The spring turkey harvest in Wilkes County increased 22 percent – from 237 birds in the spring of 2014 to 289 birds during this year’s spring season (April 4-10 for youth hunters  only and April 11 to May 9 for all hunters).

The spring turkey harvest in Wilkes County increased steadily until the new millennium, when it only increased from 400 turkeys in 2001 to 408 in 2002 and then dropped to 329 turkeys in 2003.

Since 2001, it has fluctuated from a high of 408 in 2002 to a low of 218 turkeys in 2007. This year’s spring harvest of 289 birds is below the average of 325 turkeys per spring season in Wilkes since 2001.

“I expect the spring harvest numbers to continue to fluctuate in a similar fashion in the future depending on weather, reproductive success, predators, number of hunters, hunter success and other factors that can’t really be accurately predicted,” said Chris Kreh, upland game (turkey, grouse and quail) bilogist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

“Most of the counties surrounding Wilkes have similar patterns in their turkey populations and spring harvest levels,” Kreh said.

“The spring harvest is largely a reflection of a how many turkeys we have, so an increase in the spring harvest is indicative of a growing turkey population. To a lesser degree, it is also a function of the number of hunters and their success,” he added.

 “From a statewide perspective, I feel that the overall increase in the spring turkey harvest is largely due to the fact that our turkey population is still expanding into unoccupied habitat in parts of eastern North Carolina.”   

He said counties like Wilkes that have had an established population of wild turkeys for many years will see annual turkey harvest numbers fluctuate largely due to annual reproductive success.  

He said the commission’s estimates of reproductive success (number of poults per hen) based on the agency’s summer turkey observations survey, suggest that reproduction has been relatively low in many areas for the last few years.

Weather, predators and many other factors affect reproduction. For example, a wet, cool spring reduces reproductive success.

Kreh said the weather during the spring turkey season this year was generally conducive to hunting.

Wilkes County total harvest wild turkey this spring included 218 adult gobblers and 71 jakes, with five taken on state game lands and the rest on private and other lands. Turkey hunting is allowed in designated areas on he federally-owned property around W. Kerr Scott Reservoir.

Three adult gobblers and four jakes were taken by bow, one adult gobbler and no jakes were taken by crossbow and the remainder by gun in Wilkes this spring.

Youths took 22 adult gobblers and 13 jakes during the designated youth season this spring.

Kreh said no changes in North Carolina’s wild turkey hunting regulations are currently planned.

The commission’s past reports and harvest data related to wild turkeys are on the Internet at http://www.ncwildlife.org/Learning/Species/Birds/WildTurkey.aspx.

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