Fall Turkey Harvest Increase

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Fall turkey hunters harvested 207 wild turkeys in the three western Maryland counties during the one-week hunting season from Oct. 30 to Nov. 6. This is a 26 percent climb from the 2003 harvest of 164 turkeys.

“Department of Natural Resource’s field staff reported excellent conditions for wild turkey reproduction in western Maryland this past summer,” said Paul Peditto, Director of DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service. “Our brood surveys showed near record-high poult production which undoubtedly translated into increased hunter success this fall.”

The data confirms that theory as almost 60 percent of the fall harvest was made up of juveniles, a figure which is well above what it is in typical year. Wild turkey populations had been somewhat depressed in parts of the western region but the large increase in fall harvest demonstrates turkeys are a resilient bird that can rebound quickly under favorable conditions.

Although weather, reproduction, and food availability can affect the success of hunters from year to year, the long-term drop in fall turkey harvest is probably more influenced by the steep decline in hunter participation over the last decade. Currently, less than one-half the number of hunters pursue turkeys in fall than in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Allegany County reported the highest harvest, with 107 turkeys harvested, followed by Garrett County with 67 turkeys and Washington County with 33 turkeys. Over 45 percent of the turkeys were reported harvested on public lands, illustrating the importance of DNR-owned lands in providing fall turkey hunting opportunities.