finding success this year is no different than any other season. You will need lots of preseason scouting (if you haven't done it by now, it's too late) and smart calling skills.

Let's not forget, the state's youngest hunters got the first crack at springtime gobblers last weekend thanks to a special youth season. That means there are plenty of birds already on the lookout for camouflaged humans hiding behind trees.

Really, no matter what happens over the next month — whether we bag a bird first thing on opening day or we don't fill our tag — most hunters think of spring gobbler hunting as a bonus season. It gets us outdoors and in the woods just as Mother Nature works overtime to turn the landscape green.

"With the warm temperatures, songbirds returning, emerging wildflowers and mushrooms blooming, spring gobbler season is a wonderful time of year to enjoy Penn's Woods, and share the experience with others," Casalena said.

May is a lousy time to be a turkey. But it is a great month to be a hunter.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at