Spring turkey hunting permits appear to be in high demand
Springfield - Permits for the spring 2008 turkey season are on pace to equal the 76,444 sold last year, DNR officials reported.
As of Jan. 22, 64,799 permits have been issued.
The growing popularity of spring turkey hunting is in the numbers. A decade ago, in 1998, DNR sold 43,975 spring permits. By 2003, that number had climbed to 76,102. The state opened several counties to turkey hunting during that period, which helped boost the permit sales.
The 2008 spring seasons kicks off April 14 in the north zone and April 7 in the south zone. The north zone includes that portion of Illinois north of Crawford, Jasper, Effingham, Fayette, Bond, and Madison counties. The south zone includes the remainder of the state.
The 2007 spring season resulted in total harvest of 14,197 turkeys. An additional 570 turkeys were harvested during the youth turkey season, bringing the total harvest to 14,767, well short of the record 2006 spring harvest of 16,086.
It also broke a string of 15,000-plus spring harvests that began in 2004, when hunters took 15,066 birds during the regular spring seasons and 497 in the youth hunt for a total harvest of 15,563. In 2005, hunters took 14,951 wild turkeys, with youth hunts adding an additional 458 birds for a total of 15,409.
“Spring ‘07's harvest fell short of the record setter, and a little short of previous seasons, but all in all it was a pretty good season,” Paul Shelton, manager of DNR's Forest Wildlife Program, said. “Turkey hunting is challenging. It's always challenging.”
How spring 2008 goes for turkey hunters may depend on variables out of their control.
Shelton said that last spring, weather conditions during the early part of the season likely contributed to delayed nesting of hens.
That, combined with a smaller class of 2-year-old turkeys from a below-average reproduction year in 2005 resulted in some tough hunting conditions.
However, “Illinois' turkey flock remains in excellent condition, and we have more record-setting seasons to look forward to in the future,” Shelton said.
The top counties for last spring's turkey harvest were JoDaviess (542), Pike (528), Adams (456), Macoupin (400), and Fulton (386).
Biologists look at loads of data to estimate the population level in the state. Turkey counts are frequently recorded by firearms and archery deer hunters during the fall and winter.
But the best tool to gauge turkey populations are observing yearly poult production. It is compiled as the poult-to-hen index.
This rating system is compiled from annual brood survey reporting by cooperating landowners, biologists and public-land site managers. Figures are assessed and compared against long-term trends.
The 2007 ratios are not available, but according to DNR records, the preliminary poult-to-hen index for 2006 was 3.0, which was up from the 2005 index of 2.34 and above the prior 10-year average of 2.88.