Turkey Mathematics

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Published on: Mar. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 10, 2010

turkey eggs and that knocked down acorn production for two years, ice storms in December 2007 and January 2008 that stressed birds during winter and record rainfall throughout much of the state during 2008.

“I think turkey hunting will be a lot harder this year,” Dailey said. “Hunters aren’t going to see as many jakes, they’re not going to see as many 2-year-olds, and because of poor production since 2004 they’re not going to see many of those older age classes. What’s more, they’re not going to hear as much gobbling, which is really important to turkey hunters.”

A few hunters might bypass the season because they heard that turkey numbers are down. Other hunters might go out and try their luck but won’t hunt as many days because they’re not going to see or hear as many turkeys. In 2008, 42 percent of spring turkey hunters surveyed rated the season as “good” or “excellent,” down from 55 percent in 2005.

You might think that the reduction in hunters and harvest might help boost the population, but Dailey said our spring turkey season regulations are designed to minimize the effect of hunting on year-to-year turkey abundance. The key is that our regular spring turkey season puts hunters in the woods during the second peak of gobbling activity, after most turkeys have had a chance to breed. This ensures a good supply of poults (young turkeys) to replenish the turkey population.

“Reducing the bag limit in spring,” he said, “would have little effect on the fall population because 99 percent of the spring harvest are males and they are just replaced by new turkeys—poults.”

Reducing the bag limit to one spring turkey could help redistribute hunting success as successful hunters leave the woods after killing one bird, reducing competition for those with unfilled tags. Few hunters, however, have shown support for redistributing hunter success.

OK, then, at least a reduction in fall turkey hunting seems like it would translate into more turkeys for spring hunting, since the harvest includes both male and female turkeys.

“Even if we didn’t shoot some of those birds in the fall,” Dailey explained, “the notion that they all would survive until spring is not true because there is some natural mortality over winter from predation, bad weather, malnutrition, disease and other factors.”

Because the fall firearms season takes place before the deadly effects of winter can

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