Steve Hickoff is the Realtree Turkey Hunting Editor and Blogger. He’s been beaten by more birds than he can remember. Still he kills enough to eat well, and fool with beards, spurs and fans until the next season. Pennsylvania born and raised, Maine is his home base now. A full-time outdoor communicator with a couple university writing degrees, he chases spring gobblers and fall flocks around the country. It's "all turkeys, all the time" on the Realtree Turkey Blog.
CONCORD, N.H. – The numbers are in from the 2011 spring gobbler season, reflecting a successful harvest for New Hampshire turkey hunters, according to N.H. Fish and Game Department Turkey Project Biologist Ted Walski. The preliminary total for the spring gobbler harvest for the state was 3,672 turkeys – three birds more than last year. Hunters took 597 turkeys (19% of the season total) on the opening day of the regular season (May 3).
According to Walski, a number of factors influenced this year’s tally. Weather created some less-than-ideal hunting conditions – the second day of the season was a washout, and a six-day rainy period during mid-May also dampened efforts. Also, record rains during the summers of 2008 and 2009 led to below-average turkey productivity, which influenced gobbler abundance this spring.
Young hunters continued to do well during their special youth turkey hunt weekend, which took place on Saturday, April 30 and Sunday May 1. Youth took 527 gobblers, or 14.4% of the total season harvest during youth weekend, compared to 541 taken last year.
Last summer's dry conditions contributed to a good turkey hatch in 2010, with the result being that there were more jakes (juvenile males) in this season’s harvest, as compared to recent years. This year’s male harvest ratio was 40% jakes to 60% toms (adult males). A sample of 619 gobblers from six registration stations in southwestern New Hampshire were aged by spur length measurements, with the following breakdown into age classes of the harvest: 1 year (39.1%), 2 year (34.6%), 3 year (18.9%), 4 year (5.2%), 5 year+ (2.6%).
The state is broken up into 18 Wildlife Management Units, and it is always interesting to compare season harvests among these units. WMU K (which is most of Hillsboro County) had the most turkeys registered (528); followed closely by WMU J2 (north of Route 4 from Concord to Rochester) with 511 turkeys; and WMU H2 (most of Cheshire County) with 431 turkeys.
Quite a few heavy turkeys were taken this season, possibly because of the abundance of acorns still on the ground this spring. There were 43 gobblers weighing 23 to 23½ pounds and 20 gobblers tipping the scales at 24 to 26 pounds. The largest birds were taken in south-central New Hampshire: 28 lbs. from Merrimack, 28 lbs. from Hollis, and 27 lbs. from Hudson. The longest beard lengths on gobblers were: 11¾ and 11½ (two birds) inches. The longest spur lengths on gobblers were 1½ (two birds), and 1 3/8 inches.
So far, 2011 has seen favorable hatching weather for wild turkeys. According to Walski, most of the wild turkey hatching occurred during the last week of May and the first week or so of June. The 8-day period from May 24-31 had hot, humid days, as did the first week of June. Young turkeys are extremely sensitive to cool temperatures and rain, which can impact their health and adversely affect insect populations that are a critical source of nutrition for young turkeys.
To help monitor the status of the statewide wild turkey population, Fish and Game is currently running its first year of an online Turkey Brood Survey. Interested observers are urged to report sightings of hen turkeys with young at www.wildnh.com/turkeybroodsurvey
For more on turkey hunting in New Hampshire, visit www.huntnh.com/Hunting/Hunt_species/hunt_turkey.htm
(NWTF Media Photo)
June 19, 2011 | By Steve Hickoff
Spring gobbler season is long over and we've fall hunts to come. Right now, a way to extend the hunt is by eating well. Sure grillin' is likely your first move, but wild turkey chili is an option even during hot summer days.
While wild game chili — and chili in general made with tamer meats — has some given basics (kidney beans, cumin, chili powder, etc.), I like to add a thing or two to mine. You too?
Some extras include: enchilada sauce, a can of it, poured into the bottom of the pot after the diced onions have cooked a bit in olive oil. Fresh ground pepper, and lots of it. Diced new potatoes as well.
Sometimes I even cheat with those canned chili starter kits, location depending.
Some other extras, depending on what camp (or home) kitchen I'm cooking in, include: oregano, garlic salt, thawed frozen corn, chopped celery . . . well you get the idea.
If I'm enterprising, I'll add broth reserved from parboiling the remaining wild turkey after breast meat and the legs have been removed. I do my best to use as much of the bird as possible as it also extends the hunt and good eating. I pick meat after parboiling for other recipes.
I also like to cube breast meat for my turkey chili; then using a meat hammer with plastic wrap over the turkey pieces, I gently tenderize it. Another must: saltine crackers. Some sort of childhood throwback that is.
What extras do you add to your wild turkey chili? Share some of your recipe tricks in the comments section below.
— Steve Hickoff
PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management is asking Rhode Islanders to assist its Division of Fish and Wildlife's wild turkey project by reporting any sightings of wild turkey hens with (or without) broods of young turkeys (poults). DEM biologists need the information to evaluate this year's reproduction of wild turkeys, the survival of the young, and the population of the state's wild turkey flock.
Last year the public helped by reporting 685 turkey brood sightings, according to Brian Tefft, principal wildlife biologist at DEM and head of the wild turkey project. That information helped DEM determine the number of young birds that survived after various mortality factors such as predators, poor weather, road kills, or domestic cats took their toll. "These reports documented a dramatic one-year turnaround in productivity for the wild turkey, with 88 percent of the reports being of hens that had young," said Tefft. The total number of adults reported was 1,321, while 5,256 poults were reported for a brood index of 4.0 young per hen in 2010.
The brood index also helps determine turkey population trends. Despite gains in the number of poults seen last year, Tefft noted that we will need several successive years of good productivity to recover the declined turkey population. The 2009 brood index of 1.5 young per hen surviving until fall was the lowest index ever recorded in the state and was well below the 10-year average of 3.5 young per hen. With declining productivity, the overall turkey population in the state has declined in the last few years. Weather-related factors and predators can dramatically affect brood production in ground-nesting birds like wild turkeys. Warm, dry weather favors the survival of turkey poults and other ground-nesting birds, while cool and rainy conditions in early summer can reduce survival and result in dead broods. DEM hopes that better conditions will improve production in 2011 and that the public will help by reporting information about turkey broods in their area.
Tefft estimates the overall statewide turkey population at approximately 4,000 birds. The wild turkey population in the state is a direct result of RIDEM Fish and Wildlife's successful trap and transfer program in the 1990s, improving hunting opportunities and chances for the public to see and hunt wild turkeys. The wild turkey restoration project began in 1980 with releases of wild trapped birds that established new turkey flocks in Exeter, Burrillville, Little Compton, West Greenwich, Foster, Scituate, and Tiverton. Restoration of the wild turkey was funded by state hunting license fees and the Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration program. Wild turkeys were abundant prior to the 1700s but were decimated due to habitat destruction and subsistence hunting.
To report wild turkey sightings - hens with or without broods - participants should record the date, the location, and the total number of hens and poults seen. Brood report forms can be downloaded from DEM's website at: www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/fishwild/pdf/turkysee.pdf.
Participants can also send the information via email to brian [dot] tefft [at] dem [dot] ri [dot] gov, or by mail to Brian Tefft, Wild Turkey Project, 277 Great Neck Road, West Kingston, RI 02892.
NASHVILLE -- Tennessee turkey hunters again posted another successful spring season as the harvest for 2011 nears 34,000 as reports continued to trickle into the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
The spring turkey statewide season came to a close on May 15. The harvest number stands at 33,968. The harvest is below the 2010 record harvest of more than 37,000 birds, but this year’s harvest ranks as the state’s third highest all-time.
“It was another strong year for our turkey harvest,” said Gray Anderson, TWRA Turkey Program Coordinator. "We can’t expect to have record harvests every year, but we are at a stable point.
“We had a little less than 90 percent of the harvest being gobblers versus jakes this spring. This tells us our hunters are getting mature birds and we have a healthy population.”
Maury County again was the top county with 949 birds being harvested. Greene County also had a strong year finishing second with a harvest of 896.
Dickson County, a past leader for the spring season, was third with 852. Rounding out the top 10 counties were Montgomery 821, Sumner 774, Rutherford 710, Henry 709, Hardin 628, Hickman 613, and Hardeman 609.
CONCORD, N.H. -- If you see young wild turkey broods in New Hampshire this spring and summer, the N.H. Fish and Game Department would like to hear about them. Fish and Game has created a new web-based turkey brood survey and is inviting the public to report their sightings during June, July and August, at www.wildnh.com/turkeybroodsurvey
Fish and Game’s success with a web-based Winter Turkey Flock Survey has prompted the new survey on turkey brood sightings, beginning on June 1. The term “brood” refers to a family group of young turkeys accompanied by a hen. New Hampshire hens generally initiate egg-laying in mid-April to early May and complete their clutch of about 12 eggs in early to mid-May. Incubation lasts for 26 days, and most nests hatch from late May to mid-June.
If incubating turkey eggs are destroyed or consumed by predators, hens often lay a replacement clutch of eggs that hatch late June through late July. Reports of adult male turkeys are not being requested.
Young turkeys are extremely sensitive to cool temperatures and rain, both as a result of its impact on their health, but also because it adversely impacts insect populations that are a critical source of nutrition for young turkeys. Since spring weather is highly variable, survival of the annual hatch of wild turkeys is also highly variable. Turkey populations depend on a large annual influx of young turkeys to sustain themselves over time. Thus, the number of young turkeys that survive to be “recruited” into the fall population is of great interest to turkey managers.
A large sample of turkey brood observations collected throughout the summer can provide turkey managers with insight into the size of the “graduating class” of turkeys that will become adults. This explains why turkey managers throughout the country incorporate information from brood surveys into their management programs.
Fish and Game is counting on citizen participation to get as much data as possible through this important survey. Results will be posted on our website in late fall. To report your turkey observations on our web-based turkey brood survey, go to www.wildnh.com/turkeybroodsurvey
The survey will close on August 31, 2011.
Wildlife research and management in New Hampshire is funded in part by Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration, a user-pay, user-benefit program supported by your purchase of fishing tackle, firearms, ammunition, archery equipment and motorboat fuels.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is the guardian of the state's fish, wildlife and marine resources and their habitats. Visit www.wildnh.com
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