The History of the Pennsylvania State Chapter

The history of the Pennsylvania State Chapter is rich in the achievement of its goals and objectives, commitment to improving wild turkey management principles, and dedicated to educating the hunting and non-hunting public on the wild turkey and its environment. The eastern wild turkey in Pennsylvania is a fascinating success story and clearly shows the benefits of a well-operated wildlife management program. Throughout the latter years of the 20th century the wild turkey has increased its population through an improved habitat structure and conservative seasons and bag limits. During the early years of the 20th century, chiefly because of careless timbering practices and a rapidly-expanding human population, wild turkey population numbers were reduced drastically.

Fortunately, through public interest in the wild turkey, and the trap and transfer program instituted by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, this awakened concern was responsible for reestablishing wild turkeys in every corner of the state.

The modern history of the Pennsylvania wild turkey starts in 1873 when a law was passed to establish a closed season for the period of January 1 to October 1. A daily bag limit of 2 was designated in 1887, and a season limit was set in 1905. In 1915 bag limits of 1 per day, 1 per week and 2 per season were fixed. In 1917, the season limit was set at 1 bird. In 1967 the spring gobbler season was established with a bag limit of 1 bird. Today the bag limit is 1 bird in the fall and 1 bird in the spring.

These regulatory efforts combined with better logging practices and the releasing of farm-raised turkeys resulted in substantial population increases in the early decades of the 1900’s. But these pen-raised turkeys grown and released by the Pennsylvania Game Commission were not consistent with sound wildlife management practices. It was discovered that the birds were subject to disease, frequently quite tame, locally concentrated, and expensive to raise.
The introduction of the wild turkey trap and transfer program, with the elimination of the per-raised turkeys, during the 1970’s and 1980’s has resulted in a healthy and growing population of wild turkeys in the state.

The First Ten Years — 1975-1985

  • Formed June 1975 in State College, PA
  • Dr. David Wanless is the first State Chapter President
  • "Turkey Talk" established as official State Chapter newsletter
  • First edition of "Turkey Talk", Vol. 1 No. 1 -October 1975
  • Incorporated as a non-profit organization - November 1975
  • First Annual Convention in Williamsport, PA at Sheraton Motor Inn, April 10, 1976
  • First Annual U.S. Open Turkey Calling Championship Contest, Blain, PA - August 14, 1976
  • Support Trap and Transfer Program as a wildlife management tool for increasing wild turkey populations - June 1976
  • Called for closing pen raised game farm and releasing pen raised turkeys in Pennsylvania - July 1976
  • Hosted First National Wild Turkey Federation Annual Meeting and Convention, Hershey, PA - February 4,5,6, 1977
  • Pennsylvania State Chapter collectible patch and pin available - May 1977
  • Proposed state-wide $5 spring turkey stamp - May 1977
  • Make Habitat - A Habit’ poster and habitat brochure established - 1977
  • Membership tops 1,000 - November 1977
  • Director meeting schedule established for January, June, August, and November with the Annual Membership Meeting and Convention in March - 1978
  • Winters of 1977 and 1978 prove to be severe on wild turkey populations,
  • State Chapter establishes winter feeding program and long range tree and shrub planting projects to aid wild turkey survival - 1978
  • Pennsylvania goes over 2000 membership mark - June 1979
  • Establishes $100.00 reward for information leading to arrest and conviction of any person or persons illegally killing a Pennsylvania Wild Turkey - August 1978
  • NWTF Executive Vice President Tom Rodgers unveils plans for construction of Wild Turkey Research Center in Edgefield, South Carolina - March 1979
  • Established guidelines for Local Chapter development - 1979
  • Local Chapter #1 established as first Pennsylvania Local Chapter - 1979
  • Allegheny Mountain Local Chapter established as second Local Chapter
  • Executive Committee established - 1979
  • State Chapter works with Lou Hoffman, publisher of
  • Northwoods Publications, to produce "Spring in Penn’s Woods" - 1979
  • "Wanted Fed or Alive" poster created to bring continued awareness to habitat enhancement projects - October 1979
  • Fifth Annual Convention and Meeting, Embers Quality Inn, Carlisle, PA
  • First Masters Invitational Calling Contest - February 29, 1980
  • Pennsylvania Chapter calls for PGC to re-evaluate fall turkey season dates in the North Central Division - July 1980
  • Pennsylvania Game Commission closes Turkey Game Farm - 1980
  • Annual dues structure established with NWTF, your membership now includes NWTF, Pennsylvania State Chapter and Local Chapter for one membership fee - 1980
  • Tenth Local Chapter established - Michaux-Yellow Breeches - 1981
  • "HILLSIDE TAKEOFF" by Ned Smith is the FIRST Pennsylvania Wild Turkey Stamp Print - July 1981
  • First color cover for "Turkey Talk" - July 1981
  • Winter Feeding and Rifle/Shotgun issues debated - 1982
  • Pennsylvania State Chapter and Local Chapter #1 are awarded NWTF Chapter of the Year awards - 1982
  • Wapiti Roost Chapter is 20 th Local Chapter in Pennsylvania - 1982
  • Tree and Shrub habitat and nursery project established by Michaux-Yellow Breeches and Perry County Local Chapters - 1982
  • Pennsylvania State Chapter joins advisory committee and supports research project working on fluorescent orange safety issue – 1982
  • Experimental habitat project established on Seven Mountains in cooperation with Bureau of Forestry - 1982
  • Memberships, Stamp and Print Program, Hunter Safety and Education, Local Chapters, Conventions, and Habitat are major projects promoted by the State Chapter.
  • Board of Directors visit Turkey Mountain Lodge for board meeting - 1983
  • NWTF membership tops 5,000 - 1983
  • Local Chapter Presidents meeting - July 1983
  • Allegheny National Forest and several Local Chapters work together to establish Habitat Improvement Project - March 1983
  • NWTF Hunter Safety Module becomes primary safety education program used by State and Local Chapters throughout the state - 1984
  • Pennsylvania’s first NWTF fund raising banquet, Laurel Highlands Committee - April 1984
  • Hunts Run Habitat Project, Cameron County, completed - 1984
  • ennsylvania State Chapter and Pennsylvania Game Commission hold first meeting to discuss policies and programs pertaining to the Wild Turkey in Pennsylvania - May 24, 1984
  • State Chapter seeks additional turkey hunter safety in the PGC Hunter Education Course
  • Overlapping archery and fall turkey seasons major concern and not supported by Pennsylvania State Chapter for safety reasons
  • State Chapter calls for improved turkey harvest count for spring and fall seasons
  • State Chapter supports turkey hunting stamp
  • PGC reports Trap and Transfer of wild turkeys is major success story in Pennsylvania
  • Habitat is the key to survival of the wild turkey in Pennsylvania
  • PGC has no present plans to mandate fluorescent orange for turkey hunting as not enough information about the effectiveness of wearing orange to prevent accidents in the turkey seasons has been established
  • " Turkey Talk" Vol. 10, No. 1 - October 1984
  • Ron Sandrus, Altoona, PA is serving as President of the Pennsylvania State Chapter during our Tenth Anniversary year
  • Autumn Olive comes under fire as a potential noxious species, Pennsylvania State Chapter supports Autumn Olive as one of the best wildlife management shrubs for wild turkeys and all wildlife
  • Pennsylvania State Chapter testifies in front of the Senate Committee on Environmental Resources supporting the removal of Autumn Olive from the noxious species list – 1985. (Senate Committee voted to delete Autumn Olive from the list)
  • PGC license increase proposal does not include a turkey hunting stamp
  • Tenth Annual Meeting and Convention - Marriott Hotel, Harrisburg, PA. Convention Co-Chairman are Don Heckman and Terry Hyde. March 15 and 16, 1985
  • "Turkey Talk" Editor Bud Erich bids farewell after 10 years as chief writer and producer of the State Chapter Newsletter, Dan Sullivan takes over as Editor
  • Pennsylvania State Chapter President, Dan Roessner, takes over the leadership position of the State Chapter as we prepare to move into our second decade

The Second Decade Highlights — 1986-1995

  • Conservation Print established as fund raising project
  • Pennsylvania State Chapter begins its commitment to the NWTF Super Fund Project by supporting the Fund Raising Banquet program
  • Super Fund Projects lead to successful completion of Hunter Safety and Education, Land Acquisition, and Habitat Improvement
  • State Chapter membership tops 10,000 as the Fund Raising Banquet system and Super Fund Projects lead to continued growth and leadership of the NWTF as a major nation-wide wildlife conservation organization and the Pennsylvania State Chapter as a state-wide wildlife conservation organization leader
  • Hunter Safety, Hunter Education, Hunter Ethics and Fluorescent Orange safety requirements and mandates are major issues that will be debated in the next ten years
  • Pennsylvania State Chapter gets their first NWTF Regional Director Mandatory Orange and Turkey Hunting - January 1992
  • 20 th Annual Meeting and Convention on March 17 and 18, 1995 at the Days Inn Conference Center, Allentown, PA
  • Pennsylvania Game Commission and Pennsylvania State Chapter combine forces to produce a turkey hunting safety poster to be distributed for the 1995 fall turkey hunting season

The Third Decade Highlights —1996-Present

  • Allegheny National Forest and Pennsylvania State Chapter combine efforts with other conservation organizations to expand habitat improvement projects and the annual JAKES program
  • Pennsylvania State Chapter moves the flock to the information age by establishing an Internet Web Site, www.go2pa.com/panwtf (now www.panwtf.org)
  • Pennsylvania gets a second NWTF Regional Director
  • Pennsylvania goes over 11,000 membership mark
  • Pennsylvania Game Commission spends Target 2000 funds on wild turkey projects across the state
  • Pennsylvania State Chapter goes over the Million dollar mark for funds raised and spent on Super Fund projects
  • PGC License increase takes center stage in 1996 and 1997
  • Turkey Federation seeks a $5 Spring Turkey License