Thursday, 04 10, 2014
Kevin Kelly 1-800-858-1549, ext. 4414
– Hunters could have the long winter to thank for what is shaping up to be
a good start to Kentucky’s statewide spring wild turkey season, which opens
Saturday, April 12, and runs through May 4.
“The timing of the
first peak in gobbling and our season opener should be pretty close this year
because the long winter somewhat delayed the arrival of spring,” said Steven
Dobey, wild turkey program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and
Often the peak
gobbling period falls before the season opener, affording gobblers time to
breed hens before they could potentially fall prey to a hunter. The late break
in the weather this year sets up an ideal scenario across much of the state
with breeding activity – and the gobbling that goes with it – approaching a
crescendo. The birds haven’t been disturbed and should be more responsive to a
Kentucky outpaced all surrounding states in the number of birds harvested per
square mile. Hunters reported taking 32,498 wild turkeys for an average of 0.82
per square mile, placing Kentucky slightly ahead of neighboring Tennessee.
“We’re having this
great success while doing so in a pretty narrow window of opportunity,” Dobey
said. “It reflects the large geographic area in which we have turkeys. People
can go to almost any area in the state and have good success in the spring.”
90,000 people hunt wild turkeys in Kentucky and each is allowed a limit of two
bearded birds during the spring season. Any combination of male turkeys, or
female turkeys with visible beards, may be included in the season limit. No
more than one bird may be taken per day.
Shooting hours are
30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, but hunters can be in the
field before or after shooting hours.
The Green River
Region, encompassing 25 counties in the south-central part of the state,
traditionally produces the highest harvest totals.
It accounted for
32 percent of all birds taken in 2013, with hunters in the Southeast Region
coming in second with 24 percent of the annual spring harvest. This trend has
continued this year as hunters in the Green River Region accounted for
approximately 36 percent of birds taken during the spring youth-only hunting
weekend that ended this past Sunday.
The region’s mix
of forested land and agricultural fields makes it ideal for wild turkeys, Dobey
incorporate the agricultural component, that jumps it up to another level
because there’s a whole other source of food out there that isn’t as readily
available to turkeys in some other regions,” he said.
turkey flock numbered around 130,000 birds when restoration efforts ended in 1997
and the population is estimated to have grown to about 220,000 birds statewide.
totals have exceeded 32,000 birds each year since a record 36,097 were taken in
A spike in
reproduction in 2008 is a driving factor behind the increased hunter success in
recent seasons, but reproduction on the whole has been classified as moderate
to poor for several years.
Kentucky Fish and
Wildlife is participating in an ongoing research study looking into declines in
wild turkey reproduction in the southeastern United States. The study’s
findings will guide management efforts across the region.
“Most, if not all,
southeastern states have observed declines in our summer brood surveys,” Dobey
said. “It’s not unique to Kentucky. Rather, it’s a regional trend that all of
us are curious about what could be causing this.”
An uptick in
reproduction was observed last year in Kentucky. The average number of young
turkeys (poults) per hen in 2013 was 1.9, up from 1.8 the year before.
managers will be monitoring Kentucky’s spring turkey season closely after
seeing a decline in the fall harvest. The 2013-14 fall season take of 2,671
turkeys represented a 39 percent drop over the previous fall harvest.
The fall turkey
season can be somewhat tricky to analyze. Typically, about 70 percent of the
birds are taken by shotgun and the shotgun season is comprised of two,
seven-day periods that only include two weekends. Bad weather or even a major
sporting event can keep hunters from going into the field.
we’ll watch,” said Karen Waldrop, wildlife division director for Kentucky Fish
and Wildlife. “It’s not alarming. The weather during that time was not ideal.
But we will keep an eye on the spring harvest, which is probably a better
indicator because low success during the fall season could be attributable to
hunter participation. Nobody misses spring season.”
encouraged to consult the 2014 Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide before heading
into the field in search of a boss gobbler. It is available online at fw.ky.gov
and includes information about current regulations, licenses and permits, legal
equipment, safety tips and more.