Shorter Season Best for Arkansas Turkeys

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Biologists from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission again have proposed a conservative turkey season. The AGFC has tried to address declining turkey harvests through the regulations process that started in spring 2005.

AGFC turkey biologist Mike Widner told the Commission, that the shorter season of 30 days in 2005 and 2006 undoubtedly aided gobbler carryover somewhat. "However, the reduction in season length was not enough to reverse the trend in declining spring harvests and the index of gobbler carryover from the 2005 and 2006 brood surveys," he said.

Widner said that the best way to achieve long term harvest management goals is to utilize a short, later turkey season such as the one in place during the 2007 and 2008 season. "The data we have collected strongly supports this conclusion. After the first year of this regulation, we saw positive results and we believe those positive results continued in 2008," Widner explained. "When we first approached the Commission with a conservative season recommendation, we stressed that a one-year change wouldn’t result in turkey harvest recovery. Our intention was to bring harvests in line with reproductive trends," he added.

Widner went on to say that it is going to take at least two good years of turkey brood production to see a significant increase in turkey numbers and turkey harvest. "Even when that finally occurs, there is plenty of data to suggest a conservative season is in the best long-term interest of turkeys and turkey hunters in the state. Of course, we haven’t seen those two good years of turkey reproduction yet, so continuation of the conservative season structure now in place is especially important," he said.

The AGFC Wildlife Management Division turkey team recommended a spring 2009 season structure to open with a two-day statewide youth hunt April 4-5. In zone 17 the youth hunt would be March 28-29. The regular-season proposal was April 11-May 1 in zones 1 Zones 1, 2, 3, 4B, 5, 5B, 6, 7, 7A, 8, 9 and 10; April 4-26 in zone 17; April 11-24 in zones 4, 4A, 5A and 9A. Zone 1A would be closed.v

Commissioners will formally approve the season at the agency's Oct. 22 meeting in Pine Bluff.