Delaware Spring Turkey Hunters Have 8th Straight Record Season

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For the eighth straight year, Delaware's wild turkey season has set a new harvest record – bringing more prominence to one of the state's most successful wildlife restoration programs as it coincides with DNREC's Division of Fish & Wildlife celebrating its first century of conservation service. The spring wild turkey season tallied 487 birds, surpassing last year’s harvest by more than 100 gobblers, and included a 25½-pound tom shot by a first-time turkey hunter that was the largest in the state this year.

"The turkey harvest really started climbing in 2004 and we have experienced a remarkable 350 percent increase in just eight years," said Fish & Wildlife game biologist Matt DiBona. "While we can’t predict what our maximum harvest level might be, we feel that the turkey population is growing, along with hunter interest, so there might be more record seasons to come."

A number of nice gobblers were recorded this year, the largest the 25½-pound tom taken by Jamie West of Milton. "I talked to Jamie a couple of weeks after the season, and he was still pretty excited about his accomplishment on his first time out," said Fish & Wildlife program manager Ken Reynolds. "I think Jamie's now a committed turkey hunter." With Delaware hunters permitted to take only one turkey per season, almost 500 hunters scored with the big birds.

Rob Gano of Frankford took the turkey with the longest beard at 16-1/16 inches. Jay Hastings of Delmar had the longest spur lengths with a matched set measuring 1-13/16 inches each.The top overall scoring bird as measured using the National Wild Turkey Federation formula was taken by Mark Fenimore of Clayton. This system takes into account weight, total spur length and total beard length. Mr. Fenimore's bird weighed  23 lb. 7 oz., had a total spur length of 2-1/16 inches and had five beards with a total length of 39-3/16 inches for a score of 122.4375 points.

Birds were harvested in 16 of the 17 management zones in the state but several areas stood out as turkey "hotspots." Zones 4, 6, and 11 accounted more than a third – 38 percent – of the total statewide harvest. Zone 1, which is New Castle County north of the Canal, was the only zone where no birds were taken.

Biologists weren't surprised to find that nine in 10 birds were taken on private land. But given the limited amount of public land in Delaware and the limited number of turkey-hunting permits available, hunters also did well on state-managed property. Fifty-one birds were bagged on public lands, another new record. Redden State Forest, the Midlands Wildlife Area and the Norman G. Wilder Wildlife Area were the top three producing sites. Birds were also taken on the following wildlife areas: Assawoman, Nanticoke, Marshy Hope, Milford Neck, Little Creek, Cedar Swamp, Blackiston and Ted Harvey.

With the Delaware Game and Fish Commission having been established in 1911, its latter-day successor, the Division of Fish &Wildlife, is now celebrating 100 years of fish and wildlife conservation in the state. "There have been many noteworthy conservation accomplishments during this century, and the restoration of the wild turkey definitely ranks high among them," said Greg Moore, Wildlife Section administrator. "We look forward to having this magnificent game bird around for many years to come."

For hunters planning ahead, Delaware's 2012 turkey season will run from April 14 - May 12, with the special youth and disabled hunter day set for April 7. Also: a reminder for hunters aiming to pursue wild turkey for the first time in Delaware that a one-day turkey hunter education class is required – for more information about upcoming classes, please call 302-735-3600.