Tom Fegely's A Guide to Hunting Pennsylvania's Turkeys — A Review
by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA., June 25, 2005.)
A month after the close of a spring gobbler season, hunters who finished with an unfilled tag might ask, "What can I do to make next season better." That question has lots of answers: more and better scouting, mastering a new call, or getting permission to hunt more land. Another way is to grab some good instructional materials. One that is tailor-made for Keystone State hunters is Tom Fegely's new book, A Guide to Hunting Pennsylvania Turkeys.
Few turkey hunters are too good to be helped by this book.
Fegely was, for 25 years, outdoor editor of the Allentown Morning Call and has published widely in the outdoor press. Well respected across the country, he is one of the most effective outdoor communicators in the state, and uniquely positioned to write this book. It follows his successful Guide to Hunting Pennsylvania Whitetails.
A Guide to Hunting Pennsylvania Turkeys fills a clear niche in the growing bibliography on America's wild turkey. Serious students of wild turkeys are devouring everything they can get their hands on about this prime target of the springtime sportsman. Some of the best books are getting hard to find, and many are pricey after moving into the out-of-print category. Fegely's encyclopedic book is one of the few (perhaps the only one) devoted to a single state's hunting tradition.
The author's own personal experience is broad, but he isn't too proud to include the viewpoints of many others in his book. Scattered like a fall flock throughout the 300 pages and dozens of photos are perspectives of a veritable "Who's Who" of turkey biologists, equipment manufacturers, writers and other outdoor professionals -- most of whom are Pennsylvania residents.
A few of the manufacturers are Eric Miller of Tru-Woods camouflage, Bob Walker of Walker's Game Ear, and Greg Neumann of Penn's Woods. Other well known names are Don Heckman, whose involvement in the PA Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation is legendary, and Denny Gulvas, a video maker from DuBois and perhaps the number one name in Pennsylvania turkey hunting circles. More than 50 others, including Pennsylvania native Rob Keck, Chief Executive Officer of the National Wild Turkey Federation, and Warren's own Mike Bleech, all offer their specialized points of view.
Fegely notes that one of the big benefits of hunting Pennsylvania is an extensive network of public hunting lands in addition to the many State Game Lands. Several state forests are available, plus the Allegheny National Forest covering parts of Warren, McKean, Forest, and Elk counties. Hunting lands are covered region by region.
He details the history of wild turkeys in Pennsylvania -- especially the broadly successful trap and transfer program that supplanted earlier failed efforts at stocking farm-raised turkeys. One chapter (indispensable in a state with so many hunters) covers important safety principles. Don't believe you can't be a victim of a hunting accident. Everyone it has happened to thought it wouldn't happen.
Space allows mentioning only a few of Fegely's insights. He tells some new ideas on shotgun patterning that I had not heard before, sound information on all types of calls (including the little-used tube call), and the advantage windy days give to the hunter. Also, why it's wise to stay 10-15 yards from your hunting partner, three methods of double-teaming gobblers, when to hunt fields, when to use the fall tactic of breaking the flock in spring hunting, and how to savor the moment after the shot.
The 41 short chapters are well organized and comprehensive. The writing is easy reading and sprinkled with humor. For example, he says he is annoyed by his wife's habit of crunching on pretzels and notes that when turkeys eat acorns, they "stretch their elastic necks upward and swallow. I wish my wife could do that."
Because Pennsylvania might be the most difficult place to harvest a turkey, Tom Fegely has given Pennsylvania hunters something to appreciate. Few turkey hunters are too good to be helped by this book -- available from the author's website, www.FegelyOutdoors.com, or by writing Tom at Fegely Outdoors, P.O. Box 986, Cherryville, PA 18035.