Old News Archive

The 2007 Wild Turkey Hunting Season

April 25, 2007 - TRC

The 2007 Wild Turkey Hunting Season : NEW WMD open, NEW hunter survey, and NEW August wild turkey sighting report

This year marks 30 years since the first reintroduction of wild turkeys to Maine and what a success it has been. As wild turkeys continue to expand into new areas the season continues to expand with them. In addition to areas open in 2006, wild turkey enthusiasts will also be able to hunt in WMD 7 in spring 2007. Accompanying the ever-increasing turkey hunting opportunity also comes the task of keeping track of and properly managing the wild turkey population of Maine. When turkey hunters take to the field this spring they will also have the chance to help contribute to wild turkey management in Maine. Previously, only randomly selected turkey hunters that were mailed a survey could provide information used to help manage Maine’s wild turkeys. However, in 2007, a new web based turkey hunter survey is available and is open to all wild turkey permit holders. Simply log on at: www.maine.gov/ifw/hunttrap/turkey_spring_survey_2007.htm In addition to helping Maine biologists better managed wild turkeys all participants in the web based turkey hunter survey will be entered to win a one-year National Wild Turkey Federation Membership and framed wild turkey print.

Wild Turkey forecast: Spring 2007

For the third year in a row, spring 2006 was cold, wet and long. Unfortunately for wild turkeys, these unpleasant conditions equal poor reproductive success and can also influence turkey hunter success. In spring 2006, 20,089 hunters harvested 5,931 turkeys in Maine. Down from 6,235 wild turkeys registered in 2005. The decline in turkey harvest in 2006 was likely caused by poor nesting conditions and was also reflected in a lower than normal age ratio of only 1 jake (one year old males) for every 3 toms (adult males) harvested.

Reports from the new volunteer August wild turkey sighting report indicated a large number of hens with no or very small poults in 2006. It seems that the long, cold and wet spring resulted in fewer than normal wild turkeys produced last year. However, while the number of jakes may be limited this spring, survival of large-mature toms is nearly 100% over-winter and turkey hunters will still be graced with many thrilling gobbles, plenty of exciting hunts, and hopefully the opportunity to harvest their Maine longbeard.

The spring 2007 wild turkey season-at-a-glance

For the third year, permits will be unlimited in spring 2007. The 2007 spring season framework is:

o Hunting hours: ½ hour before sunrise until 12:00 pm (noon).
o Wildlife Management Districts (WMDs) open to hunting: 7,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26*

(* Note that WMD 7 has been added for Spring 2007)
o Unlimited permits allocated: permits divided evenly between A & B seasons by year of birth (odd year - A Season, even year - B season)
o Youth Day: April 28, 2006 (open to all permit holders age 10-15)
o Season A: Week #1: April 30, 2007 through May 5, 2007 and Week #4: May 21, 2007 through May 26, 2007
o Season B: Week #2: May 7, 2007 through May 12, 2007 and Week #3: May 14, 2007 through May 19, 2007
o All Permit Holders: Week #5: May 28, 2007 through June 2, 2007
o Limit: One Bearded turkey per permit holder.

Safety, safety, safety!

Remember, with more turkey permit holders heading to the woods and fields of Maine to hunt wild turkeys each year, safety must continue to be priority one. Remember to always positively identify your target and never stalk a turkey. Call like a hen, be patient and your Maine longbeard will hopefully show himself. Always exercise safe hunting practices and best of luck bagging your spring longbeard!

How to be a turkey enthusiast year-round: TRACK THE HATCH

If you're like me you've had some years in the turkey woods when the gobblers seem as common as the black flies. What great years those are! Unfortunately, we've all seen the other end of the spectrum as well, the days of listening, hours in the blind, the years when the woods go quite…not only did you not bag a bird that year, but also you hardly heard a gobble.

The wild turkey, now you seem them, now you don't. We've all been there.
So why do some areas that are hot spots seemingly dry-up overnight?
The answer lies primarily with the hatch. Annual productivity of wild turkeys is highly variable. Research that was funded by members of NWTF through the Hunting Heritage Super Fund has helped answer some questions regarding the hatch. Research conducted in Central New York essentially confirmed the wet-hen theory. What the research found was that wild turkey production was tied to spring and early summer weather conditions. Cold and wet weather during the nesting season and shortly after hatching can have negative implications for nest success and poult survival. While deep powdery snow for extended periods of time can result in some winter mortality of turkeys, spring and summer weather appear to have a greater impact on turkey populations from year to year.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) recognizes the importance of the hatch. Starting in Summer 2006, IFW asked their staff and volunteers to record observations during the month of August in an effort to track the hatch. Those interested in keeping track of turkey observations only need to write down the number of gobblers, hens and poults, as well as, the size of the poults they observe during August. Only complete counts of turkey flocks should be submitted so that averages can be used to describe how many poults per hen were observed. Counts of only portions of a flock would compromise the results. It is also important to include flocks that have no poults as this indicates the number of hens that failed to raise any poults. Results will be compiled annually on a statewide and regional basis to allow wildlife biologists to look at trends in production and how the hatch differs from region to region.

Because this information provides a snapshot of the hatch and is not a complete count, or census, of all turkeys in Maine during August, managers consider the survey as an index to the state's wild turkey population. An index is of greater value when several years of data are collected. Multiple years of data allows for comparisons to be made on a statewide and regional level so that trends can be detected. Out of all the information summarized from the August Turkey Sighting Report, the number of poults per hen is the essential statistic. This number includes hens that were unsuccessful at raising poults, either because they did not attempt to nest at all, lost their nest to predation or the poults did not survive to the time the survey was conducted. It is important to incorporate these unsuccessful hens into the poults per hen number because if we had a year with very poor turkey production and we only looked at how many poults per successful hen were observed, we might be fooled by the number and think all is well. Combining both successful and unsuccessful hens into the poults per hen number allows us to see the big picture. Also important is the size of poults observed. Early hatched poults could be ¾ grown by August, while late hatching birds would be about ¼ grown. During winters that are harsh, poults only ¼ grown in August have a lower chance of survival and recruitment into the harvestable Spring population. Therefore, it is not only important to understand how many poults per hen were produced, but approximately how old they are as well.

Although wild turkeys still have room to expand into other areas of Maine, we now have a healthy, harvestable population in many areas. Now it is time to monitor that population more closely in an attempt to fine-tune wild turkey management in Maine. Your participation in this survey will help us monitor the year-to-year variation in productivity to better manage Maine's wild turkey population and help ensure the existence of the this grand bird for future generations of Maine hunters.

Instructions and data sheets for the August Turkey Brood Survey can be found at
www.mainenwtf.org. and www.mefishwildlife.com.

By Michael L. Schummer, Wildlife Biologist, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.