BLAIR COUNTY, Pa (WTAJ)–The start of spring gobbler season begins Saturday, and hunters can expect to see a thicker and greater number of birds.

The season officially starts on April 30th and goes until May 31st. During this time of the year, hunters would not disrupt the reproduction phase among hens. District Biologist for the National Wild Turkey Federation Mitchell Blake said that some of the best places to start hunting for turkeys are in a large forest areas.

“If you can find areas on a map that are forested and are adjacent to agricultural areas,” Blake said. “Or find a large chunk of forest with active timber management or recently had a prescribed fire. Those are all great starting points for turkey hunters.”

There are still the general rules of only hunting bearded birds and during certain day hours. State Game Warden Salvadore Zaffuto said the hours go from a half-hour before sunrise till noon until May 14th, then half-hour before sunrise until half-hour after sunset from May 16th to the 31st.

However, hunters may notice that the turkeys come a little on the bigger side this season. According to Blake, the cicada season that happened over the summer helped keep the turkeys hatching well-fed, which allowed them to grow fast and healthy.

“Those cicadas were coming out of the ground when nests were hatching. So that’s a lot of availability for insects and a high protein diet, so those birds were healthy and growing fast,” Blake said. “So, there were a lot more birds recruited into the population last summer.”

Both experts still want to stress the importance of safety and awareness of one’s surroundings. In the state, it is illegal to stalk turkeys.

“People get a target fixation when they see something, and their brain wants to see a turkey,” Zaffuto said. “A lot of times hunters think they see a turkey when there’s movement, and it’s another hunter. The biggest thing is to call the bird into you, don’t try stalking it.”

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“Being aware of your surroundings and positively identifying your target should be paramount in a spring turkey hunter’s mind,” Blake said. “We’re not wearing orange out there. We’re hunting turkeys that are making turkey sounds, and other hunters are making turkey sounds. Safety should be first and foremost.”