Had a miserable turkey season? Turkey biologist puts mind at ease

With harvest numbers in from the North and South zones through the first 4 turkey seasons of 2011, it is apparent that some hunters have not found the success that they had hoped for.

So far in the North zone, 5,656 birds were harvested, compared to 6,387 from last year. The total harvest through the first 4 seasons in the South in 2010 was 5,500 birds. During the same time period for

this year only 4,991 turkeys have been harvested. With this year's

flooding in the south and continued cool and wet weather conditions

throughout the state, next year could even be worse for north and south

zone turkey hunters.

With my own turkey hunting experiences being negative in the last 3 years, I wondered if it was me that had just forgotten how to hunt or if some other force was intact that kept me from successfully harvesting a

turkey.

A single phone call to Paul Brewer, Wild Turkey Project Manager with the

DNR, put my concerns at ease. My first question for Brewer was how the flooding in Illinois would affect turkey nests and hatches. Brewer assured me that turkeys were resilient and that there was still enough time for them to re-nest if in fact their nests had been washed away. Brewer also explained that the biggest concern with nesting turkey and flooding is not the fact that nests may have been washed away but that because of all the water, the birds would have fewer choices for nesting spots, forcing the turkey to nest closer together, therefore increasing the risk of

losing nests and turkey poults to predators.

Brewer also added that poults that are hatched into cold, wet weather could easily be susceptible to premature death simply from the

unfavorable weather conditions. According to Brewer, the DNR may not have accurate reproduction numbers until later this summer. "June, July, and August is when we do our surveys" says Brewer.

My next question for Brewer was why the harvest numbers were down. Brewer said that inclement weather had kept some hunters out of the woods. "Cold, wet, and stormy conditions during the first four seasons kept a lot of hunters indoors" said Brewer.

Brewer also points out that several cold and wet springs in a row will

decrease the poult per hen ratio. "This has been a problem across the

Midwest in the last couple of years" added Brewer. With this continued

type of weather pattern, turkey numbers could be down for the next year or so.

My final question for Brewer was whether or not the flooding would impact Canada geese and any ducks and their nests. Brewer referred me to the DNR waterfowl biologist, Ray Marshalla. Unfortunately, Mr. Marshalla was out of the State and unable to take calls. Brewer, however, seemed to believe that the Canada goose and ducks were just as resilient as the turkey and that geese and ducks would probably have enough time to re-nest if they needed to.

Needless to say, I was quite relieved to discover that my hunting skills

were probably not the reason why I have been unsuccessful in the past

three years. It seems as though weather conditions, and not my lack of

hunting prowess, had led to my unfortunate hunting ventures.

I'm not very optimistic about what next years' turkey hunt will bring.

This years' weather directly affects next year's prospects and if the weather doesn't turn favorable soon, next year could certainly be a repeat of this year. Happy Hunting!

 

Categories: Illinois – Shane Malawy, Turkey

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