Old News Archive

Track the Hatch – August 2007

July 31, 2007 - TRC

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.

-Michael Schummer, Bird Group Biologist, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife



August is a great time of year to be outside watching wildlife in Maine. Not only is it the time of year when turkeys and poults can often be seen wandering along woods and field edges, but deer and their young as well. Adult does and their fawns are more visible as fawns become more active and are feeding independently. This is also the time when they associate more often with their siblings or other deer as they continue to gain strength and size. As with information on Wild Turkeys, IFW would like your help counting adult does with or without fawns at heel. This information is critical in estimating recruitment rates, that is, how many fawns survive the summer to become part of the fall deer herd.

When sighting deer, be careful to identify adult does from fawns. Adult does have longer noses and foreheads, long-rectangular bodies, and long necks. On the other hand fawns have short noses and foreheads, short-square bodies, and shorter necks. In some cases spots on fawns may be fading, so body shape and size is really important to differentiate. If you cannot positively identify the difference, please write down the deer as Unknown, this information is also useful. It is vital to be accurate about what you see.

Over time, this August survey will give us a better picture of deer productivity and fawn survival. This will depend upon participation in the survey, sightability of deer and their fawns, and the amount of sightings across the state.

-Lee Kantar, Deer Biologist, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
Instructions and data sheets for the August Turkey Brood and Deer Fawn Survey can be found at www.mainenwtf.org & http://www.maine.gov/ifw/wildlife/surveys_reports/index.htm


New Fall Shotgun Season For Turkeys

This fall, turkey hunters will get an extra opportunity to hunt gobblers, thanks to a new fall shotgun season that will run from October 13th through the 19th.

The first modern wild turkey hunt was in 1986 when the department issued 500 permits through a lottery, and nine turkeys were harvested. The lottery system continued until 2006, when the spring turkey hunt was opened to all licensed hunters. A limited fall archery hunt was instituted in 2002. In the four seasons since then, interest in the fall archery hunt has grown, and the turkey population has continued to grow.

This year, there will be a fall shotgun season from October 13 through October 19. During that period, turkeys may be hunted with a shotgun in Wildlife Management Districts 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, and 25. Hunters must purchase a permit to hunt wild turkey during the fall season. There is a one turkey bag limit for each fall turkey permit holder. Shotgun gauges 10 through 20 using shot sizes 4 through 6 inclusive may be used to hunt wild turkey in during the fall season.

The reintroduction of wild turkeys in Maine is an unqualified success story. Turkeys existed in significant numbers in York and Cumberland counties, and perhaps eastward to Hancock county. Reduction of forestland and unrestricted hunting are considered to be the two main reasons for the disappearance of wild turkeys in Maine in the early 1880s. Since that time, much of Maine’s farmland, which covered 90% of York and Cumberland counties, has reverted back to forest. This change of agriculture fields to forested land created suitable habitat for reintroducing the wild turkey.

Wild turkeys were reintroduced In 1977 and 1978, when IFW obtained 41 Wild Turkeys from Vermont and released them in the towns of York and Eliot. In Spring 1982, 33 turkeys were trapped from the growing York County population and released in Waldo County. During the winters of 1987 and 1988, 70 Wild Turkeys were obtained from Connecticut to augment Maine's growing turkey population.

-Mark Latti, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

Division of Public Information and Education
284 State Street, State House Station #41, Augusta, ME 04333

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