Proposed Pennsylvania law has wild turkeys seeing orange
September 24, 2003
Scientists have determined that birds see the color spectrum in various degrees. Birds that are primarily active in the daytime (diurnal) have large amounts of color-seeing cones in their eyes, giving them excellent color vision.
"It makes sense that birds can see color," said Bob Eriksen, a biologist for the National Wild Turkey Federation. "Birds use color for communication and for mating purposes. If they didn't see color, there would be no reason for birds to be so colorful."
Wild turkeys are active during daylight hours and have exceptional hearing and eyesight. To lure this magnificent bird into shotgun range, hunters sit motionless for long periods of time and use high-definition camouflage to hide, and still more turkey hunters know defeat than success.
Pennsylvania is one of a few states that require fall turkey hunters to wear fluorescent orange, and the only state in the nation that requires it to be worn by spring turkey hunters. The Pennsylvania Game Commission is now proposing to expand the fluorescent orange requirements. The NWTF's Pennsylvania chapter opposes the changes.
The new requirements, if passed, would require fall hunters to wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange, and spring hunters to wear a hat of solid, unbroken orange at all times that the hunter is moving. Blaze-camo hats, and orange hats with logos would be illegal. Primitive weapon, bow and small-game hunters also would be affected by the fall orange requirements.
"This proposal will make it much more difficult for hunters, especially turkey hunters," said Jerry Zimmerman, NWTF Regional Director for Pennsylvania and long-time hunter. "And the safety benefits of blaze orange are not proven for turkey hunters."
According to the International Hunter's Education Association, Pennsylvania had 62 hunting incidents in 2001, including 20 turkey hunting incidents, the most of any state that reported.
In fact, Missouri and Texas, which have comparable numbers of turkey hunters to Pennsylvania and no blaze orange requirements, had fewer turkey hunting incidents in 2001. Missouri had 13 and Texas only had three turkey hunting incidents.
The NWTF Pennsylvania State Chapter has gone on record saying that their members cannot and will not support additional orange requirements for turkey hunters.
"The orange is like a band aid to the real problem," said NWTF member Greg Caldwell. "Teaching hunters how to hunt safely and properly will solve the problem."
Caldwell said the problems with the use of orange while turkey hunting are that turkeys can see bright colors, possibly decreasing hunter success, and conditioning hunters to look for orange could lead some to shoot at movement if no orange is seen.
According to the International Hunter Education Association there were 20 firearm incidents in Pennsylvania during the fall and spring turkey seasons in 2001 and 23 incidents the year before. Several of these incidents involved hunters wearing blaze orange; three incidents were attributed to the wearing of blaze-orange when hunters mistook blaze- orange for the red of a gobbler's head.
The NWTF recommends never wearing any conspicuous color found on a wild turkey while turkey hunting, especially red, white, blue or black, unless required by law. Orange, which is close to red on the color spectrum, could actually make turkey hunters the target of careless shooters.
Hunters can voice their opinions about the Pennsylvania orange issue by writing to their local commissioner and the PGC Executives at: PA Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110, by emailing email@example.com or calling 717-787-4250.