09/05/08 — Turkey numbers show negative trends

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Turkey numbers show negative trends

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on September 5, 2008 1:12 PM

Turkey hunters in the Tar Heel state may be harvesting birds on borrowed time.

According to the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission's harvest report from the spring turkey season, the number of birds taken was up, while the number of poults per brood was down. It's a trend that could hinder the commission's on-going efforts to increase the turkey stock.

Across the state, spring turkey harvests were up 12 percent from one year ago. Sportsmen reported 11,313 kills, which was the second-largest number in state history.

"Common sense would indicate that more kills coupled with less young birds surviving is not good for the population," said Wayne County Longbeards president Brent Hood. "I haven't looked at the spring numbers yet, but I do remember supply and demand from my college days."

On average, only 1.9 poults-per-hen survived through their first year in the Piedmont region according to the annual survey for 2007.

In Wayne County, 19 birds were taken during the spring hunt. Johnston County, a historically productive location, only had 17 turkey taken.

"The harvest numbers are really not too bad, considering a decade ago you couldn't hunt turkeys in Wayne County," said Hood. "We began re-stocking birds in 1997-98, and that was only 12 hens and one tom."

Harvest numbers were much better in both Pender and Duplin counties.

A total of 174 birds were taken from Pender, including 148 adult (2 years or older) gobblers. Duplin County produced 147, and 131 adults.

"Duplin County has really seen their numbers take off in recent years," said Hood. "Their topography and habitat are similar to Wayne County, but for some reason the turkey are really thriving down there."

One possible reason for the decline in the number of young birds throughout the state is the increase in predation due to expanding coyote numbers.

However, in Wayne County, Hood believes the fewer number of surviving poults may be the result of a combination of factors including last year's drought.

"I am not a biologist, but I don't think that coyote are the biggest problem, I haven't even seen one yet," Hood said. "It's just as likely that snakes, opossum and raccoons eat the eggs before they hatch."