Spring Wild Turkey Harvest Decline

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The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission announced that the reported harvest from the spring wild turkey season dropped about 10 percent this year due, in part, to poor reproduction by wild turkeys in 2003. Changes in the reporting system for turkey harvests also may have affected the reporting rate, according to Mike Seamster, the Wildlife Commission’s upland game bird biologist.

The reported wild turkey harvest in North Carolina declined from 9,862 birds in 2003 to 8,846 birds this spring — a drop off of 1,016 birds. The mountain, Piedmont and coastal regions all reported declines in wild turkey harvest, and only 34 counties in the state reported increases in harvest from the previous year, Seamster said.

“Due in part to the heavy rainfall in 2003 and the associated poor wild turkey reproduction last summer, the percentage of jakes in the harvest declined from 21 percent in 2003 to 17 percent this spring,” Seamster said. “But you can’t discount the effect of the change in the reporting system. Eliminating cooperator agents from receiving reports of wild turkey harvests could account for a change in the reporting rate during the spring gobbler season.”

Reporting wild turkey harvests in person to a wildlife cooperator agent was discontinued this spring to increase reporting efficiency and reduce costs. Instead, the Wildlife Commission required hunters to report their wild turkey harvests using a toll-free number, 1-800-I GOT ONE (1-800-446-8663), or the Commission’s Web site, www.ncwildlife.org.

Caswell County did not lead the state in reported wild turkey harvest for the first time since big-game reporting became mandatory in 1976-77, according to Seamster.

“Wilkes County took over the number one spot with 365 birds reported,” Seamster said. “Caswell County dropped from 475 birds in 2003 to only 312 birds this spring.”

Turkey hunters in Wilkes and Harnett counties reported the greatest increases in harvest this year, jumping from 329 to 365 birds in Wilkes and 30 to 58 birds in Harnett. Caswell, Montgomery and Northampton county hunters reported the sharpest declines in turkey harvest, dropping from 203 to 116 birds in Montgomery and 255 to 192 birds in Northampton.

All North Carolina counties, except Wilson, were included in the 2004 spring wild turkey season, which opened April 10 and ended May 8. Wilson County will open for the 2005 spring turkey season.

The top 10 counties for reported spring wild turkey harvest are listed below.

1. Wilkes (365)
2. Caswell (312)
3. Granville (296)
4. Person (257)
5. Stokes (254)
6. Rockingham (251)
7. Rutherford (250)
8. Alleghany (228)
9. Burke (214)
10. Halifax (209)