Pennsylvania May Ban Use of Rifles in Fall Turkey Hunt: What to Know

by Madison Miller

While fall seems like a lifetime away, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is thinking way ahead.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the board is considering restricting the sporting arms that can be used in turkey hunting, which happens in the fall. The restrictions would include eliminating the use of any centerfire or rimfire rifles that are sometimes used while hunting.

“This proposal is being considered in response to data showing turkey populations are declining in 15 of Pennsylvania’s 23 Wildlife Management Units, as well as a tool to stabilize fall turkey harvest without further reducing season length,” according to a notice from the meeting.

The number of turkeys in the area is dwindling, so limiting certain firearms could make sure the population doesn’t become overly threatened. Additionally, hunters would still be welcome to use muzzleloading shotguns, rifles, handguns, as well as archery gear during the upcoming season.

The turkeys of Pennsylvania have had a rough year. This doesn’t just mean near Thanksgiving, unfortunately. Instead, wet springs have led to many turkeys actually drowning to death.

The birds have also been hit hard by the avian pox, although this is not seen to be incredibly lethal.

This is a mosquito-borne virus. It will grow on the unfeathered areas of the turkey. The meat from the turkey is still edible. However, Eastern wild turkeys have a population of about 196,260. This is 11% below the previous 10-year average of 214,650, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Nationwide Shortage of Turkeys

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is not the only state that is seeing rapid declines in this large, feathery-bird.

Right now the estimated number of turkeys, according to the National Wild Turkey Foundation, is somewhere between 6 and 6.2 million. While this may seem like a hefty number of turkeys, this is a 15% drop from recent years.

The reason for the decline?

Many hens are unable to access good nesting habitats due to high population densities. Also, vegetation levels lead to the success or failure of nesting sites.

According to Popular Science, young forests are maturing into open woodlands. This means that they are more exposed to the elements and predators. Additionally, the trees that provide them acorns and beechnuts are becoming less common due to grazing from other animals and the beech bark disease.

These birds rely on the space around them to eat and raise hen. Habitat conditions are getting worse. This means that birds are going to suffer along with their environment. And in turn, our hunts may be affected drastically.