New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis today reminded hunters that the 2009 spring turkey season opens on May 1, with the annual special Youth Turkey Hunting Weekend set for April 25-26.
"Turkey hunting is a challenging and exciting activity that is enjoyed by thousands of residents and visitors each spring and fall," Commissioner Grannis said. "Along with trying to provide a quality hunting experience, DEC in recent years has launched several studies on these important game birds, collecting a large amount of useful data that have helped give us a greater understanding of our wild turkey population. We intend to continue this work in 2009 with the continued support of the public."
The spring and fall 2008 turkey seasons saw slight declines in harvest from the previous year, accompanied by a large variation in nest and brood success due to wide dissimilarities in spring rainfall in different regions of the state. In winter 2009, DEC staff implemented the first standardized winter flock survey after a three-year pilot program, and completed a four-year banding study designed to assess turkey survival and harvest rates.
Estimated wild turkey harvest during spring 2008 was 32,900 birds, slightly below the 10-year average (about 36,000). This is a decrease of about 8 percent from spring 2007 and might be the result of a poor nesting season during summer 2006. Poor poult numbers in 2006 translated into fewer two-year-old gobblers available to hunters in spring 2008.
Harvest was down from 2007 in most counties, with the greatest decreases observed in DEC Regions 3, 4, and 5 (DEC region descriptions can be found at http://www.dec.ny.gov/about/50230.html). There was little to no change in the harvest in 13 percent of counties with spring hunting, and an increase in harvest in 18 percent of counties. Most increases occurred in DEC Regions 8 and 9.
DEC established a youth hunt for turkeys in 2004. On average, more than 8,000 junior hunters participate with their adult companions to take advantage of this event. In 2008, there was an increase in participation and harvest, with roughly 12,000 junior hunters taking approximately 2,200 birds. Excellent weather on both days of the youth hunt and increased awareness of this special hunting opportunity likely were responsible for the increases.
The sixth annual Youth Turkey Hunt will be held on April 25-26, 2009. This is an excellent opportunity for youths ages 12-15 to spend time afield with experienced adult hunters gaining the necessary knowledge and skills to become safe and responsible members of the hunting community. Other important details of the youth turkey hunting weekend include:
1. Eligible hunters are youth 12-15 years of age, holding a junior hunting license and a turkey permit.
2. Youth 12-13 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or relative over 21 years of age, with written permission from their parent or legal guardian. Youth 14-15 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or an adult over 18 years of age, with written permission from their parent or legal guardian.
3. The accompanying adult must have a current hunting license and turkey permit. The adult may assist the youth hunter (including calling), but may not carry a firearm or bow, or kill or attempt to kill a wild turkey during the youth hunt.
4. Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day.
5. The bag limit for the youth weekend is one bearded bird. This bird becomes part of the youth's regular season bag limit of 2 bearded birds. A second bird may be taken beginning May 1.
6. All other wild turkey hunting regulations are in effect.
Based on brood surveys the last two years and harvest data, the spring 2009 season has the potential to be about the same as 2008 and close to the five-year average spring harvest (about 29,500 birds). An above-average 2007 hatch combined with a decent late-season hatch in 2008 should provide hunters with opportunities to harvest two-year-old birds as well as quite a few jakes. There is a lot of variation among regions of the state and even within a region. Northern New York, in particular, received above-average spring rainfall in 2008, so production was worse there than in other parts of the state. Unfortunately, that's two straight seasons with poor production in DEC Region 6, likely driving down spring harvest there. DEC Regions 4 and 7 have had consistently good production the past few years, so harvest should be similar to or slightly better than last year with both young birds and adult birds available. The rest of the state may be similar to, or slightly below last year's harvest.
The regular spring season opens on Tuesday, May 1, and continues through Sunday, May 31.
For more information about turkey hunting in New York, see the 2008-09 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide or visit the "Turkey Hunting" pages of the DEC website: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/8366.html.
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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.