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.

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