FRANKFORT, Ky. – For the second year in a row, hunters took a record number of wild turkeys during the state’s spring season.
Hunters telechecked 36,094 birds during the 23-day season, which closed May 9. It was the first time since 2002 that hunters had posted a record harvest for two years in a row.
Kentucky reached its record despite high winds, heavy rains and extensive flooding which made the hunting difficult during the last two weeks of the season.
Steven Dobey, wild turkey biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said he believed the foul weather had an impact on the harvest. “It rained the last two weekends of the season,” he noted. “If it had been clear, I think over 40,000 birds would have been taken.”
The final tally for the 2010 spring season was an increase of 24 percent over the 29,007 taken during the 2009 spring season.
Kentucky wild turkey flock currently has an estimated 220,000 birds. Dobey said while turkey populations have “reached capacity in some areas, there is still room to grow in others.”
Kentucky held its first modern day, statewide spring wild turkey season in 1996. Hunters are experiencing quality hunting in all 120 counties, where suitable habitat is available, with a stable percentage of adult gobblers in the harvest.
Clearly, Dobey said, flocks east of Interstate 75 are continuing to expand.
“The biggest increases in harvest occurred in the mountain counties, especially in the 7th (Fish and Wildlife Commission) District, where the harvest was up 42.3 percent over 2009,” he said.
The 7th District contains 13 counties bounded by Pike, Lawrence, Owsley and Harlan counties. Eleven of those counties are within Kentucky’s elk restoration zone, which includes a substantial amount of reclaimed coal mine land. “There’s lots of good habitat for turkeys in elk country,” said Dobey.
The 9th District, which stretches west past Lake Cumberland along the state’s southern border, includes public land in the Daniel Boone National Forest and Lake Cumberland Wildlife Management Area. That district posted a 32.6 percent increase in harvest.
In the northeastern 8th District, which stretches from Ashland to Bourbon County, hunters took nearly 25 percent more turkeys than last spring.
Despite the increase in the season harvest, hunter success remained unchanged, Dobey said. “Seventy-three percent of hunters telechecked one bird. Overall, more hunters were successful - and that’s a great thing to see.”
(Steve Hickoff photo)
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Steve Hickoff is Realtree.com's editorial director and turkey hunting editor. 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.