Spring gobbler harvest may be up just slightly

By Steve

Albany — New York State hunters may have bagged just a few more
gobblers this spring than in 2004, according to preliminary data
received by the DEC.

But DEC Game Bird Unit Leader Bryan Swift says more accurate
numbers will come later this summer after hunters return mail
surveys, about 12,000 of which are being sent out to spring gobbler

“We’re in the middle of the survey now,” Swift said. “But from
what we’ve received thus far (from harvest reports submitted via
the DECALS reporting system), it appears we’re up slightly — about
1 or 2 percent — from last season.”

New York hunters bagged an estimated 26,300 gobblers statewide
in 2004, a number down 28 percent from the 2003 season. DEC
officials said the decline from 2003 (when 36,800 birds were taken)
to 2004 was the result of a series of poor production years,
notably in 2002, which meant fewer 2-year-old gobblers in the

Swift says DEC officials aren’t sure why the spring take wasn’t
higher this May. While the pre-season forecast was a cautious one,
he said 2004 was a better production year that should have meant
plenty of year-old “jakes” for hunters to harvest.

Weather was one likely factor, as May was marked virtually
statewide by cool and damp conditions.

“I suspect weather affected things a bit, but the reports from
the field have been all over the board,” Swift said. “We’ve heard
in eastern New York, from a number of counties, reports of lots of
gobbling and a pretty good season. In western New York, it was
pretty quiet, a lot of hunters are saying.”

The relatively stable spring harvest follows the state’s second
annual Youth Turkey Hunt, held on April 23-24 amid wet and cold
weather conditions. DEC officials said previously the two-day youth
harvest may be slightly below the 2004 total of about 1,000 birds.
Young sportsmen ages 12-15 were eligible to participate in the
youth hunt.

Swift said more accurate figures will be available later this
summer when the results come in from a mail survey sent out to
complement the online harvest reports.

He said DEC traditionally gets about half of the 12,000 mail
surveys returned for compilation. “We have about 4,500 now, and we
send out a reminder that generates more returns,” Swift said.

Early reports from DEC field staff indicated that the spring
nesting season was shaping up to be an excellent one. That,
however, was before some heavy rains marched across much of the
state in June at various times. Still, Swift says it’s too early to
tell how successful the nesting season will be.

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