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Affects of Spring Harvest on Survival of Male Wild Turkeys

This Turkey Tuesday is about spring harvest and survival of toms. With turkey seasons right around the corner, us turkey hunters will soon relish the opportunity to match wits with a tom. And if we’re lucky and incredibly blessed, we’ll have the chance to hoist a bird over our shoulder and enjoy that walk – those walks never get old do they? But have you ever wondered whether that tom you harvested would have survived, or how spring harvest influences the population of toms on a given area? Well, recent work across a number of both public and private sites in the Southeast, including a site without hunting, provides some interesting findings. First, harvest rates were 29% on average, meaning ~ 1/3 of the population of toms was harvested each year. Second, annual survival of toms on those areas was 54%, but in the absence of hunting, survival was 83%. Third, predation rates on toms from natural predators was the same whether the population was hunted or not, at about 15%, which is quite interesting. These findings show clearly that spring harvest represents an additive source of mortality, meaning if those toms are not harvested, they will most likely be available for harvest next year. The take home is, state agencies realize that spring harvest is an important source of mortality for toms, which is why many make tweaks to hunting season frameworks in hopes of reducing harvest rates and increasing survival of toms – the goal being to increase the number of toms carried over from one spring to the next.

If you’re interested in recent work on this topic, go to www.wildturkeylab.com/category/research.

Pic by Matt Addington.

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