In some states, wild turkey populations have declined.
Turkey diseases, predator influences on poult and nesting hen survival, habitat fragmentation, poaching — and yes, even complacency among members of the nonhunting public — all factor into modern-day conservation decisions. Adjusting season dates, bag limits, and even coordinating hunter participation to regulate pressure on birds are but some approaches wildlife officials use to manage outdoor resources.
And if you think that’s easy, give your state’s turkey biologist a call one of these days.
Mississippi Caps Nonresidents, Adds Lottery System
As turkey hunters, we’re driven by love of full-throated gobbles and displaying strutters. Each spring season, we aim to work in as many hunts as we can. “Early and often,” the saying goes. Our desire to be out there with America’s greatest game bird demands it.
Mississippi, with its appealing traditional early start (mid-March), has long been a destination for nonresident spring turkey hunters. This has been especially true during the pandemic. The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) reports that nonresident license sales during the season’s initial weeks doubled in the last two years, prompting public calls to address the issue.
Increased license sales. That’s good for boosting revenue streams, of course. But it’s also an important consideration as far as managing Mississippi turkey flocks goes.
“Our goal is simply to cap the number of nonresident hunters on public lands to be more in line with historic norms,” said turkey program coordinator Adam Butler. “Quality hunting cannot be maintained on a limited resource when faced with ever-increasing pressure. This process will allow for some nonresident access but will help keep those numbers at a sustainable level.”
This August, these MDWFP proposed changes were approved, an effort to reach this goal. More here.
Oklahoma Delays 2022 Season Start, Lowers Bag Limit
The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission has voted to move the spring turkey season opener to April 16 for the entire state and reduce a hunter’s bag limit to one tom statewide. The spring season had opened 10 days earlier, and the bag limit had been three per hunter.
“The later start date and one-bird bag limit for spring turkey season will protect dominant, mature toms during peak breeding,” Eric Suttles, Southeast region wildlife supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), told the commission.
Bill Dinkines, ODWC Wildlife Division chief, provided the department’s recommendation to commissioners following a presentation by Suttles, which covered turkey population declines, hunting statistics, and results from a hunter survey that produced more than 5,000 comments — an all-time high for hunter input on a proposed change.
The bag limit for the 2021 fall turkey season also will be one tom statewide. Incidentally, Oklahoma’s official “tom turkey definition” reads as: “Any bearded turkey, regardless of sex,” meaning some hens will count. More here.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Buckeye State wild turkey populations have declined over the past few years. As a result, a recent proposal aims to reduce the 2022 spring wild turkey season limit from two to one bearded turkey.
Though recent years have seen below average hatch success, on a more positive note the ODNR said preliminary wild turkey reports submitted during the summer of 2021 show some improvement in young turkey poult numbers. However, the complete information on which harvest management decisions are based won’t be available until this month.
If passed, the proposed revision to the 2022 spring wild turkey season limit would remain in place until trends in hatch success improve. More here.
Realtree turkey hunting editor Steve Hickoff has chased gobblers all over the United States and Mexico. He was born and raised in northcentral Pennsylvania, and now makes his home in Maine. Hickoff was named the NWTF Tom Kelly Communicator of the Year for 2019, a prestigious award reflecting his longtime work promoting hunting and conservation as a turkey hunting writer, editor and book author.