Spring Turkey Hunting Season Results
According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife, spring wild turkey hunters harvested an estimated 2,944 gobblers during the six-week season that ended on May 28. This was the fourth largest harvest since the spring turkey season was established in 1981, but is below the recent average. The Division issued approximately 21,877 spring turkey hunting permits for the 2004 season with hunters achieving a success rate of 13%.
Despite high snowfall amounts over the winter, gobblers appeared to be in great condition and check station operators recorded excellent weights and beard lengths. Food availability and snow depth during the winter months can affect weights and beard lengths of wild turkeys. However, winter weather was not a significant factor this year since heavy snows quickly crusted over and allowed turkeys to be mobile. According to Division wildlife biologists, no reports were received of wild turkey mortality attributable to the winter elements.
The lower harvest was anticipated by Division wildlife biologists based on biological information gathered previously. In fact, most states in the Northeast are reporting similar decreased harvests of spring gobblers. This is primarily due to last year's cold and rainy spring weather that resulted in poor reproduction. Similar conditions also caused poor productivity in 2002.
In addition to poor productivity, other factors played a role in this season's reduced harvest. Hot and sunny weather prevailed throughout most of the season causing the trees to leaf out earlier which can reduce hunter visibility (can't see approaching birds), as well as sound (the leaves muffle the sound of distant gobbles). The balmy temperatures also most likely suppressed gobbling activity to some extent.
Overall, New Jersey's wild turkey population is healthy and will rebound with better spring weather conditions. So far, conditions for good reproduction appear much better this year than in previous years with above average temperatures and scattered rainfall recorded in May. Division biologists continue to monitor the wild turkey population in New Jersey and will make adjustments in wildlife management programs if necessary.
Harvest figures follow. Information from the 2003 season is provided for comparison.
Spring Gobbler Harvest By Area
Turkey Hunting Area: 2004-2003