Gobbler kill may be up slightly
Albany — With New York’s popular spring gobbler season now in the books, hunters are already looking forward to next year.
And with good reason.
While it was a frustrating season for many hunters, preliminary numbers show the statewide harvest may be up slightly from last year, when 19,840 gobblers were taken.
And hunters in many areas of the state reported seeing good numbers of jakes – yearling toms that will next year be 2-year-old longbeards.
“I have seen a few groups of jakes and am hearing from others who are seeing good numbers of them also,” said Doug Little, a wildlife biologist and conservation field manager for the National Wild Turkey Federation. “That creates optimism looking ahead.”
New York’s May 1 regular season spring gobbler kickoff opened to wet – in some areas soaking wet – weather across the state. Even so, the opening day harvest ran about 25 percent higher than last year.
But DEC wildlife biologist Mike Schiavone said that was primarily a product of the weekend opening day, which occurred on a Sunday.
“But good production last summer and a mild winter also contributed to this increase, as well as the overall increase in take when compared to last year,” Schiavone said.
DEC’s preliminary numbers showed the reported take was up about 5 percent overall, including a 30 percent jump in the reported kill by youth hunters during that two-day offering the weekend ahead of the regular season.
“Good weather likely resulted in good participation (during the youth hunt) and there were more birds on the landscape than last year,” Schiavone said.
Youth hunters last year shot 1,131 birds.
The early portion of the state’s regular spring gobbler season was marked by cool, wet weather across much of the state. Gobbling activity slowed and frustrated many hunters.
“But things picked up as the month wore on,” Schiavone said.
Little said, too, the early part of the season was “a struggle for me and a lot of hunters that I have heard from across the state.”
In addition to the weather, the jakes also muddied up several hunts by harassing longbeards, he said.
“Those groups of jakes have the ability to keep a longbeard or two at bay in the pecking order. An example of that happened to me on opening morning when four jakes got rough with the longbeard I was hoping to work across a field,” he said.
While New York’s spring gobbler kill is likely to top 20,000 birds this season, that’s a far cry from the record high of 35,625 less than 10 years ago.
New York’s tom take has plummeted sharply since 2008 (32,936) and 2009 (34,644), dropping to 25,807 in 2010; 18,738 in 2011; 19,038 in 2012; 21,515 in 2013; 23,203 in 2014 and 19,840 last spring.
Mother Nature, in the form of severe winters and poor nesting and brood-rearing conditions, were the primary factor. But DEC biologists are conducting ongoing studies showing predation is having an impact on bird numbers, particularly on nesting hens in the spring.
Consecutive years of what Schiavone calls “decent” production, as well as last winter’s mild weather, have helped turn things around.